Each year we have the new adventure of building a classroom community of learners who are collaborative and creative.

While sometimes thinking about rules seems like a snooze, students really appreciate the boundaries and are especially invested if they are part of the discussion surrounding creating the rules and expectations (even if you already know what the gist of the rules will be).

Walking in on the first day of school,  my students never heard me rattle off a list of rules for their behavior. Instead I started with just one statement that I was able to use to manage behavior while we took the time to set the rules with a positive and collaborative tone.

Step 1: start with one overarching expectation

The message I always chose was “Your job is to be the best ___ grader you can be. My job is to help you be the best you can be.” After sending this message, all kinds of other things can kind of fall under this category. Throwing blocks at Jerome? “Remember in ___ grade it’s our job to be the very best ___ grader we can.” The other thing I like about this message is that it also sets the tone that they have ownership for their learning success and their behavior.

Step 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!

Step 3: Set Class Rules

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

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

*We will be respectful

*We will be safe

*We will be kind

*We do our best

I like to begin the discussion with the language we’ve been using. For example “How have we noticed members of our class being the best they could be?” We look back at our list developed over the past few days and then add to it as needed. With some coaching we start to notice 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 🙂

Step 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! I have used emergent readers, sorting activities, posters, personal teaching demonstrations of examples and non examples of following the rules and expectations (they love when I crawl around with a book on my head).

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!