Classroom Rules: How to Create and Enforce Them Effectively




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Classroom management is a critical part of formal education. That is, you can increase the level of success of your students if you are able to manage your classroom successfully and effectively.

Teachers, both experienced and beginners, work extremely hard to become masters in classroom management.

At the beginning of my career, there were some days I didn’t want to hear the statement, ‘‘there is school tomorrow.’’ This is because I used to struggle to manage some classes on those days.   

I think you have had that thought at least once in your career as a teacher.

Over the years, I have learned to manage my classes effectively using some key and proven techniques. One of them is the use of classroom rules.

Classroom rules that are reasonable, positive, simple, clear, enforceable, respectful, and inclusive promote a safe, conducive, and all-inclusive classroom environment for effective learning to take place.

In this article, I explore the important steps to follow when creating effective classroom rules. I have identified 11 critical steps to guide you when trying to design rules for your class.


Why Are Classroom Rules Necessary?

I have been extremely happy for some weeks now. You may be wondering why.

In the middle of this semester, one of our teachers went on leave. So, we had a meeting, and they assigned me to that class.

But I wasn’t quite happy about it. Why? I have heard a lot about that class from their teachers and all were not good.

They were disruptive, oppositional, and annoying. That was what I was told.

To succeed, I spent two weeks developing and implementing classroom rules with the students. This process gave us the following in the classroom:

1. Everyone feels respected: That’s everyone knows when to do what and how. Due to this, every student is respected by every member of the class. This makes everyone wants to learn and participate during lessons.


2. The classroom becomes safe for everyone: Our rules from activities or actions that expose members of the class to danger. For example, fighting is not allowed. With that, we have peace of mind to concentrate on our lessons.


3. Teaching and learning have been improved: So far, all the rules have been effective, and everyone performs his/her part of the rules without problems and complaints. Due to that, my workflows well as I expect them to be. Equally, the students are okay with the situations in our lessons. No, or very minimal disruptions on the part of some students, but the rules always function well.


4. Everyone is responsible for his or her actions: Everyone knows the rules governing our routines, procedures, and norms in the class. Equally, everyone knows the consequences of various behaviors, whether positive or negative. This allows students to become responsible. Thus, they perform what is expected of them and shun what is discouraged in the classroom.  


Due to the above, I always rush to enter the class when my time is up. Recently, the class consultant came to the class, during my lesson, for a book. She noticed everyone was busy attending to his/her work without disturbances. She couldn’t hide her excitement and stopped to congratulate them.


Examples of Classroom Rules

Now that we are done with why classroom rules are necessary, let’s turn our attention to some sample classroom rules that you can adapt. There are numerous classroom rules that are used by teachers across the globe depending on their situations. The following are some of them:

1. You should allow others the time to talk.

2. You should respect others and their opinions.

3. You should finish your homework on time.

4. You should listen to your friends before speaking.

5. You should be polite to your friends.

6. You should put your hand up and wait to be called upon to speak.

7. You should treat others’ properties like they are yours.

8. You should always listen to the teacher.

9. You should collaborate and cooperate with your friends.

10. You should be kind and helpful to others.


Those are some examples of classroom rules that teachers use to effectively manage their classrooms. Remember, the number and type of rules to have depends largely on the level of the students and your context (country, region, district, etc.”).


Factors to Consider When Making Classroom Rules

We don’t make classroom rules for the sake of making them. They must be effective and can help us manage our classes with success.

Before they can be effective, there are some factors that you must consider when designing them. That is critical for the success of your classroom management efforts.

These vary according to the level of students and your context. Some of these factors are shown below:


1. Students’ cultural backgrounds

Culture is an important part of everyone’s life. Be mindful of how the rules and their consequences will have on your students.

Rules mustn’t have negative impacts on your students’ cultures and backgrounds.

Today’s classrooms increasingly becoming diverse due to globalization. With this, you must find a way to cater to everyone and his/her culture when setting up your classroom rules.   


2. School-wide, district, or municipal level laws

Your classroom rules must be congruent with those of your school, district, and municipal education services.

That’s, don’t make rules that are against your school’s or district’s rules. Else, you cannot enforce them.

Or even you succeed in enforcing them, you may be sued if something goes wrong in the process. This is what you don’t want.


3. The Focus of Your Rules

It is important to consider the focus of classroom rules. What do you seek to achieve? How?

Your rules must seek to prevent misbehavior and not to react to them. You must be able to project situations that promote misbehavior and seek to prevent them through your rules.

Also, your rules must balance between positive and negative reinforcement. Your rules must center on encouraging students to behave appropriately.


Should Students Participate in Making Classroom Rules?

There have been several concerns regarding whether to include or invite students to take part in the process of designing the classroom rules.

For me, I have always involved my students throughout the process. I have found that useful.

In fact, it has encouraged my students to be responsible and accountable to the rules.

There are instances where my students remind one another about the rules they themselves have helped create.

Due to that, there has been very minimal disobedience to our classroom rules. So, don’t forget to be democratic about the development of your classroom rules.



What Are Good Classroom Rules?

To be able to create effective classroom rules, it is necessary to know what makes up a good rule. Good classroom rules have the following characteristics:


They are Simple

Your rules must be simple. They must be rules that students can easily obey or follow. To you, they must be rules you can easily enforce. This is key to the success of your rules.


They are Clear

Great and effective classroom rules are clear and unambiguous. That is, everyone must understand the rules. This makes it easier for students to obey them. Use simple and unambiguous words to frame your classroom rules.


They are Enforceable

Classroom rules must be enforceable in order to be effective. You can quickly achieve this if your rules are simple and consistent with the rules of your school and district education services.

Your rules must also be congruent with the conditions in the social environment where your school is located.


