Classroom Management Series:
Do You Set Clear Rules and Expectations?

All teachers have class rules.

Usually we put a list of them on the wall and go over them at the beginning of each semester.

They include things like:
1. Listen while others are talking.
2. Follow directions.
3. Keep hands, feet, and objects to yourself.

Setting clear rules and expectations is an important teacher responsibility. Often though, the teacher stops at that highest level--at the level of all classes at all times. We do not nearly as often bring clear rules and expectations to the level of the activity.

The rules and expectations of individual activities are just as important as our general class rules, if not more important. Before each activity, we should set out in plain terms what the children are expected to do, not do, and how they are to go about doing it.

For instance:

  1. Work hard and don’t stop until you are done.
  2. When you are done, put the assignment on my desk and take a book.
  3. Read until 2:30 and then you can play a game with anyone else who is finished.
  4. If you do not finish before 2:45, then you will need to take it home for homework.
  5. If you are not working hard, I will add one word each time I have to ask you to work.

I go over these rules just before an activity begins. Then the students tell me what they should be doing. This makes the expectations I have for the students very clear before the activity ever begins.

They know…

  1. What they should be doing
  2. What they should do when they are done
  3. What happens if they don’t complete the assignment
  4. What happens if they aren’t working hard
  5. What the reward is for completing the assignment

Clear expectations and rules will not alienate your students, nor cause them to dislike you. Reality is quite the opposite actually. Kids love predictability. They love knowing what to expect. As long as you are consistent and follow through, they will love you for it. They will also no be surprised, get upset or argue with you (usually) if they have to finish for homework or have extra words added to the assignment. They were told very clearly beforehand what would happen.

More than that, as the teacher, you have already thought through all of the variables of the activity. You won’t be caught off guard when some students aren’t working hard. You don’t have to worry about motivation because you have a great reward in place. You have already planned for all of these things. You don’t have to get angry. You don’t have to lecture or yell or threaten or nag or get worked up. You just have to follow through and move on.

You can use the extra time and energy you save on enjoying your students, helping the struggling, encouraging the discouraged, and affirming the hard-working.

Start making your expectations and rules clear before your main activities and see if it doesn’t have a wonderful impact on your classroom environment as well as your mood.

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