Every teacher runs their classroom a little differently. As they should: we’re pro-individuality. But, we were also curious about the different approaches teachers take to class rules. In our recent Back to School Survey over 200 teachers shared their class rules with us. On the whole, teachers repeated seven themes over and over:
Consistency with your rules matters more than the rules themselves
Keep rules as simple as possible
Respect is the most important rule
Let students have input on rules to increase buy-in
Keep rules positive
Make sure students know you care
When students are truly engaged in well-planned lessons, rules become unnecessary
Here are a few quotes from the survey that reinforce these concepts:
I have found the most effective rules are the ones that you follow to the letter. You make no exception to the rules—that way the kids know what the outcome will be when they break the rule. I also have found that positive rules are more effective than negative rules. My kids know exactly what I expect from day to day. You also have to gain a child's respect from the minute they walk into the door. The Golden Rule is the most effective classroom rule that I know.
—Elementary Music Teacher, KS
It’s not so much the wording of the rules, but consistency and caring that is most effective for classroom management.
—Elementary Teacher, TN
Set the tone early, reinforce daily, and always be consistent for each and every student. Less is more when it comes to rules - keep it simple and keep the students interested by planning great lessons. Meeting and greeting each student before or as they enter the room each day makes a HUGE difference.
—Middle School Teacher, AK
Keep them simple and positive.
—7th Grade Teacher, UT
I require that all of the students treat each other, and me, with respect and courtesy. I also make it clear that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and we do not have to agree, we just have to respect their right to have an opinion.
—High School Teacher
Respect each other. Everything else falls into place under that.
—Teacher, Grades 1-8, UT
The longer I taught the more I discovered as few rules as possible were necessary. Respect for each other and the teacher covers a lot. A teacher may have to be more explicit in lower grades.
—High School SPED Teacher
The ones that are supported by pupils. The class constitute must be stated well by the teacher and the pupils. Everyone must agree upon it.
—Junior High Teacher, Israel
We have block periods of 90 minutes. I have my students’ vote, as a group, on whether to each get 3 bathroom/drink of water tickets per week, or to have a 4 minute mid class break. They always vote for the break, and I have 100% attendance during instructional time.
—High School ESL Teacher, NH
The first week of school is usually designed to go over all of the school rules. I ALWAYS did an interest inventory with my students so I could tailor lessons to their interests and I also asked this very important question: What do you expect of me? Most of the time the students had never been asked that question—you will be quite surprised with their answers.
—Teacher, Grades 1-12, FL
If the students have a problem in class, have them write that on a piece of paper, no ID, a certain time during the week is for discussion in solving or adjusting certain subject. Everyone has a voice and will be listened to.
—Teacher, Grades 0-9, New Brunswick
The most important rules I've found for classroom management are to keep the students engaged in learning activities the entire class period, change the seating arrangement when needed, and let students know what is expected of them prior to the start of the class.
—High School Teacher, IL
Kids are usually motivated when they are busy with fun motivating activities. They don't want to misbehave because then they miss out on fun.
—Elementary SPED Teacher, OK
Respect for each other and for the teacher. Move fast before things get out of control. Keeping things moving keeps them motivated and they have no time to rebel.
—Adult Ed Teacher, PA
Know and use your kids interests. Make it fun and remember they are little people not just information containers!!
—Elementary Speech Teacher, CA
Here are a few examples of different teachers' rules that caught our eye:
From an educational diagnostician for all grades:
From a special education teacher in Florida:
I post two words: RESPECT and TRY. We have lessons on their meanings, and the choices we all have. When one is broken, we discuss how it was broken, and what would have been a better choice. I also have an "international" sign with the word CAN'T crossed through. “I can't” is not an answer I ever except. I reward students for good choices throughout the day. Being kind to others, participating in their learning, good answers, and being a productive part of the "family."
From a first grade teacher in Utah:
From a special education teacher in Kentucky:
From a secondary teacher in Washington:
To conclude, here is one of our favorite statements:
Give students some wiggle room to get some energy out and talk with each other, but expect complete focus during classroom instruction and independent work.
—Secondary Teacher, CO
It’s important to have order, discipline, and correction in your classroom, but it’s also important to have fun and to let your student’s be themselves. What do you do to maintain order in your classroom?