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.

Image by szlea

Create a comic/cartoon book

toondoo-logo.jpg There are several  comic creators available and they are a great tool in the classroom for communication exercises, story writing, reporting factual information and so on.  For some students, this is definitely a more appealing option than writing an essay or story on paper.  My personal favourite is Toondoo as it is facilitiates one step further than a comic strip, that is, the making of a (toon) book.  When you create your comic strips, you need to save your pages in a ‘toonbag’.    Open an account (free), enter your username and password to begin creating.  The speed of loading pages can be a little slow depending on your connection, so be patient (it is worth the effort).  Go to ‘create’ on the startup page and you will see this screen:

Making a book is relatively easy process. When you create your comic strip, you need to save your pages in a ‘toonbag’.  At the ‘start here’ option above,  save your work (click on the disk icon and make sure you check the box ‘save to toonbag’. There are also options to keep your work private or public. Publish your work to save it.

When you have finished collecting pages for your book, go back to the starting page, click on ‘Books’ and dropdown menu will include  ‘my toonbag’.

From your toonbag, you can rearrange your pages and tick the pages you want included in your book.  Click on ‘make a book’ and your book is ready.

Here’s an example of what can be done using Toondoo, a book created by Toondoo user, hainesk, a student, on cyber bullying.   A great classroom tool to bookmark. 

Anyone have any other favourite comic/cartoon resources?

Getting started with Web 2.0 tools

It can seem a little overwhelming knowing where to start with facilitating Web 2.0 tools in the classroom for teachers who are trying to embrace 21st century learning. I was so captured by this wiki: Webtools4u2se that I thought it would be a great tool to introduce teachers to cool tools and what is great about the wiki is that it gives lots of ideas for using the tools. Designed for school library media specialists, it is an ideal starting place for all educators.  It is very informative with a bright inviting home page (this is created using Glogster). It also has a page dedicated to Why Web 2.0 tools? Tools include:

  • audio and podcasting
  • blogs
  • calendars, task management and to do lists
  • drawing, charting and mapping tools
  • portal and web page starting tools
  • photo and photo sharing tools
  • presentation tools
  • quiz and polling tools
  • news feeds and aggregators
  • social networks
  • video tools and video sharing
  • wikis
  • productivity tools


Another great starting place for teachers wanting to know how to start or where, is Anne Mirtschin and Jess McCulloch’s project and wiki for laying the foundations for using Web 2.0 technologies for teaching and learning. Visit their wiki at: Laying the e-planks for a Web 2.0 school. Anne and Jess are embracing 21st century literacies at their Hawkesdale P-12 College (a small rural p12 school, educating 5 – 18 year old students om Victoria, Australia) and are documenting what they have achieved as well as their goals on the wiki.

In the Planks page, they have resources to important issues related to Web 2.0 use, such as cybersafety, digital media and copyright, joining networks and creating an online space. To follow their journey you can subscribe to their eplanks podcasts.

Here is a great  wiki, 23 Things introducing Web 2.0 tools to teachers. It is a 10 week course for teachers. Although it cannot be joined it gives a list of resources that are to be covered in the course. If you are interested in learning more about the course, participating in a future course session, facilitating the course at your own school or adapting the content under Creative Commons, please email Shelley Paul @

Social networking research study

Phil Bradley had some interesting research material on his blog: The (UK) Ofcom Report. This report  looked at 5,000 adults and 3,000 children social networking habits.  It identified that more than 25% of 8-11 year old children have a profile on a social network. Although most networks have a minimum age of 13, it is rarely applied.  The research identified:

More than 25% of 8-11 year olds have a profile on a social network. (The minimum age requirement of 13 is rarely enforced).

22% of 16+ year olds have an online profile.

63% of 8-17 year olds with a profile use Bebo.

37% of 8-17 year olds with a profile use MySpace.

18% of 8-17 year olds with a profile use FaceBook.

44% of young users set their privacy at ‘default’ (meaning anyone can view their information).

16% of parents do not know if their child’s profile is visible to all.

33% of parents say they set no rules for their children’s use of social networks.

41% of children say their parents set no rules for use of social networks.

Some young people reported feeling addicted to social networking.

34% of young adults (16-24) reported they were willing to give out personal information such as email address and phone number.

The research does highlight some areas for  concern.  If children are receiving little information from parents about how to use these sites and online tools and they cannot access them at school or they are not being used as part of their general learning (bloggs, wikis and other collaboration and sharing tools) where do they get their advice from?

Employers check out Facebook

Employers are not just accepting prospective applicants’ resumes, they are checking out their social networking forums.   In too much information, the authors discuss how people will post just about anything on social networking sites.  They warn that it is becoming routine for prospective employers to scour applicants profiles via  Facebook or MySpace to find out more about the person than what is stated in their resume.   Prospective applicants have lost job opportunities when their Facebook profile exposes them in a non-favourable light.

There is also the question of safety.  Many people will accept Facebook’s request to be a friend without even knowing who they are linking with.  They reveal personal details which could be used for identity theft.

Educating young people to build profiles which identify their talents and strengths via blogs and e-portfolios will enable them to present a positive image for their future job prospects.  Awareness of stranger-danger online will safeguard their identity.  Web 2.0 tools are great, but they need to be used with awareness.