Creating Classroom Rules

 Image by Federico Stevanin

It’s only been three days since school has started and so much has already taken place.  In reality, it  feels like three non-stop days of meetings and teaching.  Many teachers are recharging this weekend to begin again on Monday.  After reflecting on the last few days of school, I’m now starting to plan specific learning opportunities for next week.

Many community building activities were emphasized this past week.  My class created classroom rules during the first day of school.  This year I created the rules with my class and they are now posted on a bulletin board.  Most research that I’ve read indicates that when students are part of the creation of the rules, they are more willing to take ownership and model the rules in the classroom throughout the school year.

Here’s the rule creation process that I used this year:

  • Each student is given one Post-it note
  • The students are asked to not write their name on the Post-it
  • Each student writes down one rule that they think would benefit the classroom
  • I collect the Post-it notes and read each one to the class
  • If any student doesn’t agree with a rule they may communicate why it shouldn’t be a rule
  • The class “approves” each rule through consensus
  • After all of the rules have been read, the class starts to categorize the rules (since we can’t have 23 unique rules!)
  • After categorizing each Post-it, my classroom rules look like this:

Ground Rules
Respect Yourself and Others
Follow Procedures
Be Responsible
Do Your Personal Best

  • The rules are posted on a poster in the classroom
  • Students place their signature on the poster and then each individual Post-it note is placed around the poster (like a border)
  • I (and often students) refer to the poster to reinforce classroom expectations throughout the year
I’ve found that this callaborative activity encourages students to participate in creating a positive classroom environment.  It also provides students an opportunity to be responsible for creating the ground rules for the classroom. This activity gives students ownership and slightly shifts responsibility from the teacher to the student.  Detailed directions for this activity are located here.  Practical examples of this strategy can be found below.
The names in the above photo have been blurred.  Having students sign the rules  often encourages accountability.

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