How do you develop an effective behavior management plan?
Page 4: Rules
Now that the teacher has created a statement of purpose, she should consider how she expects her students to behave. These behavior expectations can be defined as broad goals for behavior. Because behavior expectations are often abstract for young students, the teacher should create rules to help clarify their meaning as they are applied within specific activities and context. Rules are explicit statements that define the appropriate behaviors that educators want students to demonstrate. Rules are important because they:
Allow students to monitor their own behavior
Remind and motivate students to behave as expected
Although rules vary across classrooms, they often address a common set of expected behaviors:
For Your Information
Classroom rules should align with school-wide behavior expectations. Creating rules that apply in the classroom as well as other parts of the school (e.g., Use inside voices) will also help reduce the number of individual rules students need to remember.
When developing classroom rules, elementary teachers should make sure they are easy for students to understand and remember. For this reason, teachers should limit the number of rules to no more than five. Additionally, teachers should make sure the rules adhere to the guidelines in the table below. Examples and non-examples are provided.
Convey the expected behavior
Use safe speed.
Use simple, specific terms
Keep your hands and feet to yourself.
Respect the physical and psychological space of peers.
Make observable and measurable
Be in your seat when the bell rings.
Be ready when class starts.
In addition to adhering to these guidelines, teachers need to ensure that their rules are culturally sustaining. To do this, teachers can:
Create classroom expectations with the values of students, families, and their communities in mind
Create rules and expectations that foster learning for the diverse group of students in the classroom
Seek student input to ensure rules address the diversity of student backgrounds
Be open with students about differences in school rules and expectations and those in the home or community
Consult with cultural liaisons and community outreach specialists (with personal knowledge and understanding of the cultures represented in the community) who can offer information, training, and supports on topics related to equity, diversity, and inclusion
Listen as Andrew Kwok discusses some of these strategies in more detail. Next, he discusses strategies for ensuring that rules are not culturally biased.
Andrew Kwok, PhD Assistant Professor, Department of Teaching, Learning, and Culture Texas A&M University
Strategies to ensure that rules are culturally sustaining
Strategies to ensure that rules are culturally sustaining
One thing that teachers can do is spend time to define different words. So the word “respect,” what does that mean for each individual, and how can those different definitions be shared and encapsulated within a specific rule? One person may define respect as keeping your hands and feet to yourself, whereas another student can define it as in not talking while the teacher is talking. And so being able to hear all of the students’ beliefs and being able to create something that is comprehensive enough that all students feel heard throughout. Another word could be “engagement.” What does it look like for these students to engage? Some students may want to shout out their answers. Other students may want raised hands. And so providing spaces for each of those types of students to be able to participate in the activity without it being a detriment to others and being able to find compromises throughout that allow all students to feel like they’re in a safe learning environment so that they can learn and grow as much as possible. Students often just want to be heard, and I think the teacher has an obligation to provide the students voice in the classroom and be able to build an environment based off of their needs, rather than focusing specifically on what the teacher wants to accomplish.
Transcript: Andrew Kwok, PhD
Strategies to ensure that rules are not culturally biased
Oftentimes, I see rules that are biased when they define structures only one way, whether it’s the idea of engagement or learning or respect or interactions. It’s only when the teacher accounts for the students and thinks about multiple ways for things to be accomplished do I then consider things to be a little bit more culturally considerate. But beginning teachers in particular, they want to establish one type of authority, one type of control. And in order to do that, the students must follow one way of doing it. Oftentimes, that’s the way of being silent, quiet at your desk with only the teacher’s instruction being heard and being the one to delegate information. It may be easier in the sense that it’s quiet and silent and what the teacher had always envisioned. But just because they’re silenced doesn’t mean students are learning. They need to really think about what it is the students need to succeed and to engage with the material. I think students can share what it takes for them to engage and to learn. But I think if you have the opportunity to also ask them, what does it take for others within your classroom to learn so that they can kind of step outside of themselves and really consider their peers and being able to recognize that most students are pretty honest in saying, “Well, I know for me I need this, but I know other people, they may need something a little bit different.” So is there a way to bridge and compromise those sort of differences? I think another way would be to have the teacher consider certain times that prioritize certain structures and other times that prioritize other structures. So the idea of engaging in classroom, some students like to yell out the answers because to them they’re so excited they have it they just cannot wait, as opposed to others who want the opportunity to raise their hand and be able to be called on. I think there’s value in both, but I think there is a time and place for both. And so the teacher can preempt lessons or discussions and saying, “At this time, we are going to accept hands raised only” or “At this time, I just want to hear you shout out the different answers.” I think that allows students to be able to feel accepted in certain places. And I think the teacher also has the opportunity to share with the students the pros and cons of both types of modalities, because to some extent the students need to be able to understand these different structures. They need to be able to recognize that it’s appropriate to do certain types of actions and not so much in the others. Being able to work between different environments can equip the students to be able to succeed in multiple contexts, but also recognize the value of different types of participation in this example so that they can continue to grow as learners.
