Rules about Rules!

Rule the rules about creating classroom rules!

1) Limited in number

  • Should be 6 or less, usually 3-5
  • Covers approximately 80% of all classroom (common) misbehaviors
  • Sets limits and boundaries, not intended to be "all-inclusive"
  • Does not cover items specifically mentioned in the student code of conduct (i.e. weapons, drugs, etc.)

2) Stated positively

  • Tell students what you want them to do, not what you don't want them to do
  • Positive Example: Quietly enter the room and be in your seat before the tardy bell ring.
  • Negative Example: NO pushing, shoving, or running in class; don't be tardy.

3) Applicable to the entire class period or school setting

  • Make sure your rules cover your entire class period or school day (if in a self-contained classroom)
  • Not to be confused with procedures/routines or expectations in various instructional settings (i.e. science labs, workstations or centers, etc.)

4) Taught using positive and negative examples

You should be able to teach your rules showing students


  • What it looks and sounds like to follow the rules
  • What is looks and sounds like NOT following the rules*



*Some educators discourage the use of negative examples. They believe you are "giving" students ideas to misbehave. Trust me, you're not giving them any ideas they have already thought of or will come up with in the future.

5) Rules should refer to specific, observable behaviors

  • Similar to Rule #4 (but not the same as)
  • Teachers and other students should clearly recognize when students are following the rules and when they aren't; they should be able to see and hear student (mis)behavior.
  • When a teacher calls out good or bad behavior, the teacher should be able to easily explain what the student did to be called out (for good or bad).
  • If questioned, a student should be able to easily state what he/she was doing that violated or demonstrated a rule.

6) Enforced always

  • Enforcement of rules includes a negative, punitive (preferably immediate) consequence every time the rule is violated
  • If you are unwilling to enforce your rule every time it's broken, you have three options:
  1. Turn it into a procedure or routine
  2. Turn it into an expectation
  3. Get rid of this rule (see Rule #7)

7) Replaceable at any time

  • At times, teachers need to get rid of rules for various reasons:
  1. The teacher no longer enforces the rule, and the rule has lost its meaning.
  2. What was once seen as a rule has now become outdated or obsolete.
  3. As students adapt and create new scenarios, new rules need to replace old rules.
  4. If students no longer challenge a certain rule, switch it out for something more pertinent.

8) Posted in a conspicuous place

  • Posted on the wall in large font
  • Should be visible from anywhere in the room
  • The poster serves as a visual reminder for students and a visual prompt for teachers
  • If you believe students should know the rules by now, I agree and they should. But since they don't, we are going to tell them anyway.

9) Avoid contradictory or redundant language

  • Avoid rules that you will contradict other rules, procedures/routines, or expectations in your classroom. All of these need to align and reinforce each other