Forums / New Teachers / Implementing Classroom Rules

New Teachers

Implementing Classroom Rules

Author Post
Yolanda Smith-Evans Yolanda Smith-Evans 6425 Points

What guidelines should a new teacher follow when establishing and implementing classroom rules? What are some tried and true methods for having students adhere to rules besides not being allowed to participate in field and or lab activities?

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 87033 Points

Hi Yolanda,
It is so important to consider how to best set up our classrooms to promote a safe, fun learning environment. I think you will enjoy reading some of the ideas offered at the classroom management discussion thread.
FLINN Scientific has some great pointers on the safety aspect, too.
I also had put together a collection of journal articles and book chapters for my science methods course that contains helpful ideas for setting up a science classroom -
CI 426: Constructing My Science Classroom
The book chapter entitled Classroom Management and Safety might be a good one to start with. The authors have a chart that highlights the effective and ineffective methods when dealing with classroom management issues (p. 38).
I hope this helps.

Patty McGinnis Patricia McGinnis 25580 Points

Harry Wong's book The First Days of School provides some excellent down-to-earth advice that you may find useful. He addresses the importance of teaching procedures for all classrooms. Because science class involves safety issues, once the basic room procedures have been taught, teaching safety and lab procedures in a science class are a must.

The NSTA safety portal at is the first place any science teacher should examine when developing safety procedures for their classroom.

Donna Martin Donna Martin 4025 Points

I have noticed being in the first year that no rules are set in stone and I must constantly revise what is acceptable and what is not. For instance I was not real tough on bringing a pencil to class since I had extras and I am in a very poor school, but I found in the first couple of months I was going through 10-15 pencils a day. (going through my supply fairly quickly) so I had to enforce school supplies with more vigor. I allow a small amount of talking while doing work but that quickly gets very loud and now I must look at another option. So to make this a bit quicker, my management and rules continued to be a work in process

Susanne Hokkanen Susanne Hokkanen 79060 Points

Donna, You bring up a really good point on being flexible. As I was preparing for my first teaching job, an experienced teacher told me to always write my lesson plans in pencil and to be prepared to make changes to any rules the following year. And actually, her suggestion was to establish guidelines, not rules, because guidelines were subject to change. However, she warned to never change a rule while trying to enforce it - but to wait until after that consequence or lack of consequence was "served", and then make an announcement, allowing time - a day - for change. Thoughts?

Patty McGinnis Patricia McGinnis 25580 Points

Donna, I agree that being flexible is important if you find that your procedures are not efficient or if you need to develop new procedures. I also find that towards the last third of the year that the students become very comfortable and it is often time to review the expectations. Being consistent and following through is also critical because students are quick to point out if you are being "unfair."

Kendra Young Kendra Young 17180 Points

Patricia brought up a good point about the perception of "fairness" - especially as to how it is perceived by students. We've all established rules that we later regretted (and sometimes school administrators do that for us, anyone else had to deal with a shirt-tucking rule? Shudder!). I always advise new teachers to think of no more than 3 "non-negotiable" rules. These are rules that you would not bend for anyone, for any reason, on any day. Take verbal insults, for example. I don't care what kind of day your having, what's going on at home, or if you broke your toe as you tripped over your dog when your baby sister spilled spoiled milk all over your brand new shirt that you didn't have time to change. It's never okay to be insulting or demeaning to anyone in my class. Ever. However, I also expect you to come to class prepared at all times. But if you broke your toe, tripped over your dog, and smell like soured milk - I might let that pass for a day. Make sure you communicate these expectations to students. "I will accept no excuses for rules 1-3, rules 4-6 are expectations but I'll listen to valid reasons." This gives you some wiggle room in your classroom discipline policy and students will perceive you as "fair" - and everyone wants to please the "fair" teacher. It's a total win-win. Does anyone else have rules they implemented and later lived to regret?

Bonnie Patterson Bonnie Patterson 1260 Points

Being the more relaxed teacher of my team, I find that I revise my rules as the year goes on. Having to deal with the labs, spills, students being absent, etc, you have to be flexible. If students "misbehave", I announce a "new rule" or a "change to the rule" and the kids are fine with it. They see where the rules need tweaking and roll with it. It's kind of a challenge for them to keep up and they like to remind the others of the "new rules". But one steadfast rule that I keep, no matter what is that safety comes first. I tell my classes that I will take the lab away (make it a demo) if there are safety violations in the room.

