Written by Russ Gadzhiev, PhD
“Good classroom management is the art of dealing with problems positively and looking for solutions together so that everyone is involved and willing to find a remedy.” – Kavita Bhupta Ghosh
“A classroom needs to feel like a safe place for both students and teachers. In order for creativity and higher level thinking to be present in the classrooms, a feeling of safety must first be present in the classrooms.” – Hendrith Vanlon Smith Jr
Most teachers understand that for a good and productive class, it is important to introduce classroom rules. Indeed, without a classroom, it would be impossible to establish order and effective learning in any class. Teachers should understand that having rules and making students aware of their existence is not enough. Once the rules have been created, teachers should properly model and demonstrate them to make sure that students have understood them well. It is also important to make sure that students understand the consequences of not following them or breaking them.
Teachers need to make sure that they remind students of the importance to follow these rules. They need to understand that the more persistent they are, the more likely it is that the enforcement of the rules and the establishment of the order will be successful.
What kinds of rules a teacher can introduce in the class? Of course, it really depends on a specific class and whether or not you have a lot of students with behaviour problems. One of the most typical rules could be something like the following:
- Come to class on time at the beginning of the day. Come to class on time after your lunch break.
- Be kind a polite to your classmate and your teacher. Be kind and polite to other people.
- Show respect to your classmates, teachers, and the school’s property.
- Raise your hand if you have a question or if you need to go to the bathroom.
- Come to class prepared with workbooks and completed homework.
- Keep our classroom clean.
- Listen to your teacher and raise your hand if you have a question.
If you are not sure how to go about establishing rules in your classroom, consider the following ideas (can be implemented in any classroom):
-Make sure that the rules you are introducing in your class are consistent with the rules of the entire school
– Think about the examples of appropriate behaviours that you would expect from students and make rules based on these behaviours. These rules should have a positive tone so that students feel encouraged to actually follow them
– Make sure that you are trying to involve students in enforcing the rules (sometimes teachers forget about that)
– Try to avoid creating a long list of rules. Ideally, you should aim for five or six most
Important rules. Remember that if you create more than five or six rules students will likely forget about them and will not follow them at all
The rules should be written in clear language. If the wording is too complex students are likely to misunderstand the rules and simply not take them seriously
When it comes to enforcing classroom rules it is important to remember that there is no need to be negative about them. Try to focus on the positive aspects of your rules. For example, instead of saying “Don’t write on the desks” or “Don’t come late to class” you could say “Show respect for the property of others” or “Make sure you come to class on time”. The positive tone of your messages gives students a signal that the interactions and communication in your classroom are built on mutual respect.
If you see that students are demonstrating appropriate behaviour then make every effort to recognize and quickly respond to it. When you do that you give them a clear signal that you expect them to behave in that appropriate way in the future too.
Think about rewards that your students can receive for enforcing or following the rules. In our Shiminly article, we have already discussed that students can be motivated intrinsically and extrinsically. Extrinsic rewards may include written expressions of gratitude for following the rules. You can also give them other types of rewards such as certificates, awards, and other types of things.
It is also very important to make sure that students understand the rules and the rationale behind them. It is important to model and teach these rules too like any other subject you would teach in your class. It may be helpful to have a discussion about why this or that rule was created. If students understand the rationale behind the rules, they will be more likely to follow them. Make sure that the rules are displayed in a place visible to anyone. Draw your students’ attention to the rules whenever appropriate.
We have talked about how teachers should reward appropriate behaviour, but what if your students have broken a rule? First of all, it is important to remember that in this case, teachers should proceed with caution and calmness. You should not be angry or you should not show your anger to the student. Do not scold your students. Frustrated reactions on your part as well as any attempts to make the student feel bad about what he or she has done will not help you enforce discipline in your class. On the contrary, it is highly likely that the student will only grow more recalcitrant.
So instead of giving your student who broke the rule a lecture just makes sure you follow these easy steps. First of all, ask your student if they know what rule they have broken. Then state the rule and clarify so that the student understands how the rule is relevant to the situation. Ask the student to tell you why they think such a rule exists and how they personally benefit from such a rule. Then ask the student to tell you about the consequence of breaking the rule. And after the student does so, put the consequence into action. Again, there should be no negativity on your part. Do not take things personally. Just calmly enforce the rule.
One point worth noting: when it comes to classroom rules it is always a good idea to make sure that teachers have parental support. As we have discussed in our Shiminly articles, teachers, and parents should work in tandem to let the student have the best learning experience. Teachers and parents should have ongoing communication on the issue of following classroom rules for their children. If a child has followed the rules during the week, the teacher can send a quick note to the parent notifying them of that and suggesting that they do something special at home for the child so that their appropriate behaviour is reinforced for the future.
Throughout your teaching career, you are very likely to encounter students with behavioural problems (if you would like to know how to deal with these types of students check out our Shiminly articles). Students with behavioural problems disrupt the class. But the good news is that with the help of classroom rules, you can successfully deal with such students and even prevent behavioural issues from arising in your classroom altogether.
How do the rules prevent misbehaviour in your class? Well, we must admit that very often students have a very vague idea of what their teachers expect from them (unless there are clear classroom rules). They are not able to read their teacher’s mind either – so that is why it would be unreasonable to expect them to behave well if there are no classroom rules in place.
If a teacher has introduced classroom rules, they can be sure that they will definitely have fewer issues with discipline. That is because rules help students develop self-discipline and they gradually develop their own awareness about what is the right thing and what is the wrong thing to do in class. Alternatively, if there are no rules in class problems are bound to arise. If the rules are absent, there will be a climate of uneasiness and misunderstanding in class.
Russ Gadzhiev obtained his PhD in history and politics from University of Melbourne. He also holds a master’s degree in International Relations from Moscow State University of International Relations, a top-ranking diplomatic school. Russ is a strong education professional with a history of working in the higher education sector of Australia and effectively communicates with learners from diverse cultural backgrounds. He is enthusiastic about teaching and mentoring, writing, curriculum development, research, information management and public speaking. He is fluent in Russian, English, Spanish and Portuguese.