Introducing Your Class Rules

Specific Ways to Introduce Your Rules to Students

Little girl raising her hand in the classroom

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A well-founded set of class rules has the power to make any school year great. Great teachers know that rules make learning possible and work hard to choose them. Follow these tips for coming up with the right rules for your class and implementing them.

Keep It Simple

Because rules are meant to serve students, they should be logical and straightforward enough that they make sense after minimal explanation. If a rule is confusing and/or its purpose unclear, your students will have trouble practicing it. Follow these guidelines for designing a functional set of rules that is most likely to have its intended results.

  • Don't overdo it. Be economical with your rules list to increase the likelihood of your students remembering it. There isn't a magic amount but the number of rules you implement should generally not exceed half the age of your students (e.g. No greater than three or four rules for second graders, four or five for fourth graders, etc.).
  • Include important unwritten rules. Never make assumptions about what your students do or don't already know. Every child is raised differently and cultural contrasts are never more prominent than when it comes to behavioral management and rules. Hold your students all to the same standards only after teaching the rules and not before.
  • Use positive language. Write what students should do rather than what they should not do. Positive language is easier to follow because it communicates expectations more clearly.

Choosing Between General and Class-Specific Rules

Most teachers tend to follow a similar roadmap for rule-setting: Briefly highlight student preparedness, outline what being respectful of others and school property looks like, and set behavioral expectations during instruction. These standard guidelines are prominent for good reason.

There is nothing wrong with having rules similar to those of other teachers. In fact, this can make your students' lives easier in a lot of ways. However, nonspecific rules don't always make the most sense and you shouldn't feel tied to them. Teachers can deviate from the norm as they see fit based on what will work best in their classroom. Use a combination of general and class-specific rules until you are comfortable with your code of conduct.

Sample General Rules

There are some rules that can be applied to every classroom. This is true of the following examples.

  1. Come to class prepared.
  2. Listen when someone else is talking.
  3. Always try your best.
  4. Wait for your turn to speak (then raise your hand)
  5. Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Sample Class-Specific Rules

When general rules don't cut it, teachers can use more precise language to put their expectations into words. Here are some examples.

  1. Complete morning work as soon as you come in.
  2. Always be helpful to others.
  3. Give eye contact when someone is talking.
  4. Ask questions when you don't understand.
  5. Never make a classmate feel like you don't want to work with them.

Steps for Introducing Class Rules to Students

Always introduce rules to your students as soon as possible, ideally within the first few days of school. Prioritize this over other activities and introductions because rules lay the groundwork for how your class will function. Follow these steps for success when presenting class guidelines to students.

  1. Involve your students. Many teachers create class rules with the help of their students. This is an excellent strategy for long-term success. Instilling a sense of ownership in your students with regard to the rules will make it more likely that they follow and value them. You can even have your students agree to abide by them by signing a contract.
  2. Explicitly teach the rules. Once your class has come up with practical rules, work together to talk about what they mean. Teach and model the rules so that the entire class is on the same page. Let your students help you demonstrate desired behavior and have meaningful conversations about why rules are important.
  3. Post the rules. Your students can't be expected to remember every rule after only hearing them once. Post them somewhere visible so that they can be easily referenced—some teachers even send students home with their own copies. Keep the rules fresh in their minds and remember that sometimes they merely forget and are not deliberately misbehaving.
  4. Talk about the rules often. Keep the conversation going as the year progresses because posting the rules isn't always enough. Issues will come up that require you to revisit your guidelines with individuals, groups of students, and even the whole class. No one is perfect and your students will need to reset sometimes.
  5. Add more rules as needed. You don't have to have it all figured out the day your new students walk into class. If you ever realize that there are rules missing that would make everything run more smoothly, go ahead and add, teach, and post them as you did with all the others. Teach your students about adapting to change whenever you add a new rule.