Category

Teaching

Category

Setting Class Rules

Hello world,

Setting rules can sometimes seem difficult and enforcing them can feel even more challenging. As a new teacher, I struggled with crafting rules, managing my classes, being consistent, and if I’m being honest, many, many other aspects of the role. During my first year of teaching, I worked with the same two classes and had multiple subjects with them. I was fortunate because I was able to nurture better relationships and meet each students’ individual needs. They were naturally well behaved and patient as I figured out my teaching style. The next year, I moved to another school where I taught five different Grade 8 classes that each had 50 students in them and their ages ranged from 13 – 21*. I learned quickly that if I didn’t develop a good classroom management plan and put energy into implementing it at the beginning of the school year, I would be faced to deal with students misbehaving and a disruptive class.

This article outlines the criteria I use to create rules and the methods in which I implement them. As teachers, we hold an extremely important role of establishing rules and enforcing them consistently in order to maintain an environment that is enjoyable, safe, and conducive for learning. To construct the perfect set of rules, I suggest starting with a short list of rules and then leading a discussion about whether they should stay the same or if they can be adapted or expanded to best fit the individuality of each class. With all of that said, let’s get started. I’ve included my example set of rules, but really it’s up to you to figure out what will work best for you and your class.

CRITERIA FOR RULES 

  1. They should be simple. Your students should be able to understand what they mean without having much explanation.
  2. They should be clear. If there is any ambiguity, uncertainty, or grey area about what a rule means or what behavior it is referring to, this can lead to arguments, friction, and misunderstandings.
  3. They should be visible. Print the rules and consequences and put them in a place where they can be seen and referenced.
  4. Finally, they should be behavior focused. Having rules that are focused on behavior makes it achievable to fix the misbehavior. Having a rule like “turn in homework on time” is more of an academic expectation and should be included in procedures for what happens if a student is absent or needs more time to complete the assignment. Rules should focus more on what will make your classroom a safe environment that promotes learning.

When I introduce a set of rules, I write them on the board and follow it with a class discussion about what kind of environment we want and if these rules help accomplish that. I might phrase the question like “What do you need from your classmates (and me) to learn best?” Having discussions about their environment and rules allow for students to reflect, feel motivated to follow the rules, and create a sense of ownership since they took part in their development. This is a really good time to ask for examples of what following the rules and breaking the rules look like. It should be encouraged for students to ask clarifying questions to ensure they understand what is expected of them.

MY LIST OF RULES 

  1. Respect teachers, peers, and their things.
  2. Listen and follow directions quickly.
  3. Keep your hands to yourself.
  4. Laugh with others, but never at them.
  5. Golden Rule: Treat others how you want to be treated. Go a step further with the Platinum Rule: Treat others how they want to be treated.

**Rule 5 is mostly a best practices rule. I want my students to be reminded to make a conscious effort to think about others and develop empathy, which is a by-product of practicing the rules.

After we have agreed on a set of rules, I have students help decide what the consequences should be if a rule is broken. Remember, the rules and consequences should be delivered in a positive manner because they’re supposed to help us maintain a positive space. We are no longer able to feel safe, have fun, or learn if we aren’t abiding by the rules we all agreed on.

POSSIBLE CONSEQUENCES

1st Time: Warning

Having a laminated class roster and making a tally mark next to the student’s name will help you keep track of who has been given a warning and what phase (of the consequences) they are in. This is meant just for you so I wouldn’t recommend hanging it up. The point of it is for you to manage your class, not humiliate them. Plus, you could hang a sticker chart that rewards positive behavior, which is a way to celebrate accomplishments. When I’m giving a warning and don’t want to disrupt my teaching, I usually give a yellow card (laminate these as well).

2nd Time: Time-Out

It’s important to note that time-out should not be done in a way that humiliates the student. Based off a lot of research, kids should typically have a minimum of fifteen minutes in time-out to calm their emotions, reflect on misbehavior, feel remorseful, and accept responsibility. Time-out is about giving them some space to reflect and think—set aside a desk or two with the purpose of creating separation for that to happen. It’s also supposed to foster introspection and motivate a student to improve and not repeat the same behavior. A student might not be ready at the fifteen-minute mark and that is okay. When a student does feel ready to go back to his/her/their seat, they can raise their hand and I will go to them at my next available moment. Then it’s on them to convince me that they understand what rule they broke and are remorseful, not just trying to appease me. I recommend not sending students outside the classroom for many reasons, 1) they miss instruction, 2) you can’t monitor them, and 3) some students use it as free time, so there is a lack of accountability.

3rd Time: Letter home & time-out for every time they misbehave

Draw up a simple note that you can use to send parents when a student has reached the third consequence. Try not to include emotions, just facts. It should be short and to the point. To ensure that the parent(s) or guardian(s) received the note, I require my students to bring back the note signed. This may not work in every school environment, especially if you are a Peace Corps Volunteer teacher. For example, a school where the students live in the hostel won’t be conducive for this.