For Your Information
Students can be invited to help develop or define their classroom’s rules. The ability of the group to offer input can help build classroom community and encourage student ownership of the rules. It’s not unusual for students to come up with the very same rules that the teacher would have written, but they’ll have greater respect for them if they’re allowed a say in their formation.
Just as every teacher and classroom is different, so, too, will classroom rules differ across teachers and grade levels. And because rules should be based on realistic, age-appropriate expectations, the way in which they are written and the need for visual cues may likewise vary.
Primary (e.g., grades K-2): These students benefit from brief statements and visual supports like photographs or illustrations.
Intermediate (e.g., grades 3-5): These students typically need only a list of written rules posted in the classroom.
As you compare the two sets of classroom rules below, one for a primary classroom and one for an intermediate classroom, notice how each set follows the guidelines while taking students’ ages into account. Also note the difference in the way the rules are written and the use of visual cues.
Mr. Nichols’ Rules (1st grade)
Ms. Amry’s Rules (3rd grade)
For Your Information
As the use of technology increases in the classroom and personal devices (e.g., cell phones) are used more often by younger students, teachers may need to consider rules for how and when these devices can be used. Again, when doing so, teachers must make certain they align with district and school-wide policies.
Developing rules is an important first step to help students understand what’s expected of them in the classroom. However, for students to learn the rules and follow them every day, teachers must intentionally and explicitly teach them. They can do this using the following four steps.
Step 1: Introduce — State the rule using simple, concrete, student-friendly language. For English language learners, introduce the rules in the students’ home language when possible.
Step 2: Discuss — Talk about why the rules are important (e.g., “Why is it important to use walking feet?”).
Step 3: Model — Demonstrate what it looks like to follow the rule, using examples and non-examples. For example, for “Use walking feet,” demonstrate walking as an example and running and skipping as non-examples.
Step 4: Practice — Have students role play following the rule in different contexts (e.g., large group versus independent work).
Step 5: Review — Teaching the rules is not the end. Make sure you are reviewing them frequently. This is especially the case during the following situations:
During large-group activities during which daily reminders about the rules can be especially important
Prior to transitions when students often have difficulty remembering the rules (e.g., “Remember our lining up rule, ‘Quiet voices.’”)
When one or more students are having difficulty following the rules (e.g., “I see running in the classroom. Remember, our rule is ‘Use walking feet.’”)
Rules should be displayed so that the teacher and students can easily view and refer to them throughout the day.
Listen as Lori Jackman describes how the posting of classroom rules allowed her to address behavioral issues more efficiently. Next, KaMalcris Cottrell explains how she gives her students the opportunity to help develop classroom rules. Finally, Ashley Lloyd explains how she teaches rules.
Lori Jackman, EdD Anne Arundel County Public Schools, retired Professional Development Provider
When I was in the classroom, one of the things I would have posted on every wall was a list of the rules, positively stated. If I had someone who was doing an exceptional job at one of the rules, I could say, “Hey, so-and-so is doing a great job with rule number two. They’re following directions, and they’re on task,” and I could just touch and point to that poster to remind them of what they’re doing right. But also to use that “Hey, class, let’s take a look at rule number three. What are we supposed to be doing? That’s right. Get back on track.” And I could nonchalantly, as I walked around the room and as needed, point to it to remind them either what they’re doing, what I want them to continue to do, or what it is that they should start to do so that they can get back on track.
