How do you develop an effective behavior management plan?
Page 4: Rules
Now that the teacher has created a statement of purpose, he should consider how he expects his students to behave. These behavior expectations can be defined as broad goals for behavior. Because behavior expectations are often abstract for 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:
- Be respectful
- Be responsible
- Be ready
- Be safe
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., Keep your hands and feet to yourself) will also help reduce the number of individual rules students need to remember.
When developing classroom rules, secondary teachers should make sure they facilitate content area learning and 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
|Put away all cell phones and personal electronics.
|No cell phones.
|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
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. In middle and high school, teachers typically arrange rules in order of priority to address behaviors that are most problematic within a given age group. For example, middle school students often have difficulty raising their hands and following directions. On the other hand, students in high school might have difficulty arriving to class on time or using appropriate language.
As you compare the two sets of classroom rules below, one for middle school and one for high school, notice how each set follows the guidelines while taking students’ ages or common problem behaviors into account.
Ms. Oman’s Rules (Middle School)
Mr. Medina’s Rules (High School)
For Your Information
As the use of technology increases in the classroom and personal devices (e.g., cell phones) are used more often by 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 bring all needed materials to class?”).
Step 3: Model — Demonstrate what it looks like to follow the rule, using examples and non-examples. For example, for “Be in your seat when the bell rings,” demonstrate being in your seat and ready on time as an example and being in the hallway or just walking through the door when the bell rings 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, as we line up we should continue to keep our hands and feet to ourselves.”)
- When one or more students are having difficulty following the rules (e.g., “I hear too many students shouting out questions all at once. Remember, our rule is ‘Raise your hand if you have a question or need help.’”)
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.
Lori Jackman, EdD
Anne Arundel County Public Schools, retired
Professional Development Provider
School Behavior Support
- 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.
- 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)
Returning to School
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.