Our Top 5 Meaningful Classroom Rules

Creating a positive classroom environment: Top 5 meaningful classroom rules that promote respect, responsibility, engagement, safety, and learning success.

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Classroom Rules

Our Top 5 Classroom Rules

All students need an identified set of classroom rules to follow. Not only are rules essential for classroom management, but they set the tone of the learning environment. It does not matter if you teach elementary, middle or high school students. Having a posted list of class rules ends battles that can disrupt students’ learning.

What are the 5 most common class rules?

In almost every middle school or high school classroom, you will find an anchor chart with a list of rules similar to these:

  1. Respect others and their property.
  2. Follow directions the first time they are given.
  3. Raise your hand before speaking.
  4. Keep hands, feet, and other objects to yourself.
  5. Use class time appropriately.

While this set of rules is great for reminding students of normal school expectations, it might not present the most effective classroom rules for your individual needs. If you choose to use this rather generic list of rules, be sure to have class discussions about each rule. Ensure students understand what you mean by using class time appropriately or respecting others and their property. Remember that your students come from a diverse population, and some bad behaviors you observe may be permitted in their homes. This is one reason you should spend the first day discussing your expectations for student behavior.

Openly discussing and practicing school and classroom rules at the beginning of the school year leads to a classroom environment focused on learning.

Related Resource: 30 Do's and Don'ts of Classroom Etiquette for Teachers and Students

Rules have consequences

Not only should you talk about your expectations for following the rules, but you should discuss the consequences. In a positive classroom environment, students will understand that the teacher is in charge. To earn that respect from learners, teachers must deal with misbehavior before handing things over to administration.

In my classroom, the first time a student broke a rule, they received a verbal warning, and we discussed what the rule meant. If the same student broke the rule a second time, they were required to do a writing assignment based on the rule. It is easy to prepare handouts ahead of time with writing prompts and instructions. A third time breaking the rule led to a parent contact, usually by phone.

After employing this three strikes you’re out philosophy, I would then write a referral to administration or guidance, depending on the child and the situation. Some learners break rules to be defiant; others have things going on in their lives that need to be addressed. As a teacher, it is important to know your students. This can be challenging if you have 30 or more kids per class period, like most middle or high school classes, but getting to know your students personally and spending a few minutes speaking to each one will create a positive classroom environment. One way to meet individuals' needs is to use an entrance or exit ticket. Simply use the beginning of class, while you do attendance, or the end of class to let students write a note to you on a sticky note.

Classroom Rules

Related Article: Positive Classroom Behavior

Don’t confuse rules and procedures

The best classroom rules apply to every student entering your learning environment. It doesn’t matter if one class is studying history and another is learning Spanish. The rules should be the same for all.

Classroom procedures, however, may differ for each class period. For example, a science class might have a certain procedure to follow for using worksheets during a lab experiment. In classrooms where small group activities are commonplace, like language arts or history classes, there will need to be transition procedures that involve moving desks and gathering materials.

Throughout the school day, you might have students who are allowed to use electronic devices for learning games or viewing helpful videos. In some class periods, cell phones may be completely off-limits. You should have procedures in place for using these devices appropriately.

Handing in class work is another procedure you want to make clear to students. Is there a specified time and place to hand in work? What happens if students lose worksheets or notes that are needed for the current lesson?

All of these procedural things are unique to your classroom. Even the best set of classroom rules won’t help if there are no procedures in place.

Related Article: Students' Contributions to the Rules

What are the 3 most important classroom rules?

No matter what rules you put in place for your individual classroom, you must be compliant with school rules. If school rules say tardy students are not permitted into class after the bell rings, you have to follow that rule. No, it doesn’t matter that you are giving a test or have a guest speaker coming in. Rules are rules, and students have to know that.

The best classroom rules provide students with ample learning time free from distractions and interruptions. Ask yourself what misbehaviors tend to derail your lesson plans. Is it the power struggle with the kid who won’t stay in their seat and be quiet? Maybe it is the constant pinging of cell phones? How about that one student who never has their supplies and bothers everybody around them by begging for paper and pencil?

Each situation is different, but one rule could address all three scenarios.

Respect: This rule encompasses treating others with kindness and empathy, respecting differences in opinions and cultures, listening actively to others, and following basic rules of classroom etiquette.

Engagement: This rule involves encouraging active participation and engagement in classroom activities, encouraging questions and discussions, and promoting a growth mindset to inspire learning and curiosity.

Responsibility: This rule involves being accountable for one's own actions, coming prepared to class, following instructions and directions, respecting the property of others, and taking responsibility for one's own learning.

Related Article: The Importance of Building Community in the Classroom

Final thoughts

Rules are meant to establish norms of behavior. Several teachers in your hallway, or the entire school, will have similar rules and expectations. Procedures are the things that make your classroom run smoothly with minimal distractions. Just as you practice fire drills and lockdown procedures, you should practice the everyday procedures for your learning environment. Use the first week of school to do this. Write lesson plans so you know what to cover each day. Go over how students should enter and leave the room, where they should put completed worksheets, notebooks, and textbooks, and what happens if they don’t enter their seats before the bell rings.

Believe it or not, students learn better when rules and procedures are in place. They might moan and groan about it, but they know it is for their own good.

Looking for more great ideas?

Head over to our Behaviour Management Hub where you'll find a trove of useful resources and articles from behavioral observation to conflict resolution, to help you manage classroom discipline.

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About the author

Teresa Taylor


About Teresa

Teresa Taylor has over 20 years of experience teaching in elementary and middle school settings. During her teaching career, Teresa has worked as a reading specialist,… Read more

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