Obviously there are many different classroom management plans and methods, but this seemed to be the most simple and effective set of rules and consequences that have worked for me along with good routines, procedures, and positive reinforcement systems. Rules and consequences are just a fraction of a good and effective classroom management plan. Routines and procedures will need practice. You’ll need to continue to build relationships and rapport. With all of the things you implement, try to be thoughtful and consistent as possible.

Thank you for reading my blog and I really hope that it is helpful.

Wishing you the best, wherever you are.

Always,

Grace.

 

*In Namibia, there are many reasons why there would be such a large age range for students in classes here. I’ve had learners who have had to take a break from school and when they come back, they resumed where they left off. A specific example is one of my students needing to take time off because he had to take care of his family’s cattle. Another possible reason is that they didn’t pass one of their required classes and needed to repeat the grade. It’s just important that you don’t make assumptions as a teacher and meet them where they’re at.

Five Tips for the First Day of School

Hello world,

As a new teacher (especially TEFL educators), the first day of school can be pretty daunting. I had no idea what to do, but my biggest words of advice now are 1) be ready to actively learn through experience, 2) be patient with yourself and your students as you go through this together, and 3) whatever you do, try to be consistent. If there are hiccups, let them inform your teaching moving forward. Maybe you come to find that the attention getter or hand signal you were trying to implement didn’t work in a class. Maybe it takes a little longer for students to get that routine or procedure down for turning in papers. Whatever it is, keep going forward, reflect as you do, and celebrate the little successes. With all that said, here are my tips to help make the first day(s) of school something you and your kids can look forward to.

Greet and get to know each other.

Make sure when you introduce yourself; say your name and have it written on the board. It’s good practice for you to ensure that you’re teaching to multiple learning styles and it will help your students learn your name right away. One of the most important things that you can do on the first day is really take time to get to know your students. It will show that you value them and that they are important. This sets the tone for the rest of the year and creates a sense of community. As a Peace Corps Volunteer teacher in Namibia, I had to learn that In Namibia, there is a specific way to greet students; observing these practices and asking questions to colleagues will be really helpful wherever you are teaching.

Start establishing rules, routines, and procedures.

Do this the first day! For many new teachers, they focus on what to do once a student has broken a rule or disrupted class, but having routines and procedures set, helps prevent kids from going off course. Make sure you are consistent with the structure of class so your students will understand what’s expected of them (get creative in your activities, not your structure). Be concise and clear when communicating with your students. Practice how you’re going to give instructions, how they should write the activity or notes in their notebooks, etc. By practicing, you’ll be able to be more concise and eliminate extra unnecessary words. With rules, I like to have some key rules and then get the kids involved in developing a few more. The shorter the list, the easier it is for them to remember, but involving them in the process creates buy in, a sense community, and ownership of their class. The rules should be posted in the classroom where students can reference them throughout the year. Present the most important classroom routines and procedures the first day, and you can teach the others as they come up naturally during class. Allow for students to practice; it’ll take time and sometimes longer than we might have hoped for. Again, be clear when giving instructions and hopefully it’ll eliminate some of the confusion. Having the agenda visible can also help so students know where they are in the lesson and how much more work is intended.

Reinforce positive behaviors.

I really love using positive narration and affirmations. It reminds students what behaviors I am looking for and most of the time they’ll self-correct so I don’t have to correct them. It also makes the learning environment feel safer for learning and a place where students actually want to be. This doesn’t mean you don’t correct behavioral problems, but it is supposed to help.

Be prepared, keep it short, and be patient.

You want to be prepared for the day. Write out a guideline with what you want to cover. It doesn’t need to necessary be followed exactly or even completed, but it is nice to have a general idea of what comes next. Try not to create an elaborate lesson the first day. Create a space where students also have the opportunity to talk. This can be done through icebreakers or activities. By giving them the time to share, shows that you value what they have to say and starts normalizing speaking in class (in a structured manner). There’s a lot going on this day, so keeping things short and simple will help prevent overwhelming them. You may not get through your entire lesson, but it’s only the first day, which brings me to my last point.

Make the day fun.

This is the first time you all are meeting! The first day isn’t just about running through the rules, routines, and procedures; it’s supposed to be time to get to know your students! Find activities that are fun and educational. You don’t need to rush through everything. You have an entire year, but only a limited amount of time to create initial rapport with your kids. Make it a day that is memorable and want to tell their parent(s)/guardian about.

I hope these tips help you on your first day! If you are looking for more posts about teaching, click here. If this was helpful for your first day or you have any comments/questions, please leave a comment below. Best of luck teachers and have an amazing year!

Always,

Grace.