3 Key Elements in Classroom Rules

What makes a good set of rules for your small group? Well first, let’s find out what works and what doesn’t work.

Quantity

Before we even get to the actual content, we have to figure out what the right number of rules should be. My motto is, “Less is more.” Most teachers will tell you that 5 is about the maximum you can have. Any more than 5 rules and your kids will have too many to remember. The less rules you have, the more likely they are to actually remember them.

Framing

The worst kinds of rules always start with, “Don’t _____________.” Have you ever tried to tell a kid not to do something? If you have, you’ll know that the very first thing they’ll do is whatever you just told them not to do. Instead, frame your rules positively, not negatively. Instead of saying, “Don’t run around the pool,” try telling them, “We walk around the pool” or even better, “Be safe.” Give them something to do rather than something not to do.

Focus

One of the most common mistakes people make when devising rules is being too specific. If you try telling a kid the good old “Keep your hands to yourself” rule, what do you think they’ll do? They’re probably going to find a loop-hole and start tapping their neighbor with their feet. Even worse, they could respond with a snarky, “You never said anything about feet!” When it comes to class rules, the more broad the rule, the more helpful it will be in your setting. If you use a very specific rule, kids will find a way around it.

The ultimate goal is to create rules that are all-encompassing.