Collaboratively setting classroom rules

Each year we have the new adventure of building a classroom community of learners who are collaborative and creative. Students who know what the rules are, and how to follow them so we can teach them the best we can.

I definitely don’t like to set the tone for “follow my rules”, although some expectations are certainly explained and modeled on that first day. I like this to be a natural evolution set by the students (and coached by me).

1.SEND THE MESSAGE : Your job is to be the best ______ grader you can be!

After sending this message, all other things can kind of fall under this category. This message also sets the tone that they have ownership for their learning success and their behavior. Repeating this message also helps me to address behaviors as early as the first day of school. “Are you being the best first grader you can be?”

2. Notice and Note Positive Behaviors

The second task is to have a chart ready that says “How to be the best I can be”.

As the day goes on I “notice” things the students are doing.

For example:  “I see that Suzie is looking right at me, ready to listen for directions. Do you think this is helping her to be the best she can be?”


“I heard Johnny give Suzie a compliment! Do you think that is helping him be the best he can be?”

I really really focus on the positive behaviors during the early stages. As these situations come up, I add them to the list!

3. Set Class Rules

After a few days, we are ready to set class rules together.

I always have my list of “I need these rules to be an effective teacher.” They look something like this.

*Students will be respectful (Listen to the speaker etc)

*Students will be safe

*Students will be kind

*Students will try their best

We look back at our list of ways to “be the best we can be” and start to notice with my students which things are so important they should be rules. Then, in the student language We develop a list of (generally) four rules, but sometimes 5 🙂

4. Practice The Rules

Once the rules are set, I display them in the room and we start practicing those rules through modeled behavior.  For some of the activities and lessons (simple lessons) we ONLY practice the rules… practicing the rules is the objective!

Sometimes my kiddos need a little more practice,  or even just more direct practice.

Here is a bundle of my “school rules” resources. They include emergent readers, sorting, and extension activities.


If you’re looking for more fun back to school resources, check these favorites out!




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