The Wisdom of Posting Class Rules

Creating and posting class rules is a good way to start students out on the right foot and create high expectations for student behavior. Through posted and reinforced rules, you will lower the rate of misbehaviors and increase teaching and learning time. However, this is true only if you actually follow through according to a posted discipline plan.

Keep Rules Short and Simple

Many new teachers make some common mistakes when they create their rules. First, they do not limit the number of rules. There is a reason that phone numbers have only seven digits — this is about the limit of how many numbers most people can remember. Aim for five good rules.

The second mistake that new teachers commonly make is creating rules that are too general. Experienced teachers who have a strong handle on classroom discipline might be able to effectively enforce a rule like “Respect yourself and others.”

However, it is much easier for a newer teacher to enforce the rule, “Keep your hands and feet to yourself.” Following are some other examples of rules that you could choose from to use in your class:

  • Keep your hands and feet to yourself.

  • Be in your seat when the bell rings (at the beginning of class).

  • Follow directions the first time they are given.

  • Raise your hand and wait until you are recognized before speaking.

  • Stay in your assigned seat unless otherwise stated.

  • No cursing or vulgar or offensive language.

  • Keep your desk and surrounding area clean.

  • Respect other people's property.

  • Eyes front when the teacher is talking.

  • Come to class with all books and necessary materials, including paper and pen.

  • No personal grooming in class.

  • Respect others by not talking when the teacher or other students are talking.

According to the latest study by the National Center for Education Studies, 22 percent of schools are overcrowded. Having too many students in a class leads to greater chances for disruption. In these instances, it is extremely important that you have clear, consistent rules that every student understands.

As you can see, there are more than five listed here. Some of these are aimed at younger students and some at older. Choose what is best for you and your classroom.

Whenever possible, it's a good idea to phrase your rules in a positive manner. This way, students know what they're expected to do, not what they are prohibited from doing. However, some rules like “no cursing” do not lend themselves to this type of phrasing without becoming too general.

Presenting Rules to Your Students

How should you present your rules to students? The first step is to have the rules posted in your room before the first day of school. They should be in dark, permanent marker on a poster board that is visible to all students. When students come in the first day and you are introducing yourself and your rules, refer to the chart on the wall. Every time that someone violates a rule, refer again to the chart as you explain what the student did wrong.

Reinforce Rules Daily

As a consistent, effective teacher, it is important to emphasize that your rules are the same every day for all students. If your rules are not specific and are difficult to enforce, this could be a problem. By always maintaining a consistent message about the rules, you are more likely to enforce them, and students are more likely to follow them.

It is important that students know and learn your class rules, but it is also essential that parents also be informed. A good habit is to send home a copy of your classroom rules for parents to sign. When parents are informed, fewer misunderstandings will occur.

Many teachers create their class rules with good intentions. However, some teachers fail to enforce the rules consistently. You'll recognize their classes by the chaos as soon as you walk into one. Remember, students will pick up on any weakness related to rule enforcement on your part.

What if you find that a rule is not working or that another rule is necessary? The rules might be written in permanent marker, but they are not set in stone. As the teacher, you can replace a rule if the need arises. If you have created the proper climate of consistency and fairness, the transition to a new and necessary rule should be relatively painless.

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