How to Set Ground Rules in a Classroom

Updated April 17, 2017

Classroom management and discipline can make or break a teacher. Even the most knowledgeable teachers can struggle with maintaining an effective and orderly learning environment. Setting ground rules and consequences early, practicing procedures and enforcing rules consistently can contribute to a teacher's educational success.

Know your students. While the basics of classroom management are the same across multiple grade levels, classroom rules must be tailored to meet the grade level and abilities of students. Set your students up for success by setting reasonable expectations for them. Classroom rules for students in first grade will be different than for those in 11th grade. Similarly, classes for students with special needs, such as those with learning, emotional or developmental disabilities, will require different rules.

Decide in advance what you need from students in order to create a successful learning environment. If you teach a content area that requires students to move about the room, such as a science class, decide how you would like students to behave during this time. You also need to decide which activities require specific procedures. With this in mind, create a list of approximately five or six rules that can be implemented immediately and enforced consistently.

Start setting rules on Day One. The first day of school is your chance to introduce your ground rules to students. Post the rules in your classroom and make a handout for students. Review the rules on the first day of school, and explain why each rule is important. At this point, you should also tell students the consequences for not following the rules.

Spend the first week or two of school practicing classroom procedures and rules. The practice will help students internalise the rules. Ideally, you should not have to remind students to follow classroom rules or to perform procedures correctly after the first few weeks of school. Following rules and executing procedures should become part of their daily routine.

Enforce rules and give consequences consistently. Teachers must be consistent in order to maintain a successful learning environment. This means giving consequences no matter if it is the first time the student has broken a rule or the 21st. You must also enforce all rules on all days---including field trip days, fun activity days and days when you are feeling less strict. Students thrive on structure and consistency. Your classroom will benefit from both as well.

Praise students for following the rules, especially at the beginning of the school year. Students will often want to continue a behaviour for which they have been praised. Praising one student can encourage other students to follow the rules, as well.

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About the Author

A professional educator in Texas, Lynn Wolf began her journalism career in 1993. She has published in the "New Orleans Times-Picayune" and the "Monroe News-Star." Wolf holds a Bachelor of Arts in mass communications from Loyola University New Orleans and a Master of Liberal Arts from Southern Methodist University.