Developing Classroom Rules

The purpose of establishing rules and consequences is to guide students in their activities and interactions together. To ask for their input and involve them in the decision-making increases their commitment to obey the rules and can empower greater involvement in the classroom and possible democratic decision making.

Guidelines for developing effective social contracts

Steps in developing rules

Step 1 Discuss the non-negotiable rules

Identify the non-negotiable rules. Most non-negotiable rules are already in place as school or system wide rules that everyone must obey. In addition to them are federal and state.

Review these rules and verify that everyone knows what they are expected to do or expected not to do in different situations for each rule. Students must know you are committed to consistently enforcing these rules and that you intend to do so. Doing so will reduce misunderstandings, assumptions, and miscommunication for future problems.

Step 2 Discuss a multi-tier rule system

When students understand the school rules and the reasons for them. Inform them that there is going to be a second set of rules that will apply specifically to their classroom.

Then describe the difference between the two sets of rules. A most likely difference will be the second set, or classroom rules, will be more flexible. Another might be the empowerment provided students in deciding on the rules, enforcement, and consequences in a democratic manner.

Step 3 Create teacher rules

Explain you want them to create classroom rules to describe acceptable behaviors so everyone will know and can depend on appropriate and fair interactions necessary for a productive learning community.

Ask them to brainstorm and identify rules they feel are fair and and necessary for a learning community and for everyone to succeed.

Might want to start with rules for the teacher. You can have them brainstorm and list from scratch or provide them with a sample list.

Review the list and ask student if there are additional expectations or rules they want for the teacher. If there are, then the teacher can respond and discussion them. Consensus can be reached or a vote can be taken for each item or collectively. If the vote is for each, then a final vote should be taken for final adoption. Post the results in the classroom.

This process can help build group cohesion, help to identify what students believe is important and what they expect from their teacher.

Might want to add consequences for teacher violations. Such as: apologize, free time for the class, canceling homework, or giving students a choice of activities

Step 4 Create student rules

Have students propose rules for each other.

Review each to see if everyone agrees each

Discuss each and reach consensus or vote.

When students conclude the list is sufficient for now, reach consensus or vote for the entire package. Adopt and post rules in the classroom.

Step 5 Create consequences

Have students propose consequences for the rules in general or each specifically.

Students discuss items – then reach consensus or vote for one at a time and then the entire package. Adopt and post rules and consequences in the classroom.

Dr. Robert Sweetland's Notes ©