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What major factors do you need to consider before you even start planning? How do you know if it was effective? When it comes to setting rules in the classroom, in some ways the old adage “hope for the best, but prepare for the worst” rings true. Starting the school year on the right foot includes establishing classroom rules that will last the whole year through.
Many teachers involve students in establishing their classroom rules. Surprisingly, student-created rules are often much the same as — or even tougher than — rules a teacher might create. After all, students want to attend school in a safe environment, and they want to know the boundaries when it comes to classroom behavior. Most experienced educators say the key to creating classroom rules is to keep those rules few and simple — and to establish up front the consequences if the rules are broken.
Mission & Vision
So what will those rules be? Many teachers involve students in creating their classroom rules. That’s what this article’s ten activities are all about! Surprisingly, many teachers report, whether you involve the students or not, you will likely end up with very similar rules. After all, students really want — and thrive in — a classroom environment in which they know the limits and feel safe, and that’s what setting rules is all about. If you are really stuck for the kinds of rules that might be appropriate for students at your grade level, see some suggestions on the Classroom Rules — Elementary Level Web page.
The consequences for breaking a classroom rule are at least as important as the rule itself. Second time: Student fills out a form that asks them to identify the rule they’ve broken and what they plan to do to correct the situation. Teacher keeps the form on file. Fourth time: Call home to parents. Classroom Behavior Contract During the first days of school, teacher Mary Gambrel involves her students in creating their classroom rules. How do you want me to treat you? How do you want to treat on another?
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How do you think I want to be treated? How should we treat one another when there’s a conflict? Students’ share their thoughts about those questions in small groups, and then with the entire class. Responses are posted on a large sheet of chart paper. As an idea is repeated, a checkmark or star is placed beside it.
In the presence of others, sing not to yourself with a humming noise, nor drum with your fingers or feet. When you sit down, keep your feet firm on the ground and even, without putting one foot on the other or crossing them. Shift not yourself in the sight of others, nor gnaw your nails. Kill no vermin such as fleas, lice, ticks, etc. Read no letters, books, or papers in company. When there is a necessity for doing so, you must ask leave. Let your countenance be pleasant, but in serious matters somewhat grave.
Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present. Do not laugh too loud or too much at any public spectacle lest you cause yourself to be laughed at. If anyone comes to speak to you while you are sitting, stand up although he be your inferior. With each suggestion, I usually ask the student to tell me what the rule ‘looks like,'” Gambrel added. If they say ‘be nice,’ they have to tell what that means. It’s a great way to see what they’re thinking. The rule-making activity takes place over parts of several days.
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Each day the rules are refined. Gambrel then types up the rules so students can discuss them. The students decide if there are items that need to be added or deleted,” Gambrel explained. Could some of the items be combined? Students also take home their lists, review them, and think about additional ways in which the rules might be fine-tuned.
After we’re finished, I have all my students sign the ‘poster’ as a commitment to follow the class rules,” said Gambrel. Then I take it to the local copy center and have it reduced to notebook size. I make enough copies for everyone. Students keep their copies in their notebooks.
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The original poster is displayed in the classroom. When I feel they are slipping, I remind them of the ‘contract’ we all signed — the rules they came up with and agreed to,” Gambrel told Education World. We review the rules before and after a long weekend or extended break and when someone new joins the class. During each review, I ask if any items need to be removed or added.
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Many of the rules relate to respect, which is a key word in Gambrel’s classroom. Respect plays out in many ways, including paying attention, turning in assignments, and being prepared. Gambrel says she has done this activity for a couple of years and she has few discipline problems in her classroom. I think this activity works because we end up with the same rules I want, but they are the ones who made the rules,” she said.
This works much better than me posting my rules without input from them. One other rule Gambrel shares with her students — this rule comes from the Capturing Kids’ Heart program too — is what she calls the 100 Percent Rule. I tell them everyone is not always able to give 100 percent every day. Sometimes they might come to class with a cold and all they can give is 80 percent. When they are in my class, I explain, “If all you have to give is 80 percent, I want 100 percent of what you’ve got.
Rules of Civility One of the important events in George Washington’s life is said to be that as a 16-year-old student he copied into his notebook all 110 Rules of Civility. Those rules were commonly known and circulated during Washington’s time. See the sidebar for a sampling of those rules. You might share the rules with your students.
After talking about some of the rules of civility, talk about rules, why they are needed, and what purposes they serve. Is there a need for 110 rules, or will a handful suffice? Invite students to share their ideas about what rules the class should have. There, they will serve as a constant reminder of the class rules. Have each group come up with a list of characteristics of a good student.
2. Walk your talk
Give the groups 10 to 15 minutes to create their lists. Then bring together the groups to share and create a master list of the qualities of good students. Use those as the material for creating your class rules. Poems are a great tool for helping youngsters remember rules. Arrange students into groups of four.
Give each group 15 blank index cards and a pair of dice. Give the teams 15 to 20 minutes to create and play a game that makes use of the dice and the cards. When time is up, have a member of each team explain the game the group invented. The students will share the “rules” of the game. Then segue into creating your list of most necessary class rules. Tell students they have something to do with the rules of the classroom. Arrange students into small groups, and ask each group to think of a list of words that begin with the letter r that might relate to classroom rules.
Then students use their list of words to come up with expressions that might fit the formula. Andrea, a fifth-grade teacher in Florida. She uses this activity to share classroom procedures. Before the students arrive, she tapes an index card under each student’s desk. A numbered question is written on each card. When it’s time to talk about class rules and procedures, the teacher asks students to check under their desks.
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Have students write the same thing on a small sheet of paper. Finally have students add up the numbers on the lines. The answer is 100, proving that attitude is 100 percent — attitude is everything! Use this activity to lead into a discussion about the importance of attitude. Ask students to write a paragraph that tells what they think the perfect classroom should be like.
Ask each student to underline in his or her paragraph the “most important words or phrases. After students have done that, they should pass their papers to the person in their group who is seated to their right. Click here for a worksheet to use with this activity. The printable page provides spaces for writing five classroom rules. Stuck for the kinds of rules that might be appropriate for students at your grade level?
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See some suggestions on the Classroom Rules — Elementary Level Web page. The grid sheet allows you to put a happy face, a frown face, or a face that shows no emotion next to each rule each day. April Every-Day Edits Use Every-Day Edits to build language skills, test scores, and cultural literacy. Be sure to see our tips for using Every-Day Edits in your classroom.
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Each date provides a link to more information on the incident. Not all online sources are created equal. Are your students ready for the world’s largest chemistry experiment? California lawmakers passed a bill that will broaden social studies curriculum in the state’s public schools to include lessons on gay history. In an effort to reach an increasingly diverse market and deliver on a major user request, Dictionary. In honor of Earth Day, a water utility firm offers teachers a free online toolkit to facilitate water education. The downloadable 12-part lesson plan is geared to students in grades 5 through 12.