A New Take on Classroom Rules

A new take on classroom rules

Sometime during the first week of school, I always set aside some time to go over classroom rules with my students. Even if you aren’t a fan of traditional school rules, most schools require teachers to post them in their classroom.

Engage the Students
I have always allowed my students to take part in creating the classroom rules. Of course, I guided them to the rules that I wanted to include. We usually ended up with typical rules like “Raise your hand,” “respect others,” and “follow directions.”

But I wanted something different.

I wanted to avoid those typical rules that tried to account for all the possible wrong behaviors. I decided to mix things up. I wanted a short list of positive behaviors rather than a long list of behaviors to avoid. And I wanted them to be simple enough to remember and broad enough to encompass everything.

Simple is Usually Better
That’s when I came up with two rules. Yep! That’s right! Just two rules. I had seen tons of posts online showing cute classroom signs that said things like “Work Hard” and “Be Kind.” I wanted to see if I could use just those two rules to define the classroom environment that I wanted with my students.

Student Input
During the first week of school, I sat down with my new students and asked them what rules we should have in our classroom. I gave everyone sticky notes and asked them to share the most important rule they thought we needed. (It was the first week of 2nd grade, so I re-wrote their responses for ease of reading.)

Student Sticky Notes Classroom Rule Ideas

Here are some of their other responses:

Don’t be mean
Do your work right
Don’t be rude
Don’t scribble on work
Help others
No fighting
Do your best
Work hard
Don’t play in class
No cutting hair (must have been an interesting story behind that one!)
Follow directions
Don’t throw work away
No hitting
Behave while the teacher is talking

The list went on, but we finally ended up with a poster full of sticky notes.

Narrowing It Down
It was a lot of rules! The kids agreed that we couldn’t really remember them all. That’s when I suggested that we try to group them into categories. Everyone helped me sort them out into groups like “Don’t be mean,” “Pay attention,” and “Do your work.”

Then we started grouping categories like “Don’t play” and “Do your work” that naturally seem to go together.

Once we finished grouping them (with a bit of teacher guidance), we realized we only needed two categories:

Be Kind and Work Hard

At first, everyone thought it wasn’t enough. They questioned whether a new rule could fit into one of those two categories.

What about “Don’t talk while someone else is talking? Easy. That goes under Be Kind.

What about “Do your homework”? Great! Seems like that one should go under Work Hard.

They soon realized that everything they could think of actually did fit into one of those two categories!

classroom rules poster

Making it Official
I made a one-page version of our two rules and had all the kids sign it. They thought it was fun and very official.

It was freeing in a way. I think I felt better knowing that I didn’t have to constantly point out negative behaviors. The kids seemed to grab onto this idea really quickly as well. They began pointing out when someone was being kind or working hard.

Throughout the school year, we constantly referred to this poster. When a student was disruptive, refusing to work, or disrespectful, I could point them towards our class rules. They immediately knew they weren’t abiding by their promise. This didn’t mean we stopped having behavior problems. But it did mean that the burden of the DO NOT list was done away with and, instead, we had something simple and positive to remember.

Does your school require rules to be posted? How do you give your students ownership over the classroom rules?

Comment below and let me know!

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