Getting genuine buy-in and actively engaging students during the classroom rule-making process is critical to creating a positive and welcoming learning environment. When involved in the classroom rules ideation, refinement, and establishment process, students are more likely to respect behavioral boundaries and adhere to organized procedures daily. They’ll be more likely to remember and meet your expectations if they’re involved in establishing your classroom culture. Great for the beginning days or weeks of school or at any point as a mid-year classroom self-assessment exercise, let’s explore some effective activities to teach classroom rules.
Create a Classroom Contract
Creating a contract as a group exercise is an excellent method for establishing ground rules in the classroom, and it also allows for positive relationship-building discussions on how you and your students wish to be treated. So that students can have ownership of their classroom and its governance, divide students into small groups, and have them brainstorm a list of classroom rules and procedures. Afterward, have each group present their list to the class and have a class discussion to determine what are the most important classroom rules.
Turn your discussion into a written contract that includes how students should treat their classmates and you as their teacher and clear consequences for breaking the agreement. This classroom rules activity can occur over several days on a dedicated whiteboard or presentation space so ideas and suggestions can be expanded upon, mulled over, and refined. Once finalized, have each student sign the contract, post it prominently in the room, and hand out copies to share or send home to show parents.
Put on a Classroom Scavenger Hunt
Building upon your classroom contract activity where you established the rules and procedures, create a scavenger hunt to help students commit the rules and procedure to memory.
First, create a game sheet with your essential classroom rules and procedures list. For younger students, you may need to use pictures to represent items they need to locate. Give each student a copy of the list (game sheet) and have them work in pairs to find and check off each item. This activity is not only fun but also helps students recall the location of important items such as the emergency exit, first aid kit, and classroom materials.
Reading a list of rules of the board is one thing. However, bringing them to life through engaging roleplaying scenarios is a more memorable and engaging way of showing students the behaviors expected of them.
Randomly assign some students to demonstrate desired positive behaviors and others to act out examples of negative behaviors to avoid. Set aside time when you ask students to identify appropriate moments to “pause” or “rewind” the action to discuss options to correct their behavior.
In addition to demonstrating the physical actions and behavioral choices for effective rule-following, roleplay activities that build social-emotional skills, including civility, kindness, empathy, respect, and other prosocial behaviors.
You can also gamify roleplaying by turning the activity into charades. Write down different classroom rules and procedures on small slips of paper and place them in a container. Divide the class into two teams. One student from each team will take turns selecting a rule slip and silently acting out the rule while the rest of their team tries to guess it. For example, if the rule is “Raise your hand before speaking,” the student might raise their hand and pretend to speak hushedly. This activity not only reinforces the rules but also promotes teamwork and creativity.
Play Classroom Quiz Games
Friendly competition in the form of quiz games can be a great way to engage students and encourage learning classroom rules. Older elementary students may prefer a more straightforward online Q&A quiz game. Still, many will express excitement over adapting some of their favorite board games with a classroom rules-and-procedures twist.
Prep for this classroom rules lesson and review game by coming up with a few dozen questions about various classroom rules or procedures that you’d expect most students to reasonably be able to answer correctly. Games that involve rolling a die, drawing a card, spinning a spinner, or similar actions to traverse spaces on a board work best, such as Trouble, Chutes and Ladders, The Game of LIFE, Candy Land, Sorry, and more.
Divide your class into four teams (a convenient number for most games, though some may accommodate more). For a team to take turns rolling the dice, spinning the spinner, etc., they must confer and work together to correctly answer a question related to your new classroom management protocols.
Initiate a New Rule Challenge
You may need to add or change rules based on your classroom dynamics. Revisit classroom rules and procedures regularly. A fun activity to problem-solve disruptive behaviors is to have a rule-creation challenge.
Divide the class into small groups and provide each group with a scenario or problem related to classroom behavior or situations that require rules. For example, you can give them a scenario like “There is a student who consistently forgets to bring their homework.” Instruct each group to brainstorm and create a new rule or procedure to address the scenario. After a given time, have each group present their rule and explain how it would help improve the situation. Encourage a class discussion on the merits of each rule and come to a consensus on the best solution. This activity fosters critical thinking and problem-solving skills while reinforcing the importance of classroom rules and procedures.
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