Rules and procedures are the backbone of your classroom. In my opinion, first you have to LOVE your students. Then you have to teach them about what you expect from them and then you can teach them everything else. You can be the most knowledgeable teacher in the world and an expert in your field but if your class get too chaotic, it’s hard for students to gain that knowledge! It is my belief that if you hold your students to the highest of standards they will absolutely meet them. If you think they can’t, they won’t. It is important as an educator that you also have to be their cheerleader. They are YOUR students and you may be the only one cheering them on so you have to do it! Challenge them, cheer for them, push them to be their best and you will be amazed at what they can do.
So let’s talk about rules. Rules should be specific and easy for students to follow. For example, “Keep Your Hands and Feet to Yourself”. This rule is specific for students and should be easy for them to follow. In my opinion for the primary grades, 3-5 rules is a good amount and you don’t really want more than 5. Students should know them and be able to read them. I believe if you have a long list of rules they won’t hold as much meaning and can become unimportant to students.
At the beginning of the year, I like to think through what I want my rules to be. After I have a general idea (alone) I then have my students “help” me develop the rules. It is important for students to feel like they helped create these rules because it is their classroom too. If you have read in my post about Back to School books, you’ll know I love to use literature to help teach important lessons. So of course I use books to help us with our rules too. We may read books like, “What if Everybody Did That?” or “Volcano Mouth” to help us create our rules for our classroom. Typically my idea of rules stay the same from year to year but with student input, they may shift a little. The discussion piece is the most essential part of creating the rules in your classroom. Asking students what is important to them and what they want their classroom to be really helps them think about what rules we need in order to create that environment. As we sit and dialogue, I chart their ideas and we highlight similar ones. After we have talked and charted multiple times, I then create from our list our 5 classroom rules. I then present them to the students and get their input. If we all agree, then we all sign our rules for the classroom (and they don’t change all year).
So now we have our classroom rules. Let’s talk about procedures, procedures, procedures! Procedures need to be modeled EXPLICITLY in order for students to understand and know their expectations. Think about how you want your classroom to be run. For example, how do I envision how students will use the bathroom or get a new pencil. Let’s think through the bathroom expectation. As stated earlier, ALWAYS have high expectations and that goes for anything and everything. You want to set an expectation for how it will look and sound when students use the bathroom. When you know how you want this to look, you must model it for the students. If you expect that students use a hand signal to go the bathroom, uphold it and make sure they do that EVERY TIME. If Johnny needs to go to the bathroom and uses the signal but then Katie needs to go and doesn’t and just gets up, what would you do? If you don’t hold every student to the same standard, then they won’t follow the expectations. It gets exhausting and patience is tested and it takes practice and more practice and then more and more practice but you must stand strong.
By spending ample time at the beginning of the year thinking and planning these rules and expectations out, it can greatly reduce stress and worry for the remainder of your school year. It also helps you have a classroom that is a comfortable environment in which students THRIVE. Remember LOVE them first, teach them expectations, and then everything else comes easy!
These are just a few of the things I cover in my Back to School Teacher Guide. I go over in extensive detail how I successfully set up the classroom and go through how I teach all my procedures. I also cover organization, communication, and so much more!
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