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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Classroom rules

Classroom rules

Related Tags: Classroom Management
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50 Replies 6613 Views
I am interested in how people feel about posting classroom rules. In my school we are required to have several things posted in our classrooms - these include the fire escape route, class schedule, and classroom rules. What do you think of posting classroom rules?

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Angus McIntosh's picture
Angus McIntosh
Grade 8 teacher from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

Middle Years kids LOVE to break the rules, so I don't tell them what they are, so to speak. My rational comes from the "outside" world. Do they post the rules at the Bank that list all the ways you are not to rob the bank? What about at the mall, do they post the rules there about lining up outside the stores waiting for them to open? I tell my class that there are general "rules" for life that we follow,and that they are different for different places. You behave differently at home than you do at grandma's, and differently again at a baseball game or church. The "rules" are all based on the current location and activity of the time. They need to adjust accordingly. Of course I give them guidlines, plenty of reminders, we take time to talk about behaviour in general, and they get a wole lot of help. But as soon as I took down the rules and "consequences", my life as a teacher got a lot better. I don't expect that this would work for every teacher, but it works for me.

Tracie Weisz's picture
Tracie Weisz
Middle School teacher from Alaska

Angus - you make a lot of good points about rules and real life - that is exactly how I think of that - especially as students get older. I think that with regards to posting rules, the age of the students and the setting are a determinant in terms of making that decision - for example, as some have posted here, younger students having them for guidelines as they are learning some self-control. When I used to run the computer lab I posted rules regarding equipment use (no food or drinks, etc.) but not consequences. However, I teach middle school, and I must confess that although my school has this requirement for posting rules, I have never followed it (but luckily have never been called on it). Once, mid year, I asked my grade 8 students to take a minute to write down what they thought the "rules" of my classroom were, since I had none posted. They almost all wrote down the same things, like "show up prepared", "don't waste time", "participate in the discussion", etc. I was elated! That told me that I had been strongly communicating my expectations to them, and that they understood them.

DMR's picture
DMR
Algebra teacher, Maryland

My classroom rules that are DEFINITELY posted on the wall:

1. Follow all school rules
2. Follow teacher directions promptly
3. Support the learning momentum of the class

#3 is probably the most controversial but my absolute favorite -- That catches everything-- and also hits the heart of why we have rules to keep learning happening in our classrooms.

Right out of college I taught a semester of high school which I wasn't ready for because high schoolers know how to work the system and play in the Gray area. Next thing you know you are having nightmares and you can't quite nail them to the wall but it could quickly escalate to a major teacher-student conflict because they've been pushing you for weeks.
I switched to middle school for three years.

Now I'm back in high school and loving it! That rule tackles the gray area -- you're socializing to your buddy while I'm giving directions, not supporting the learning momentum, you're purposefully kicking the back of your neighbors chair, not supporting the learning momentum, etc.

Don't worry they don't get in huge trouble when they break the rules, but I can now enforce what I care about.

Bill Warters's picture
Bill Warters
Professor, manager of K-12 website on conflict resolution

The Ohio public schools have actively promoted conflict resolution skills for teachers via support from the Ohio Commission on Dispute Resolution & Conflict Management. Teachers who have been involved in training get an impressive resource guide of activities to use that relate to conflict management in various ways. A sample from this collection on creating classroom rules is available as a pdf here.

I wonder, does the example activity give the students too much input into the rule-making process?

Alice Mercer's picture
Alice Mercer
Elementary Computer Lab Teacher

Not to put you on the spot or get too far off topic, but I recall reading in WSJ in 1990s that Ohio still had corporal punishment, is that still the case? How does that affect your work with schools there?

Evan Shelton's picture
Evan Shelton
Teacher On Special Assignment - k-12 school improvement science coordinator

[quote]Not to put you on the spot or get too far off topic, but I recall reading in WSJ in 1990s that Ohio still had corporal punishment, is that still the case? How does that affect your work with schools there?[/quote]
While corporal punishment is still legal in Ohio, most schools don't use it (some charters and religious schools do)due to liability issues. We don't really "have" corporal punishment.

Evan Shelton's picture
Evan Shelton
Teacher On Special Assignment - k-12 school improvement science coordinator

If you are going to post rules, do you post consequences? If there are no consequences, then "rules" are pointless. I think that the most effective things is a school-wide discipline plan which includes both "rules" AND consequences.

Evan Shelton's picture
Evan Shelton
Teacher On Special Assignment - k-12 school improvement science coordinator

If you are going to post rules, do you post consequences? If there are no consequences, then "rules" are pointless. I think that the most effective things is a school-wide discipline plan which includes both "rules" AND consequences.

Andrew McDiarmid's picture

In my middle school classroom, the posted rules are simple enough:
RESPECT:
1. God
2. Others
3. Self
4. Property

I review these in detail with students at the beginning of the school year. Any time a student gets a discipline from me, we go over which category they displayed disrespect towards. I try to promote and model a classroom culture of respect. I speak calmly and kindly to students, never raising my voice or shouting. I help my students realize the importance of their words and actions, and I hold them accountable for them.

Andrew McDiarmid's picture

I used to think that the best way to handle rules and consequences was to spell out both clearly and have them posted. However, I got to thinking. We try hard to customize our teaching for students. Why don't we customize our discipline of them as well? If we spell out the consequences for rules that are broken, that doesn't leave much room for customization to situations, repeat rule-breaking, grace, or democratic practices such as having the student think up an appropriate consequence. These tools can be powerful when used properly and they can't all be spelled out and put on the wall of a classroom.
What do you think?

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