Establishing Rules in the Classroom

Citation: Huitt, W. (1997). Establishing rules in the classroom. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved [date], from

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Selecting and teaching classroom rules should be an integral part of a classroom management program.

General Recommendations

  1. Select 4 or 5 rules that you will use to set guidelines and limits for behavior in your classroom.
  2. State the rules in terms of positive expectations of behavior you want to see. Be careful about stating rules in the form of "Don't."
  3. Think about specific examples of behavior that would demonstrate each rule.
  4. Post the rules in your classroom.
  5. Teach the rules just as you would academic content using the events of instruction discussed previously.

Sample Rules For The Elementary Level

  • Be polite and helpful.
  • Take care of your school.
  • Behave in the cafeteria.
  • Do not hit, shove or hurt others.
  • Keep the bathroom clean.

Sample Rules For The Secondary Level

  • Bring all needed materials to class.
  • Be in your seat and ready to work when the bell rings.
  • Obtain permission before speaking or leaving your seat.
  • Respect and be polite to all people.
  • Respect other people's property.

NOTE: Having rules also works in the home. Here are some rules that we used in our home that worked for us. These were printed and placed on the refrigerator for easy reference.

What I Can Do To Make Things Better

  • I will do what I am asked to do without an argument.
  • I will be kind and respectful to my parents and other family members.
  • I will ask permission and accept the decision without getting angry.
  • I will remain calm when I feel angry and talk about how I feel.

Establishing Consequences

Consequences are environmental stimuli that increase or decrease the probability that a behavior will occur again. We want to establish consequences that will either reinforce or redirect behavior.

Rewards and punishers should be selected that match the significance or meaningfulness of the exhibited action. The following examples were gleaned from materials developed in the RCLT Project at the University of Texas.

Level of Significance Reward Penalty
  • Smile
  • Compliment
  • Cheery note on assignment
  • Small amount of tokens traded for small reward
  • Eye contact
  • Have student state rule broken
  • Change seats
  • Isolation
  • Confiscation of forbidden objects or notes
  • Posting good work
  • Positive note to parents
  • Special privileges
  • Moderate amount of tokens traded for moderate reward
  • Staying after school
  • Loss of privileges
  • Call to parents
  • Isolation in special room
  • Field trips
  • Large amount of tokens traded for large reward
  • Trip to principal's office
  • Loss of special class event (e.g., field trip)

The most important aspect of delivering consequences is the consistency of delivery. Especially in terms of punishers, any inconsistency might actually increase rather than decrease the probability that the behavior will occur again.

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Dr. William G. (Bill) Huitt
Dept. of Psychology, Counseling & Guidance
Valdosta State University
Valdosta, GA 31698-0001

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