They are Reasonable

Can you obey rules that you find to be unreasonable? Even if you do, you would not be happy.

This is what your students will go through if you expect them to obey rules that they don’t find reasonable.

Therefore, try as much as possible to make your rules reasonable for everyone. This must be one of your main goals.


They are Short

Classroom rules must be short and straight to the point. They must not be many such that students forget about some of them.

Depending on your situation, it can be any number. But I recommend you make four to six classroom rules.

Remember, you can always update or revise your classroom rules as the semester rolls by.


They are Respectable

Effective classroom rules are respectable to everyone and his or her situation. Here, rules must respect the diverse group of people in the class irrespective of their background, race, etc.

Don’t make a rule that disparages the cultures and or conditions.


They are Positive

For classroom rules to be effective if they are positive. Here, rules must be constructed in a positive language. This highlights the focus of your rules. Effective rules promote positive and appropriate behaviors.

Refrain from using “not” or “no” when framing your rules. Also, your rules must not emphasize punishment over encouragement of appropriate behaviors.


They are Inclusive

Classroom rules must seek to promote inclusiveness in the classroom. That is important in creating a working community in the class.

Even if one of your rules alienates some students in some way, it will fail. With that, you can fail in managing your students effectively.

Make sure your rules promote inclusiveness.


They Follow the 5Ps of Classroom Rules

Good classroom rules follow the requirements of the 5Ps of making classroom rules. They are Prompt, Prepared, Productive, Polite, and Position.

Your rules must promote the 5Ps in your classroom. That helps prepare everyone and the classroom environment for effective teaching and learning to take place.


Step-by-Step Guide to Develop Your Classroom Rules

After discussing the characteristics of good classroom rules, let’s look at how to develop them. The steps below can help you create rules that actually work for your classroom:


Step 1: Assess Your Personality

First of all, I recommend you review your personality before setting classroom rules. This is important because your personality shapes your values and norms.

It further informs what you consider to be appropriate behavior or not.

It, therefore, shapes your philosophy of education and classroom management, which impacts the choice of rules you will prefer in your classroom.

Due to that, I propose you assess yourself again and identify your values, norms, and standards of appropriate behavior.


Step 2: Review Your Philosophy of Education

After understanding your personality, please review your philosophy of education for more inspiration.

Remember, your philosophy of education gives you a theoretical guide to perform your job effectively as a teacher.

That is, it helps you to choose teaching techniques or approaches that you think are effective in achieving the goals of education.


Step 3: Review Your Classroom Management Philosophy

After revisiting your philosophy of education, it is necessary to look at your philosophy of classroom management one more time.

Your philosophy of classroom management helps you choose the day-to-day strategies and tactics you adopt to manage students’ behavior effectively.

For example, this informs you to be democratic or not in developing your classroom rules. This further affects the effectiveness of your rules.


Step 4: Set Goals and Expectations for the Semester

Now, it is time for you to set educational goals and expectations for everyone. What does everyone aim to achieve by coming to school?

I often ask the question, “why do we come to school?” Now, brainstorm the purpose of education for everyone.

Let everyone contribute to the conversation by giving his or her purpose of education. Then write down all that is said.

Then polish everything up after everyone had stated their expectations and goals for the semester.

Then post that at a strategic part in your classroom. Make it accessible for everyone.


Step 5: Draft Your Classroom Rules

Now, inform your students that you are going to create rules that will guide them to achieve their goals and expectations for the semester.

Democratically, seek the ideas of every student regarding the rules. In doing that, request to discuss with students how those rules can help you achieve your goals for the semester.

Through this, come out with at most ten key rules. After that, further, debate the usefulness of all the ten rules and finally reduce them to six.


Step 6: Set Rewards for Obeying the Rules

After drafting the rules, it is important to come out with rewards for obeying the rules.

Just like the rules, allow students to suggest appropriate rewards for following the rules.

Remember, they will suggest outrageous rewards that you can’t fulfill. Don’t worry.

Discuss with them the feasibility of acquiring or providing each reward suggested.

Let everyone understand why some rewards are feasible and others are not.

After achieving consensus, write down the final list of the rewards.


Step 7: Set Consequences for Not Obeying the Rules

Just like the rewards, craft the consequences for disobeying each rule. Remember, there are going to be serious debates regarding some suggested consequences.

It is normal. Just work to achieve consensus. Don’t forget to remove unenforceable consequences.

That is important because your inability to enforce rules makes you lose your power in the class.

Step 8: Teach the Rules

As mentioned earlier, effective classroom rules are those that are understood by everyone in the class community.

To achieve that, you have to teach the rules to the students using creative methods. Through that, you can clear all ambiguities regarding the rules.

You can use postcards and worksheets to make sure everyone understands the rules.


Step 9: Publish the Rules

Write the final list of the rules. Let everyone sign their names on the same paper. Sign after everyone has done that and write the date.

Post the list of the rules on a visible part of the classroom. Make sure everyone can see them clearly.


Step 10: Implement the Rules

Hurray! You have successfully developed your classroom rules.

The next step in the process is to implement the rules. Normally, I give a date the rules will start working in the class.

Remember to be just, fair, kind, and firm when following through the implementation process. That is critical and if you fail in any, you will likely not succeed in the use of the rules.

Note down issues regarding students’ attitudes towards the rules. These notes are important moving forward. They will form the basis for the review of the effectiveness of the rules.


Step 11: Review Your Process

From time to time, review the progress of the implementation of your rules with students. There is no specific number of times for reviewing your rules. Your situations can shape the number of times you will do in a semester.

Discuss, with the class, the notes you have been taking about everyone’s attitudes towards the rules. Discuss ways to improve the effectiveness of the rules.

Remove less-effective rules and replace them with more effective ones. This is how we can get better at using classroom rules to manage students’ behavior.  


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