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36 Classroom Rules for Student Success

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For many students (and teachers), the idea of classroom rules feels oppressive, stifling and sometimes just downright unfair.

It’s difficult to balance the need for order and structure with the desire to build a collaborative, fun environment for learning. But proper classroom management techniques include developing rules that guide student learning and set expectations around classroom behavior.

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Promoting consistent and value-based rules can help build a positive learning environment where all students have the opportunity to explore and succeed.

Classroom rules

Classroom rules look different for every teacher. Some use only a few, while others prefer to use more. Here are 36 rules to get you started on building your own:

  1. Ask questions
  2. Respect and listen to your classmates
  3. Respect and listen to the teacher
  4. Raise your hand to speak
  5. Be prepared for class
  6. Be quiet when the teacher is talking
  7. Be quiet when classmates are talking
  8. Share new ideas
  9. Keep your hands to yourself
  10. Respect others’ property
  11. Keep your workspace tidy
  12. Be kind
  13. Always do your best
  14. Walk, don’t run, in the hallways
  15. Be a good friend
  16. Be on time
  17. Share with others
  18. Use equipment properly
  19. Help keep the classroom tidy
  20. Listen to all the teachers
  21. Obey all school rules
  22. Finish your homework on time
  23. Be respectful of classmates who are working
  24. Have a good attitude
  25. Use positive language
  26. Line up neatly and quietly
  27. Stay in your seat
  28. Listen with your ears and your eyes
  29. Contribute to discussions
  30. Be respectful of others’ ideas
  31. Follow the teacher’s directions the first time they are given
  32. Cooperate with your classmates
  33. Be creative
  34. Be honest
  35. Use technology appropriately
  36. Be proud of your work

Want to keep these rules close by? We've put together a downloadable PDF with all these rules that you can use in your classroom today!

How to create classroom rules

Build the foundation

There are so many benefits to building a classroom that feels like a community:

improved student academics, respectful discussions, and a growth mindset are just a few. Classroom rules can help establish a sense of community when they’re built on collective classroom values.

Start with the big picture: what core values should inform the way you and your students interact? Values like self-respect, positivity, encouragement and passion are all great places to start.

Take those big-picture rules and use them to create smaller, more actionable ones. If you want to promote respect in your classroom, create rules that ask students to use positive language, respect their classmates’ property and keep their hands to themselves.

Emphasize that rules are in place to guide student learning. Communicate to students that classroom rules make the classroom a safe and supportive environment for all students.

Get students involved in creating classroom rules

Take the core values you want to see in your classroom and present them to your class. Let students extrapolate and list behaviors that model key principles. Challenge them to think about what each looks like in the classroom and to develop specific scenarios that act out the rules they’ve brainstormed.

After brainstorming, develop a final list of rules as a group. Which ones do students think are the most important? If they disagree with a rule, ask them to explain why. Discuss with them why the rule was made and how you can adjust it to the specific needs of the class.

While it’s good to include students in the rule-making process, it’s also important to remember that the final say on what goes stays with you. When you explain and collaborate on the rules, students are more likely to accept and respect your authority.

Display classroom rules creatively

The only thing more boring for your students than a long, black-and-white list of rules nailed to the wall on the first day of school is listening to you read off the list as they sit in their desks and wish they were still on summer vacation.

Present classroom rules in an engaging way to get creativity flowing on the first day of school. Ask students to help make classroom rules posters or short skits that creatively demonstrate the rules for the rest of the class. When students are involved with presenting the rules, they’re more likely to remember and uphold them.

Be specific

Students, whether they realize it or not, thrive and succeed academically in an environment with clear rules and boundaries. General rules and classroom principles are a great place to start, but everyday rules should be clear and specific, with little room for creative interpretation or manipulation.

If you choose to make rules with your students, ask them to go deeper than general ideas. Have them consider what rules look like in practice, and what the consequences for breaking certain rules should be.

Be clear on consequences

Routine and structure are important aspects of any classroom, and as a teacher you have to be consistent in how you apply the rules — no playing favorites or backing down on the consequences. Students won’t respect and follow the rules if you don’t.

Be clear from the beginning on what the consequences are for breaking the rules. Consider a “fix what you broke” approach that asks the student to make amends for their behavior through actions or words, or set time-outs and temporary losses of privilege. Certain infractions are more serious than others (i.e. violence vs. speaking out of turn), so be prepared to respond appropriately.

Some quick tips to promote community and learning:

  • Don’t be unnecessarily heavy-handed or look to embarrass students in front of the class
  • Praise publicly, reprimand privately
  • Always be able to explain how your consequences fit into your overall classroom rules

Give (small) rewards

While most teachers lay out consequences for misbehavior, consider also identifying areas where students can earn rewards. Positive reinforcement is a useful technique. Make sure to praise students for acting appropriately, and consider giving small rewards to students who exceed expectations.

Rewards can include stickers, a chance to be a “line leader” for the day, or even extra time on a fun, educational game like Prodigy Math.

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Get parent buy-in

Parent involvement is the best indicator of student success — a principle that extends beyond academic involvement. Parents need to understand and align themselves with expectations for classroom behavior.

Keep in touch with parents and send home a letter at the beginning of the school year that details the classroom rules that you and your class have agreed on.

Consider taking a few moments from a parent evening to go over student expectations or ask for feedback on what values parents think classroom rules should uphold. Communication and collaboration with parents means more student success and fewer surprises during the school year.

Collaborate with your colleagues

Your colleagues are one of your biggest assets when it comes to establishing clear rules. Students often have more than one teacher throughout the school day, and communicating a consistent set of classroom rules can help reinforce student expectations.

