As a teacher, you, of course, need to establish general rules of conduct for your classroom. But how do you make your students want to follow the rules? Give them a hand in creating those rules! Here's how to do it. Start with a list of what you consider the bare essentials, and then, through thoughtful discussion, work with your students to create a set of rules expressed in their language.

Use this list as a starting point, adapting and expanding it to meet the needs of your class and grade level:

  1. Treat others as you would like to be treated.
  2. Respect other people and their property (e.g., no hitting, no stealing).
  3. Laugh with anyone, but laugh at no one.
  4. Be responsible for your own learning.
  5. Come to class and hand in assignments on time.
  6. Do not disturb people who are working.

Most teachers agree that it's best to select only a few rules — those that contribute to successful learning and an orderly environment. It's too hard to remember a long list! Make your rules as clear and specific as possible. Then decide with your students' help what the consequences will be for breaking those rules.

Teach the rules as you would a regular lesson. It should be your first lesson. Discuss each rule individually, explaining the rationale behind it and ask for examples of how it could be broken. Explain that rules help make everyone's time in school more enjoyable, and use examples to illustrate this point. It's also a good idea to post the rules as a reminder and send a copy home with each student.


This article was adapted from Learning to Teach...Not Just for Beginners: The Essential Guide for All Teachers by Linda Shalaway (© 2005, Scholastic).