Adah Stock Adah Stock 101510 Points

Hi: My advice is keep it simple. No more than 5 unbreakable classroom rules that are posted where all can see. The last being RESPECT For EVERYOne. Adah

Kathy Renfrew Kathy Renfrew 34435 Points

I want to recommend Reponsive Classroom. There are so many resources to help teachers. I was a late comer to realizing how important developing a respectful culture was to student learning but once I tried it. I couldn't believe the difference. To begin with I read the books and implemented on my own. Later I took the training...It was awesome.

In the meantime, check it out.. Responsive Classroom

My favorite book was the Morning Meeting Book.


Tina Harris Tina Harris 65805 Points

I also teach in a low socio-economic school and I too have gone through loads of pencils and paper. At the end of the school year, I ask students to "donate" any materials they don't want to take home(mainly pencils and extra paper in notebooks). I keep these to start the new year with. I have also been known to keep binders that are in good shape for students who have parents who cannot afford to go to the store until the next paycheck, which I quietly give out as needed. I also have an agreement with the custodian that if she finds good pencils she is welcome to leave them in a pencil holder on my desk (that is for pencils in the hallways - I collect the ones in my room).

Finally, I got this from a workshop, if a student needs to borrow a pencil after the loaners are gone, I have a set of rather distinctive pencils (you can order some with special sayings or, because I teach middle school, I buy the fat elementary pencils) that they may borrow for a shoe or other item they can't live without. It can become amusing when I have an entire collection of shoes the first few times I do this, but the number drops after the first couple days (Obviously, shoes don't work on lab days, when I collect things like binders or novels they are reading or the best is cell phones but they are not actually supposed to have these with them). Having to use collateral makes "borrowing" less fun (and that way I get the pencils back instead of them taking them to lose or break).

Julie Huber Julie Huber 2620 Points

Hi Yolanda, I am currently teaching a local district science training course and classroom management has been a huge discussion. More teachers are concerned with how to manage supplies, resources, and students than anything else in the science classroom. There are some wonderful articles in the NSTA Learning Center about this subject. If you are just wondering about establishing procedures in general I would recommend Harry Wong's book (an oldie, but a goodie) about the First Days of School....not sure that is the exact title. The main thing to remember is that if you build community in your classroom and focus on the preventative type rules and procedures then you will need less intervention for behavior issues. Hope you LOVE teaching science!

Maureen Stover Maureen Stover 41035 Points

Hi All~

I'd like to second Patricia and Julie's suggestion to look at Harry Wong's book How to be an Effective Teacher: The First Days of School(ISBN: 978-0-9629360-6-7). This book was required reading during my student teaching and it's such a fantastic resource that I now give it to all my "new teacher" friends as a Welcome to the Profession gift! Also, as Kathy noted, the resources on the responsive classroom website are outstanding! In addition to everyone else's great advice and ideas, one thing that I've found to be very helpful when establishing classroom rules is to include my students in establishing the rules. During the first days of school, I work with my students create our classroom rules (of course I already know what the rules will be, and I guide the kids toward a good list of rules). This gives my students ownership of the rules because they had have active part in establishing them.

As many of the other teachers have noted, while it is important to be flexible, being consistent is key. If students know the behavior expectation in your classroom, and if these expectations are consistently enforced, your student will know how to behave in your classroom and will know the consequences for not meeting the expectations.

Apartment Patino Mario Patino 1295 Points

I'm moving more away from creating rules and replacing them with expectations based on trust.

I like to post basic, general rules like : respecting other scientists (I don't call them students, I call them scientists), respecting all materials/supplies, etc. This way it can be up to the class/teacher to determine if someone is not adhering to them. Also, contracts work well. Every student and parent must sign. A copy is kept in thier notebook and I keep a copy. If something specific is done, we refer back to the contract. Depending on the level of the infraction, it could mean a warning, sitting out on the next lab, phone call home, etc. Very clear expectations with consistent results.

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 87033 Points

NSTA packaged several articles together into a free pdf packet for preservice and new teachers. It is downloadable at the NSTA Preservice and New Teacher Portal Click on: Free article pack for new teachers.
Many of the articles are from the September 2002 issue of "The Science Teacher" and are filled with helpful strategies and ideas to ensure a successful first year of teaching.