Three teachers are discussing classroom rules in a meeting room

Collaborating with other teachers is also a good way to make sure that your rules are in line with school culture. If the classroom is out of step with what the rest of the school is doing, students can get confused and start to act out. Speak with a supervisor or trusted colleague if you have any questions, and take their advice seriously.

How to uphold classroom rules

For many teachers, student discipline is a difficult subject to discuss. If every classroom needs rules, then it stands to reason that breaking the rules should come with appropriate consequences.

In any classroom, broken rules mean wasted teaching time and emotional exhaustion for teachers. In one study about classroom discipline, researchers noted that:

The ultimate goal of classroom order is to enable instruction. Classroom order is not a goal in itself, nor is it a way to correct classroom disruption. Effective teachers have fewer classroom disciplinary problems not because they are good at restoring discipline, but because they are good at establishing classroom procedures that maximize time available for instruction.”

With that in mind, here are some tips for making sure student discipline, when necessary, is used as a way to get back to what your students are really there for: learning!

Collaborate with your students — again

While you’re making the rules, consider making the consequences as well. In order for students to respect the rules, they have to realize what’s going to happen when they break them. Give students hypothetical situations, and ask them to develop consequences based on shared classroom values.

Even if you decide to make the consequences on you own, don’t think that being unnecessarily harsh will earn you respect. If you truly want to build an efficient and positive learning environment, you should always keep the best interests of your students in mind.

Be able to explain consequences when students ask. Take circumstance into account — an unusually egregious offence needs to be escalated more quickly than a small classroom disturbance. Apply the rules consistently so students learn the value of responsibility.

Continue to reinforce classroom rules

If you want students to listen to classroom rules all year round, make sure you’ve reinforced them throughout the school year.If rules are continually taught, students have less of an excuse for misbehavior. In her Cooperative Discipline Model, teaching specialist Linda Albert recommends that:

“The behaviors calls for must be taught, not taken for granted, and the code should be discussed regularly. This keeps it in the foreground for reminding students and for use when correcting misbehavior. When serious violations of the code occur, procedures of conflict resolution are applied. All the while, the teacher makes ongoing efforts to help students feel capable, connected with others, and contributors to the class and elsewhere.”

If students are aware of the rules and know you take them seriously, they’ll be more likely to respect them.

Balance discipline with compassion

Albert also theorizes that misbehavior is merely students trying to achieve “mistaken goals,” including revenge, attention-seeking or assumed disability. She encourages teachers to reframe this as an opportunity to build a positive relationship with students.

While discipline is a way to encourage a safe and positive working environment for all students, it’s important to remember students are also learning how to function as responsible and effective members of society. Difficult home situations, mental health issues and challenging social situations are all factors that can cause students to act out.

A female teacher sitting on a chair is carefully listening to a student

While none of these factors excuse bad behavior, it’s worth checking in with a chronically misbehaving student to see if you can address any underlying factors. Work with administrators, support staff and parents to develop a response to intervention plan for students who might be struggling in the classroom, or guide students to resources that can help them succeed both personally and academically.

Restorative practices: moving away from classroom rules?

If you've implemented classroom rules or understandings yourself, you know there can be pros and cons. Some teachers have had success using them while others have not.

While they may work for in some environments, these classroom rule systems can interrupt students' learning journeys and, in some case, result in the same or more challenging behavior down the road.

Compared to classroom rules, restorative practices focus on empowering students to learn from their choices that aren't acceptable, understand the impact of those actions and, from there, to grow personally in their knowledge of how to make better decisions and resolve problems.

Benefits of restorative practices in the classroom

As highlighted by EdWeek, restorative practices can help students:

  • Build relationships
  • Strive to be respectful to all
  • Involve relevant stakeholders
  • Encourage all to take responsibility
  • Address harms, needs, obligations
  • Provide the opportunity for equitable dialogue and decision-making

Examples of restorative practices

Whether you're thinking of ditching traditional classroom rules altogether or want to find a way to bring them together with restorative practices, here are some ideas to get your class started.

  1. Affective statements — Also known as "feeling statements", students can form and share them in response to someone else's actions, be they a student or a teacher. It follows a simple structure: how you're feeling, why you're feeling it and what you need to feed better.
  2. Collaborative class agreements — Your students will likely feel more inclined to help create a positive classroom environment if they play a role in creating classroom rules or understandings or agreements. Instead of having classroom rules set in stone before the school year starts, wait until the first week of school to create class agreements together.
  3. Mindfulness — create room for practicing mindfulness daily to help your students focus on being present, deep breathing and growing awareness of themselves and those around them. Your mindfulness moments can be silent or guided — one or the other might be more suitable on any given day.
  4. Restorative circles — These are great for helping your students build social awareness, relationship skills and a sense of community. It will require vulnerability (something not all students may be comfortable with), so you may need to help lead this time and share thoughts, feelings or concerns of your own.
  5. Problem-solving anchor chart — These are a great tool help empower students to constructively and collaboratively solve their own problems. As a class, brainstorm two types of scenarios: ones that students would require teacher help to resolve (e.g., class theft, a fight) and others that students can try to solve independently (e.g., a student is using an item that another one wants, someone who wants to play or work independently instead of as a group).

Recognizing that classroom rules are but a part of classroom management. Depending on your class' specific set of classroom rules, restorative practices can provide a more empathetic approach to solving problems

Final thoughts on classroom rules

Each teacher uses their classroom rules differently, because each class is different. Some students might need structure and clearly defined boundaries, while others respond positively to more freedom. Encourage student buy-in, continuously communicate the rules and uphold them as necessary to find what works best for your classroom.

Long days and large classes can make it difficult to respond to every need or problem equally. Do your best, and make sure that your students know that you want to see them succeed — that’s what matters the most.

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