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Defining the Classroom Rules

One of the inevitable first-day-of-school tasks for elementary teachers (and many secondary teachers) is introducing the class rules. So it's no wonder teacher-bloggers have taken up the topic this week.

Patricia Hensley, author of the Successful Teaching blog, laments educators' use of vague language in rule-making. She writes:

Too many times we tell our students to behave and they have absolutely no idea what that entails. When my daughter was young, I remember her coming up to me and asking if she was have (with a long a sound). I couldn't understand her until she told me that I told her to be have and she wasn't sure what have was. This is exactly what we do to our students.

Instead, Hensley contends, class rules should contain concrete actions so students know how and why to follow them. It's easier for a student to abide by a rule that says "Keep your hands to yourself" than one that tells her to "Respect others," she explains.

Our opinion blogger Nancy Flanagan addresses rule-making in a recent post as well, offering a word of caution on the common practice of letting students help set the rules. She writes:

... I don't believe teachers should abdicate their roles as rule-setters, formal leaders of the classroom pack. Especially new teachers, who haven't yet established an authoritative, authentic teacher-persona.

As you grapple with the same sorts of classroom-management issues, we'd like to hear from you. What's your theory on setting rules? Do you come up with them before the year begins or create them collaboratively with students? What do your classroom rules look like?

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