Rhonda Adams Rhonda Adams 670 Points

I do a lot of inquiry based science lessons as well as a lot of group hands on activities where classroom management is a must. I recently came across a set of (4) classroom rules that are called WORKING AGREEMENTS that work very well, especially for students working in groups and those students that always want to call out the answers(agreement # 2), whereas the student that doesn't want to answer, it allows them to be a little more compelled to speak up during class or group discussions ( agreement #3). Information with (-) is additional information to better explain the agreement WORK AGREEMENT 1) Choose to be present - bring your best self to the work (classroom) - model behavior to inspire 2) Be an Active Listener - assume positive intent (assume other peoples comments are not intended as negative, they are not trying purposefully to offend) 3) Be Part of the Discussion - we diminish the whole group when we silence ourselves ( they have to understand what they have to say is important and without their input they may be stopping others from adding to a comment or idea where they could have connected to a thought someone else had) 4) Understand That Learning is a Process - be open to outcome , the important part is not the answer, but how you got the answer Rhonda

Kathy Renfrew Kathy Renfrew 34435 Points

Rhonda, I like your Working Agreement. it reminds of something I use with adult groups all the time. I bet it would work fine with students from Grade 4 up. Some of the language could be adapted if necessary to be more kid friendly. Here it is: Norms of Collaboration • Pausing • Paraphrasing • Probing for Specificity • Putting Ideas on the Table • Paying Attention to Self and Others • Presuming Positive Intentions • Pursuing a Balance between Inquiry and Advocacy What do others think about this? Kathy

Tina Harris Tina Harris 65805 Points

Our school came up with "Following Directions [behavioral] the first time given" and the 4B's Be prompt Be prepared Be polite Be productive We would spend each of the first 5 days of school going over one rule a day, defining it, giving examples of it, making posters, etc. (since we had 5 teachers on our team, we rotated through them so that by the end of the week we had all gone over each rule in our class as it pertained to our class but they had reviewed every rule, every day). We also did refreshers at 12 and 24 weeks of our 36 week school year.

Patty McGinnis Patricia McGinnis 25580 Points

Our school recently established a "ready to learn" atmosphere in which the middle school teams developed a short list of rules that each team member put on their classroom door. "Ready to learn" means having a pencil/pen, homework, textbook, etc. It is to see that the school is unified in its philosophy; it is also probably less confusing for students who are faced with varying rules as they go from one class to the next.

Jennifer Rahn Jennifer Rahn 67935 Points

Tina, I really appreciate the four "rules" for your classroom. That aligns nicely with our "Be Responsible." Most of our teachers strive for about three rules, most commonly "Be Safe," "Be Responsible," and "Be Respectful." That way, the rules are flexible enough to allow them to adapt to situations. It also seems to help kids begin to self-govern in the classroom. I have seen kids remind each other that a behavior is not appropriate, like talking in the classroom. I tried the collateral approach - I found it to be a bit cumbersome, with collecting and returning shoes and cameras for pencils! I wish I had a good solution for that one - I figure I went through hundreds of pencils last year. My pet peeve was the students who would take a brand new pencil and sharpen it to a nub before the even used it - or even worse, would take a brand new pencil and snap it in two without ever using it!

Betty Paulsell Betty Paulsell 48560 Points

I liked the idea of trading a pencil for a shoe or some other article students need before they go to the next class!! I can see where that might get cumbersome or smelly!! But I still like it!! Also, remember to always state any rules in a positive tone! "Do nots" are not as effective as positives.

Jennifer M Tanko Jennifer M Tanko 2190 Points

I agree with Tina's post--the rules are general enough to cover multiple topics but there are only four, so students can keep them in mind easier. I recommend having the class be active and engaged in the creation of the rules--ask for their input and they'll be more receptive to the rules. That way it's more of a promise to each other, rather than an imposed list of do's and don'ts.

