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Developing Class Rules


Disciplines > Teaching > Classroom Management > Developing Class Rules

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Rather than lay down the rules for how students behave in class, engage them in a discussion on what these rules should be. This may sound like a recipe for for some rather lax rules, but you can mitigate this in several ways.

Start with the criteria for rules: that they are there to help everyone learn and work together.

There are two ways you can collect the ideas. In method one, you just write ideas down, whatever they are, then discuss each one afterwards, modifying or crossing out the ideas (or transposing to a new place on the whiteboard or blackboard). This has the advantage of accepting everyone and encouraging new ideas. It may also encourage silly suggestions -- you can write these down or turn them down, although this will create tricky decisions on what, exactly to include.

In the second method, which is generally best if the pupils are likely to engage in silly suggestions, is to only write down completed and agreed suggestions. Note that you have to agree all ideas and so are the final arbiter and censor.

If they are slow starting, get things going with some easily accepted ideas, for example about respect.

A discussion of what 'fair' is may be appropriate at some point, especially if some unfair suggestions are made.

Also include rules for the teacher, such as arriving on time and apologizing, but be careful about setting yourself up for later games ('I'm upset -- you have to apologize -- it's the rules!').

Keep the list reasonably short. If you have a longer list, seek to combine items.

Write up the rules on a large sheet of paper and post it on the wall.

Then when the rules are broken, draw the attention of the miscreant (and the class) to the rule.


'Good morning, class. I think we need to set up rules for behaving in the class. I was going to make a list, but then I thought it would be a good idea if you could make suggestions. Do you think you could do this? What we need is for everyone to be able learn and to get on with one another. What rules would you suggest for behaving to help this?'


Clear rules help create certainty and, when applied consistently and fairly, a sense of control. Making these visible and explicit can contribute strongly to classroom discipline.

Involving students in decisions is a classic way of getting them to buy into change and accept the conclusions. Particularly if you can get the potential offenders involved, then they can be more easily reminded when they break the rules.

Remember that, once the rules are set, you must enforce them. Having engaged the students in their construction, you now have an obligation to them to make them work.

See also

Authority principle, Involvement principle

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