Classroom Rules – rule for effective teaching

A recent newspaper article identified that Inadequate training has left graduate teachers scrambling for advice from online education forums to help them run their classrooms.   Queensland Association of State School Principals president stated that inadequate teacher training was a massive problem.   The Sunday Mail, 1st February, 2009.

My own thoughts on this are: what is needed in teacher training programs is inclusion of effective classroom management strategies.  This is the area that has the biggest impact on whether a teacher is effective or ineffective.

My personal experience in the past with classroom management was that it varied depending on the nature of the students I was teaching.  Then I started to learn how I could be an effective teacher and by applying the principles in The First Days of School I became far more confident knowing that by implementing specific strategies it would take care of any discipline problems as well as make my classroom effective and much less stressful.   It seems obvious that teachers should have rules and procedures in the classroom for effective classroom management, but the skills of how to go about it are not always taught to trainee teachers.   Being able to manage a class without repeated interruptions from students, telling them over and over again (nagging) what they should be doing makes for stress-free teaching. Therefore the key to a dynamic learning environment for learning is to teach the kids the rules and procedures that apply in your classroom. Going into a classroom to teach without having these in place is asking for chaos and disorder.

The number one factor that leads to student achievement is classroom management.

Classroom management are those practices and procedures used to manage a classroom so that instruction and learning can take place.

The number one problem in education is not discipline. It is the lack of procedures and routines, the lack of a plan that organizes a classroom for success.

Harry Wong, Busy educator

Implementing rules and procedures in the classroom makes for an environment which is conducive to learning.  It embeds structure.   People expect rules and procedures for everything they do in life: crossing the road, waiting at traffic lights, going to the movies, waiting in line to be served, at a restaurant, work procedures etc, so teaching children the rules andprocedures they need to follow in class is giving them life skills as well as making teaching so much less stressful. When procedures are in place the teacher can focus on teaching. The students know automatically what needs to be done, when and how because you have taught them until they get it right.

Rules and procedures make for more effective teaching:

Identify classroom rules that you want to apply in your classroom and let your students know what they are as well as the consequences.  Rules can be posted as posters, powerpoint, a wiki, website and handouts. Post no more than 5 rules.  More is too many. Rules can be added to (when a rule is a habit it can be substituted with another new one).  Be consistent with applying the consequences.  Rules are about behaviour – therefore they carry penalties and rewards.

Then consider the Procedures you need to apply in your classroom. Procedures are the steps on how to do things, therefore they do not carry penalties.

State, explain, model and demonstrate the Procedure.

Rehearse, Practice and reinforce.

Keep reinforcing.   Students could keep a folder with procedures as they are introduced.   Eventually as students learn the correct procedures, when students don’t apply the procedures, other students will remind them. They don’t need to be all introduced at once, the first procedures to teach would include: entering the classroom, starting work, getting the class’s attention.  Others include:

Students leaving procedures

Walking in the hall procedures

Procedure if student finishes early

Getting the class’s attention

Quieting the class procedure

Listening to/responding to questions

Getting the teacher’s attention

Roll taking procedure

Collecting papers

Distributing papers

Disaster drill procedures

Lab use

How to ask questions

Handing in work

End of class/day dismissal procedures

And so on … you get the idea

An important procedure to implement is one whereby students start work as soon as they are seated:

When students usually enter a classroom, there is a settling in period.  They find their desks, finish their conversations and wait for the teacher to take the roll.  This takes away from valuable teaching time.  When students enter the classroom they need to get into a mindset for learning.

Your first priority when class starts is

to get the students to start work

P. 121, The First Days of School

The first thing students should do when seated is start a short assignment.  This may be revision work or other suitable exercise. It should be something they can complete without difficulty. This is to get them to settle down into work mode.  The work should be collected and viewed by the teacher but does not need grading.  This is a valuable way to use class time effectively rather than students entering and waiting whilst the teacher calls the roll and then getting them to settle. The teacher can mark the roll whilst students are completing their first task. If your students’s names are not yet familiar or you’re a substitute teacher, then a seating plan will enable you to do this.

In a well-managed class, students know what to expect.

Resources for Effective Teaching has an incredible supply of resources for beginning and veteran teachers to learn more about effective teaching.  Some of my favourites are:

Ten Timely Tools for Success on the First Days of School

How to Start a Class Effectively

How to Start School Successfully

The Power of Procedures

Teaching Procedures is Teaching Expectations

Classroom Management applies to all teachers

The Problem is not Discpline

Never Cease to Learn

I’d thoroughly recommend The First Days of School which includes how to increase positive student behaviour, how to ensure students attain success in their assignments, how to develop professionally as well as other great strategies and techniques for preservice and new teachers as well as experienced teachers and administrators.