Transcript: KaMalcris Cottrell
I think it’s important to set rules early in your school year and maintain a consistent basis for these rules. I believe it creates an effective learning environment by setting expectations and structure for how the class will flow and proceed. I do have a few rules that are staples, but I give my students the opportunity to share what they would like to see happening in our classroom, ways that we can be respectful, responsible, and we list out things. And it allows students to have a conversation. If Johnny says, “Oh, I think we should chew gum in school. I don’t think that should be against the rules.” Sally might say, “Well, if we chew gum at school, what if it falls out of our mouth and gets stuck on a desk or stuck on shoes?” So it allows within the peer group a conversation of pros and cons. And I think it’s great because they both have valid points. So we talk about it as a class and we say, “Well, as a school, the rule is we cannot chew gum,” and it covers safety issues and cleaning issues. So we agree upon the no-gum-in-school, but I love the opportunities that pop up with the students giving their suggestions and students agreeing or not agreeing. And we do talk about it’s OK not to agree, but we’re going to do it respectfully, and if you have something you would like to say, we don’t have to agree with you. We will respect you, but we don’t have to agree with your statement, such as the gum incident. But it gives the students ownership for the classroom that they’re going to be in all year. So they’re setting these expectations. I hold them to those expectations. And, of course, I make sure that the foundational ones are in there, but they do a great job of covering most of them. And it gives an easier redirect to say, “Look, we agreed we’re going to do this. Are you doing this right now? Take a minute and think about it,” and I’ll leave it at that because they have the chance to see the rules that are in our room hanging on the wall for everyone to see. We write it nice and big as a reminder. It is an easier redirect, even it could be nonverbal, which is even better because then everything keeps flowing. There’s no interruption.
Transcript: Ashley Lloyd
Classroom rules are the key to maintaining an effective learning environment. When children know what is expected of them, introducing and teaching classroom rules is a multi-step process in my classroom. It always starts with explicitly teaching the rules through words and pictures and then we take some time to role play, and that includes examples and non-examples. So we make sure that everyone understands what is appropriate and what is inappropriate. Then we move on to the guided practice steps where children are guided through the rules and expectations and then rewarded for those small things, whether it be a high-five, whether it be some extra time outside because everyone figured out that rule. But it really is important to give them that guided practice. We make sure that we hit back on these things after every transition, every time we’ve been out on a break. Every Monday when we come back children need to be taught. So we make sure that we’re going through those things and that the expectations are visual and posted at all times so they can always be referred back to. I invest instructional time in teaching rules because it actually saves so much time throughout the year. If children know what’s expected of them and we can just get to work, we don’t have to take time to stop, reassess, and get back on track because everyone knows what is expected of them.
When teachers create classroom rules that are stated positively and describe expected behavior, students engage in disruptive behavior less often. (Alter & Haydon, 2017; Reinke et al., 2013)
When teachers develop clear rules and procedures, students feel more confident about their ability to succeed academically. (Akey, 2006)
Rules are most effective when they are directly taught to students and when they are tied to positive and negative consequences. (Alter & Haydon, 2017; Cooper & Scott, 2017)
Now it’s your turn to create your own set of rules. You can develop rules for your classroom (current teachers) or for the grade level you hope to teach someday (future teachers).
Some students have been participating in virtual learning for more than a year. During this time, they have adhered to rules created by their parents or rules for online learning. Because these rules are most likely quite different from those that exist in the school and classroom, it is more important than ever to:
Discuss the importance of the rules.
Teach new classroom rules for health and safety (e.g., sanitizing, mask-wearing, practicing social distancing).
Model and practice the rules until the students follow them consistently.
Frequently review and reinforce the rules.
Offer targeted support to students who have difficulty following the rules.