Did 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.