In summary, my five top tips that would greatly assist trainee teachers in managing classrooms are:

  1. Implement appropriate rules, consequences and rewards
  2. Implement procedures: inititally how to enter the room, start an assignment, call to attention and be dismissed (then additional procedures as identified).
  3. As part of 2 above, students start work as soon as they enter the classroom, to prepare a mindset for work and to utilise this time for learning instead of roll calling.
  4. Plan ahead: have the day or lesson’s work posted in a prominent place so students know that the teacher is prepared and they know what is going on.
  5. Have positive expectations.

I would like to see all newly qualified teachers equipped with these fundamental strategies to make their teaching from day one effective and remove the trauma that many of them experience.

If you wish to purchase The First Days of School, mention that you came across the book on my site and they will give you a $5 discount.

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18 thoughts on “Classroom Rules – rule for effective teaching

  1. Pingback: Learning Curve » Blog Archive » Classroom Rules - rule |

  2. Thanks for this very detailed post.

    I only have time to say that I as a veteran teacher have come again to realise the importance of good classroom management and am making it a priority this year.

  3. Yes, being a veteran too, I am always looking for ways to improve. But I will send this link to some younger members of staff – they will find this poat very useful.

  4. Wow, thank you for putting all this up – after an extremely difficult first year I wish I’d been well and truly aware of explicit teaching of “procedures”….and Nagging about them….and not feeling Ridiculous for doing so! About this time last year I remember madly googling “first-year new teacher support help” etc ….!!

  5. Russell and Pam: It is true that classroom management is the secret to a successful and effective teaching career. This is only a tiny snippet of what is available in The First Days of School which I would consider to be a most valuable resource for any teacher’s library.

    Aimeen: I am glad you found the post helpful. Please be sure to check out the book too as I can’t rewrite it in one post and you will find so much more valuable info in it. I’m not selling the book but I will say that it is the most useful resource I have come across in 20 years of teaching!

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  8. One of these days I will make a blog like Classroom Rules – rule for effective teaching | Learning Curve. I still have a way to go, and certainly don’t yet get the traffic you seem to get. If you find the time please give me some feedback on as I know it needs a tune up. Nice site, sincerely, Dante Petraglia

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  10. I totally agree with Rcrolph’s and Josh’s comments above – definitely developing relationships with students is of prime importance in managing behaviour, as well as meaningful activities. However, as with any organization, it is necessary to have procedures and rules for the safety and well-being of all individuals. This post is about helping teachers establish those initial guidelines (which are not always taught in teacher training) to help with the organization and structure of the learning environment. Students need to know what boundaries are in place, the learning environment expectations and the consequences that result from the choices they make. The suggestion for an activity to be started as soon as students enter is not mandatory. However, many teachers find it helpful to settle students in this way rather than waiting for a class to self-settle. All students are individuals as are their teachers. In my experience, I have found the above strategies helpful and useful. I hope others do too.

  11. I do appreciate the idea behind this post as classroom management is a real struggle for many new teachers. It is very easy to get wrapped up in the whole idea of “control” that teachers often miss the true goal of classroom management, which is not control itself or “getting kids to sit and do work”. Instead, effective classroom management is based upon mutual respect and student learning taking place in a safe and inviting environment. I summed up my thoughts on the matter in a recent post you might find worth the read…

  12. Effective classroom management is necessary for effective learning. However, as a veteran educator, I would argue that it is much more of an artform than what this post suggests. The recommendations made above are much more about control then effective management. My experience has led me to believe that the more top down control that occurs in the classroom the less engaged the students are. With engagement and by building relationships within the classroom, the types of rules listed above become unnecessary. Procedures do need to be made clear, but to suggest that the first rule is to get students working immediately implies that they are mere automatons and not individuals deserving of our care, attention and respect. Although there are done good points made in the post above, I am deeply troubled by the core values of control and authority that you seem to be promoting.

  13. I agree that having a set of classroom rules is going to make a large difference in the success a teacher has. Rules and consequences need to be taught to students, this will help them be successful in life and study. Classroom management should be taught to trainee teachers to make them more effective and this will also reduce the stress some teachers experience.

  14. I used to be a devotee of this book as well until I realized I didn’t need it. And it is not because I teach a classroom of angles or super perfect kids. The things is the kids know the rules, in fact, this year I didn’t discuss them with kids or post them because they already know them – and I teach 5th graders. I do not have any rewards or punishment, my classroom is run on open discussion, honesty and respect. I was also deeply troubled by how I felt I needed to be in control of students, you do not need to “control” the students to have an effective classroom. I have written a lot about my classroom on my blog as well and how one should not confuse classroom “control” with a great learning environment.

  15. One of the important thing about it is to help the teacher maintain a semblance of order within the classroom. That way, it will be able to teach all students, but I think another part of it is in order to prepare children for life.

  16. If the rules aren’t followed in the classroom, could you imagine the gaps in learning if the teacher spends all the time reprimanding students rather than doing what they are supposed to be doing?

  17. Classroom rules is very important in the classroom in order for students to be disciplined and students will learn better and remember the material when they know what is expected of them in terms of how they should behave in the classroom.

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