Classroom Rules - The Foundation of Good Classroom Management

teacher scolding student
(Mahatta Multimedia Pvt. Ltd./Getty Images)

Classroom rules need to be kept to a minimum and include at least one general "compliance" rule, such as "Show respect for yourself and others." Some will write elaborate rules, like Ron Clark, in his book The Essential 55: An Award-Winning Educator's Rules for Discovering the Successful Student in Every Child. Unlike Doug Lemov, who writes of 49 strategies meant for teachers, the 55 rules are meant for students. There are way too many for students to memorize, and likely to create an environment more suitable to a courthouse than a classroom.

Teachers need to make up the classroom rules since it is the teacher's classroom and he or she need to be sure that the rules meet the baseline of the teacher's expectations. There will be lots of ways for the teacher and students to discuss appropriate procedures and consequences, especially if you choose to use a class meeting as part of your classroom.

Rules Should:

  • Be limited to 3-6 rules
  • Be stated in positive terms
  • Address multiple situations
  • Be age appropriate

Be sure that rules are simple and few. By keeping rules easy for young students or students with cognitive disabilities, it will help them understand the classroom expectations and help build the classroom culture. Perhaps "Be kind to your friends" is easier for a 6-year-old to understand than "Respect your peers" or "Respect yourself and others." It is amazing that teachers who often don't treat students with respect expect them to understand what it is. Screaming seldom has that effect. 

Once rules are established, be sure that you take the time to teach the rules. Have students brainstorm ways that they would apply the rules. Then, be sure to consistently enforce the rules. Nothing will undermine classroom discipline more quickly than a teacher who fails to enforce classroom rules in a way that is fair and consistent, no matter who the rule breaker.


Since rules are meant to be general, they will require that you teach some specific procedures, especially for different environments. Make a list of everything you expect a student to do during the day so you can consider the specific procedures that will be required.

In the beginning of the year, spend lots and lots of time teaching and rehearsing the procedures. Overteach. Send the children back to their seats if they do not line up quietly enough (a procedure that goes with the classroom rule "Respect the teacher, other students, and other classes").


Rule: During instruction, students will remain in their seats and will raise their hands and wait to be called on to speak.

Procedure: A color wheel chart will establish the three kinds of behaviors for the different classroom activities. Or, the teacher will establish the beginning and end of an instructional block with a clapping cue.