Worth Repeating Part Two: Epic Advice on Rules and Procedures

rules and proceduresDid you know that teachers with rules and procedures have far fewer discipline problems than teachers who lack clear, consistent rules and procedures? We have the data to support this statement through our experience with positive behavior interventions and supports.

Annette Breaux in 50 Ways to Improve Student Behavior clarifies the difference between a rule and a procedure:


A rule regulates a serious offense, and there must be consequences each time a rule is broken.
A procedure is simply a way that you want something to be done — the same way, every time.
• When a student breaks a rule, the student faces a consequence.
• When a student does not follow a procedure, you simply practice the procedure with the student.
• You will never want to have more than five rules.
• You should have many procedures.
• An example of a rule is, “We agree not to bully anyone.” If the rule is broken, there is a definite consequence, and students know this in advance.
• Examples of procedures include how to move from one class to the next, what to do when you have a question, what to do when you need your pencil sharpened and how to move into cooperative groups.

????????According to the National Education Association (www.nea.org), engaging students on the first day of school in creating of a set of rules helps ensure their investment. Decide what you want to be considered serious offenses in your classroom. State your rules in positive ways. One suggestion is to have your students create the rules in their own words. Most teachers agree it is best to limit rules to five or fewer. Discuss the rules with students, help them understand why the rules are important and explain the consequences of not following the rules. Most importantly, you must be consistent in enforcing the class rules.

The NEA offers a how-to guide on setting rules and consequences that work in elementary and secondary settings: http://teachingasleadership.org/plan-purposefully/establish-rules-and-consequences-p-5.

Elementary teachers may also want to read this Scholastic Instructor article Everyday Rules That Really Work!:http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/everyday-rules-really-work.

Here’s the bottom line: Keep classroom rules few in number, clearly stated, positively worded and applicable to all situations and — above all — enforce them consistently.

Now let us discuss procedures. Every teacher needs a set of procedures to provide a safe and nurturing learning environment. Breaux suggests that you will not want to establish all of your procedures at one time. Instead, begin with the most important procedures, then add a few at a time. Let students know what the procedure is and discuss its importance. Model the procedure and show students what the procedure looks like. Rehearse the procedure with your students — even the Redskins rehearse procedures every day! Praise and reinforce students when they follow procedures and remind them of the procedures when they forget. Continue to calmly and repeatedly practice the procedures. As with rules, remain consistent with the procedures.

Breaux indicates that the most important procedure that every teacher must have is a consistent way to secure students’ attention. This is essential — without their attention there will be no learning! There is no one right way to get students’ attention, but ineffective ways include begging, threatening and warning.

Harry and Rosemary Wong suggest establishing procedures to address:

• what to do when the bell rings
• what to do when you hear an emergency alert signal
• what to do when you finish your work early
• what to do when you have a question
• what to do when students enter the classroom
• what to do when you want their attention
• where you want quizzes or project work placed
• where to find assignments if they have been absent
• what to do upon dismissal of class

Want to learn more about rules and procedures? Visit the NEA site for professional development modules and readings on rules and procedures. To see teachers modeling classroom procedures, simply search online for “how to teach procedures” and you will find videos with great examples.

What procedures do you have? Please share a procedure here — and remember to give a shout-out to your school by letting us know where you teach.


Harry K. Wong and Rosemary T. Wong, The First Days of School. Mountain View, CA : Harry K. Wong Publications, Inc., 2009.

Annette Breaux and Todd Whitaker, 50 Ways to Improve Student Behavior. Larchmont, NY : Eye of Education, 2010.

About donnadalton

Currently, I am honored to serve as the Chief Academic Officer for Chesterfield County Public Schools. This year begins my 41st year in public education and my final year in Chesterfield. Prior to this position, I served as the Director of Professional Development, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, and Mathematics Instructional Specialist. I have taught mathematics at the elementary, middle and high school levels. I have been married for 40 years to my husband, Bob, and our house is ruled by our sweet dog, Bella. We have one son and a daughter-in-law and are proud grandparents to Tyler and Kinsley!
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8 Responses to Worth Repeating Part Two: Epic Advice on Rules and Procedures

  1. Tiffany says:

    I use a timer in my classroom for every task and the students know when the timer goes off they stop what they are doing and silently put the eyes on me. This keeps me from raising my voice to give directions or get everyone’s attention. fairness and consistency are the two main components of any behavioral plan. GO Panthers! Falling Creek Elementary.

  2. This year I will be implementing a new procedure. I will place a container of highlighters beside the basket where students turn in their work. Students will be required to highlight their name before they place their paper in the basket. I will have a sign near the basket and highlighters to remind them. This will hopefully reduce the number of papers that are turned in with no name.

    Chalkley Elementary School ❤ Go Roadrunners!

  3. Paula Spencer says:

    I raise my hand, signaling students to raise their hands, get quiet, and signal others. This procedure is practiced a lot at the beginning of school. Now I don’t have to use chime or bells. It works everywhere, even on field trips.

    ~Paula Spencer

  4. Michelle S Cunningham says:

    Students enter the classroom by units, remain standing for the pledge and moment of silence. They have assigned seats at their table where they are to always face the front at all times. All students must raise their hand to speak and no one can get out of their chair without permission. For tool control all pencils and other supplies are counted. – Chesterfield Juvenile Detention Center !! CJDC

  5. Laura says:

    In kindergarten, our whole first month is filled with learning procedures. Some of the most important involve using a shared bathroom. My students will learn how to close the door, knock if the door is closed, answer if you’re in when someone knocks, wait if someone answers, flush, how to wash hands properly, how to use the new paper towel holder, and where to throw used paper towels. It may sound ridiculous, but all these procedures must be taught and practiced! Cheers from Bensley!

  6. My team uses tickets for encouraging good choices. At the end of the week we have a drawing for extra privileges like lunch in the classroom with buddies or chewing gum for they day. At the end of the month, we have a drawing for a gift card to purchase books to encourage the love of reading.
    ~Amanda Kehoe, Greenfield Elementary School

  7. Alycia Allen says:

    One of the procedures that we use to get students’ attention during stations and group work is “Give Me Five”. I raise my hand and the students raise their hands as I ask them to give me five. Another procedure is to ask them to clap if they can hear my “inside voice”.
    ~Gates ES #gatesrocks

  8. Jacob Mertz says:

    One procedure that I feel is important for my 5th Graders is getting chairs set up for class. I don’t have any time in between my 2nd & 5th Grade classes to do it for them. I’ve created a Google Presentation of a VIP (Visual Instruction Plan…am currently taking the Tools for Teaching class at JRHS) of how to get chairs set up efficiently. The VIP has bite-size directions with pictures, so there should be very little room for confusion. They’ll still need more practice, but I can tell it’s ultimately going to save us lots of time this school year. –Harrowgate

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