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Start the year right with effective classroom rules

Great Start!As the school year is kicking off in the US and in full swing around the globe, it is a great time to take a moment and review your classroom rules (I prefer to call them expectations). This short list is the foundation for how your school year will play out and gives your students a firm footing to know exactly what you expect. Here are 3 ideas that will help you start (or restart) on the right track.

1.  Let them help you design the rules. Early on in my career I would come in the first day with my list of rules, but throughout the year I would be reminded that they were still my rules and not theirs. What my learners needed was ownership of the rules of the room. The best way for them to own the rules and expectations in the classroom is for them to have a hand in developing them. I would start this brainstorming session on the first day by asking questions like the following:

  • What can people do to let you know that what you are saying is important?
  • What are the most important things for us to do in our classroom so that we can make it the best learning space in the school?
  • What can we do to ensure that everyone has a chance to speak and be heard?
  • What can we do to make sure this is a safe place for everyone?
  • What can we do to make sure we are doing our very best?

You’ll find that as you are shaping the rules of the room from their feedback, that the learners will be much more restrictive then you would. So as you are turning their ideas into expectations, you will become the educator that is loosening the reigns in the room rather than the one that is taking away all of the misguided fun.

2.  Don’t forget the big 3. As educators we are all different and our classroom expectations should reflect that. However there are 3 rule types that should be included in all of our lists. The first is a safety expectation. This rule type is the one that if followed would ensure everyone is safe and secure. Here is a great example:  Keep hands, feet, & stuff to yourself. The second is a compliance expectation. This expectation identifies how you would like your students to respond to tasks and instructions that you place upon them during instruction. For example: Follow instructions the first time asked. The third is an academic expectation and this one is the most often forgotten element of an effectively managed classroom. This expectation is the ultimate outcome of the entire education experience. The academic expectation I used was: Score at least 80% on all assigned work. This expectation captured work completion and work accuracy. For my learners that did not score 80%, we would work together on the assignment to get it up to par. What typically happens is that work is not done and then never expected to be finished because a failing grade was assigned. This pattern just reinforces the problem of not completing work when they may have not wanted to do it in the first place.

3.  Teach them creatively. Students are used to teachers stating their rules and then moving on. Make them memorable! Consider what you can do to let these keys to success in your room will stick out in their mind. I would pull them all in to the gym and play a game of basketball where I would break all the rules. This would lead to a discussion about how basketball is no fun when people are not following the rules and then I connect that idea to my classroom. Just as in the game of basketball (it can be hard work at times) if you want to win and have fun doing it, just follow the rules. There are many different ways to add a bit of creativity to teaching your rules.

Give these tips a try! You’ll find that it will help the rules of the room stay alive and well as the school year presses on.



About Jason Gibson

Jason Gibson is a learning and behavioral consultant working with schools and treatment facilities across the US supporting children and adolescents with cognitive, social, emotional and behavioral issues. His focus is on practical implementation of research informed practices to increase outcomes for learners with and without disabilities. With degrees in psychology, social work, and education, Jason’s peer-reviewed research has been published in journals such as “Topics in Early Childhood Special Education”, “Closing the Gap”, and “Education and Treatment of Children with Developmental Disabilities”. He is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Kentucky writing his dissertation on the Efficacy of Online Professional Development to Increase Implementation of Stimulus Preference Assessments. In addition to his consulting work, Jason is the director of the BabbCenter and provides guidance to one of the leading counseling centers that operates from a faith-based perspective. Jason grew up in Titusville, FL and prior to moving to the Nashville area, made central Kentucky his home for 8 years.

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