How to Set Classroom Boundaries

Updated February 21, 2017

The primary responsibility of every classroom is to cultivate learning. Students cannot learn in a disrespectful, chaotic or unsafe environment. Therefore, teachers need to establish a clear set of classroom rules and boundaries to help create the safe space that they want their classrooms to be. Make sure to establish boundaries early on in the semester so that students can begin learning them right away.

Create a list of rules and boundaries that you feel are important to have in your classroom. Make sure that students can reasonably follow all of the rules you set. If the rule or boundary is too difficult for students to follow or for you to monitor, then the rule is too impractical to be used. For example, accepting no absences is nearly impossible for students to follow, and requiring all students to work individually on homework is impossible to monitor. These types of boundaries would not work well in a classroom.

Collaborate with your students. Just as you have a preconceived notion of what types of rules and boundaries are appropriate for a classroom, so do your students. Ask students to think of a few ideas they feel should be a part of their classroom policies. The more students are involved in the boundary-setting process, the more likely they are to obey the rules because they had a stake in creating them.

Narrow down your rules. Your list of boundaries will be quite long once you combine your and your students' ideas. An exhaustive list of rules is ineffective because students cannot easily remember all that is expected of them. Therefore, you need to limit your boundaries to a manageable set of approximately three to five. Some of these rules can encompass others, such as "be respectful" instead of a number of more specific rules.

Establish a set of classroom rules and boundaries you want students to follow based on your narrowed list. Make sure that your official classroom boundaries do not contradict any rules established by your administration. Post the list in a location that students can see daily, such as on a classroom wall or on the course syllabus. Inform students' parents of the boundaries their children need to know.

Explain the consequences. Students need to know why you set the boundaries you have and how breaking them impacts other students. You should also establish a clear consequence for every rule you create. For example, if one of your boundaries is no discrimination, inform your students that discriminatory behaviour can hurt students or make them feel insecure and that any discriminatory act will result in immediate detention.

Maintain classroom boundaries consistently. Make sure that you habitually emphasise the importance of classroom boundaries and always inform students of when they have violated a particular rule. Some boundaries are more minimal than others, and the offence may warrant only a verbal reminder. However, enforce your rules and dole out consequences in a manner consistent with the level of offence.

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About the Author

Brad Conway began writing professionally in 2007, when he published an online column for the "New York Times Magazine." He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Temple University and a Master of Education in secondary education. Conway currently teaches high school and college English.