Sandy Gady Sandy Gady 43095 Points

Classroom management is your ticket to tenure and longevity. Sometimes it’s hard to remember there is a fine line between being a teacher and a friend. This is especially true when you are young and first starting out. I like the way Donna, Susanne and Kendra prefer the term guidelines to rules, though I love Mario’s term “expectations.” A very long time ago, one of my forever favorite teachers told me, “Students don’t need another friend, they need someone who cares enough to set boundaries, maintain high expectations, teach them something new every day, and hold a really tight rein when it comes to students behaving in a manner that allows all students to learn and grow.” It’s always easier to start out strict, always mindful that safety of the students is a primary concern as well as teaching them the content and curriculum. It’s very difficult to start out easy and then try to tighten up the management later. It’s much easier to start out tough and gradually back off. Ultimately the expectations have to be a reflection of you and what you are willing to spend time enforcing. As you will discover over time, there are some things you are willing to battle for day in and day out, and others you are willing to compromise on. One of the considerations I always take into account when it comes to management is whether or not a student or staff member can be injured and if what I do or do not do could cost me my certification. Whatever you do, make sure you have a safety contract in place that has been taught, (make sure it’s documented in your lesson plans), signed and dated by both parent and student. While it’s only a piece of paper and there may still be ramifications if someone gets hurt, but at least you have proof you made every attempt to inform students of their responsibility to maintain a safe learning environment for all. I am one of the stricter staff members on campus, but then again, as a STEM teacher, I have to be. The tools I use include scroll saws, sanders, drills, scalpels, lasers, fire, chemicals … Any student that is off task for even a brief moment when using these tools could result in a permanent injury. One thing that is particularly difficult is when there are campus rules that everyone is supposed to enforce and a handful choose to ignore them. It’s really tough to explain to a student that you are just enforcing the rules when another teacher blatantly ignores them. This is always an uncomfortable conversation, but one that ultimately needs to be addressed. Basically my class rules come down to two, “Do what is right”, “Do it consistently and well.” Over time your expectations will be second nature and a part of the culture of your classroom.

Victoria Chanda Victoria Chanda 2280 Points

As a teacher you need to be consistent with the rules you establish in the classroom. The rules apply to every student in the class. If you want the class to take the rules seriously, then you can't let one student do something that another student would get in trouble for. If they see consistent reprimands, other classmates are less likely to try to "get away with" the act that they were about to perform.


This is a short video Classroom Management for Secondary School Teachers
12 minutes 34 Seconds
This video follows a high school science teacher as she demonstrates how her structured and routine-based classroom environment is the key to successful behavior management and student engagement.

At the end of the video students comment on her class. Good feedback !

Brandi Schonberg Brandi Schonberg 720 Points

Classrom management is such a challenge! I am in a low socioeconomic area with a high percentage of kids receiving special services. Combating the "I don't have to do anything if I don't want to" mentality has been HARD. One key element I have discovered to be one of the most important pieces is making sure the kids really know you care about them. Not them as a student body, but them as individuals. It can be as simple of randomly asking kids how their weekend was, or did they see that new movie that came out. Or, if you notice someone in a bad mood, a simple "Don't worry, it'll be ok" or offer to arrange for them to see the counselor. They start to relate to you not as "the teacher" but as "Mrs. S." who is a teacher, a mom and has a life. We go from being two-dimensional life requirements to three-dimensional parts of their lives.

Melissa Rodriguez Melissa Rodriguez 2735 Points

Classroom management is the most important thing in the classroom. Without it, a teacher can be amazing and very knowledgeable but students just won’t be able to learn. I agree with Patricia, I’ve also read Harry Wong's book “The First Days of School” and it gives great classroom procedures and techniques. Consistency in following the rules is key. When you don’t enforce the rules consistently or allow some students to get away with things it, it ruins your credibility with the students. Creating classroom procedures also helps the class to run smoothly and saves time. Creating routines for things such as collecting assignments, passing out materials, lining up, etc. In the past I have purchased posters with classroom rules and have taught my students the rules in the beginning of the year. But this year I decided to let the students come up with their own set of class rules. We made a concept map on the board of what they believe a good teacher is. Then, we discussed what a good student is. Together, as a class they created a list of rules and agreed upon the five most important ones (I find that more than five is too many). The students copied them down on a contract and took it home to show to their parents and for the parents to sign. I love this technique! I no longer get complaints that a rule is “unfair” because they created it themselves and it makes them feel more responsible to follow them.

Jacob Germain Jacob Germain 495 Points

Melissa, I absolutely agree with implementing strategies from Harry Wong's book into the classroom. I will most definitely use the idea of establishing rules and procedures for students to follow on day 1 when I have my own classroom. As you said, a person can be a great teacher and know their content, but if they cannot maintain control of a classroom then how can they expect to teach students for mastery?

Post Reply

Forum content is subject to the same rules as NSTA List Serves. Rules and disclaimers