Apr 21

Effective Classroom Rules and Procedures for a Positive Learning Environment

In a study conducted to determine the effects of a classroom management program (Consistency Management & Cooperative Discipline®) on student achievement, researchers determined that “Classroom management becomes the gatekeeper to student learning by either supporting a consistent and predictable classroom or allowing a disruptive, chaotic, and random learning environment to occur.” Classroom management is challenging for many teachers, especially those newer to the profession. However, establishing classroom rules and procedures that promote social-emotional learning (SEL) can make it easier for you while ensuring students have access to a conducive learning environment. 

Promoting SEL in Classroom Rules and Procedures

Preventing student disruptions by implementing positive reinforcement for following—or punishment for—breaking classroom rules may keep the classroom quiet, but they are not necessarily effective in motivating students to learn. 

Instead, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) suggests that an SEL-embedded approach to classroom rules and procedures can:

  • Help students understand the impact of their behavior and build their social and emotional competencies
  • Support a student’s sense of belonging and significance through respectful and encouraging interactions
  • Provide a reminder for teachers to consider what the student is thinking, feeling, learning, and deciding about themselves
  • Help uncover the root cause of a problem so that additional supports or services can be offered to students when needed
  • Encourage the constructive use of personal agency and autonomy
  • Repair harm, restore relationships, and rebuild community with students responsible for wrongdoing as well as those impacted by it 
  • Establish a fair process in which students have a voice in decisions that affect them, understand the reasoning behind them, and know what is expected of them in the future (adapted from Establish Discipline Policies That Promote SEL – CASEL Schoolguide.)

Classroom Rules Creation Guidelines

Rules should be established dependent on students’ ages, maturity levels, and other classroom-specific variables. There are some overarching ideas and good classroom rules that proponents of positivity-focused classroom curriculums encourage implementing in any setting in order to foster prosocial behaviors among students. Begin by introducing the following three broad-stroke rules. Then, you might set specific guidelines or corresponding actions with students that may fall under each rule’s umbrella:

  1. Work hard and always try your best. This top classroom rule’s biggest strength is how it helps instill a strong work ethic within the learning environment. Diligence and a healthy, give-it-your-all attitude help students stay focused on their schooling, facilitating better organization, positivity, participation, follow-through, and problem-solving when work becomes more challenging.
  2. Be respectful and listen to all teachers and classmates. This rule emphasizes an attitude of respect, which should be present in all classroom interactions. From paying attention and listening to instructions to being kind across peer interactions and acting courteously toward all people and property, this rule can cover a wide range of behaviors.
  3. Practice physical and emotional safety first. Prioritizing physical and emotional well-being creates a safe learning environment. Instead of implementing rules focusing on what not to do (e.g., don’t hit, don’t talk out of turn), frame rules on actions, attitudes, and behaviors that produce positive outcomes, so students feel safe and comfortable in the classroom.

    Not every classroom requires a long list of rules; too many can be overwhelming and make it more difficult for students to remember them all. A small set of guidelines that are well-communicated and easily accessible to students contributes to a positive classroom culture.

Classroom Procedures Creation Guidelines

Your rules help set essential expectations for behavior. Procedures, meanwhile, are the day-to-day activities and classroom routines you use to manage the teaching and learning experience. The following simple-to-implement processes and classroom procedure examples can help with various aspects of classroom management:

  • Create a classroom calendar. A class calendar can help you establish routines and expectations and help younger students learn many concepts, including number sequencing and a sense of time. A shared online calendar encourages planning and organization among your older students. Creating calendars with your class to mark special dates builds anticipation and fosters student-student and student-teacher relationships.
  • Establish a consistent policy on cell phones and tech devices. Depending on your students’ ages, cell phones, tablets, and other personal devices can be valuable learning tools or sources of distraction. Personal pouches, communal “cell phone hotels” with charging opportunities, signage communicating when it’s appropriate to use devices, and temporary creative timeouts (“cell phone jail”) are among the helpful suggestions compiled by WeAreTeachers. Rather than a blanket ban on all devices, developing thoughtful policies with student buy-in will work better for everyone.
  • Use simple, silent hand signals to minimize distractions. At any age, simple hand signals can help teachers and students quickly communicate basic ideas without taking away from tasks at hand or essential discussions. Rather than announcing to the whole class anytime they need to use the restroom, for example, a student can raise their hand with a specific nonverbal signal, such as two fingers crossed, to let you know they need to go. A simple nod or thumbs up can be all the acknowledgment required from you to let them know they’re OK to go on a bathroom break.

    Hand signals are simple and effective ways to quickly and quietly get a message across to students. Designate specific signals as gentle reminders that it’s time to listen, sit, pay attention, or gather certain materials for a lesson or activity. Create a chart of specific nonverbal signals and their meanings for students to reference. 
  • Set a timer for seamless transitions. Sticking to a schedule and being efficient with available time can be a challenging aspect of classroom management for many teachers. To facilitate transitions, communicating timelines at the onset of lessons or specific activities can help establish expectations for when students should be ready to move on. Visualizing the amount of time remaining for a task can be accomplished with a projected digital timer or even an old-school sand hourglass. A visual timing cue can teach students effective time management regardless of the method.

Find more practical examples of classroom rules, routines, and procedures with Avanti.

The best classroom rules and procedures establish guidelines and daily classroom routines that increase productivity and help keep students focused and on task. 

Discover more ideas for effective classroom management with Avanti. The sprawling resource library includes hundreds of brief, on-demand videos from master teachers introducing proven strategies that are easy to implement in your classroom. Start by signing up for a complimentary one-week trial to improve your classroom management approach.

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