Creating and Improving Class Rules and Procedures with Students

A classroom culture cannot be student-centered if students do not have a voice in designing and improving it
73 teachers like this strategy

About This Strategy

This strategy supports teachers to build a process to gradually give more voice to students throughout the year in designing class rules and procedures, or in improving them. Involving students in this process can be transformational;  it can make students more invested in their learning environment and path, it can help them realize that they have a voice to provide feedback and offer constructive ideas, and it can help students see that their teacher is willing to listen to their suggestions and implement them.

This strategy can support students at any grade level and in any content area. It provides teachers with a gradual process and a system of checks and balance that can help them feel more comfortable stretching themselves toward a more student centered approach to classroom culture.

Implementation Steps

60 minutes
  1. Start by considering the idea of involving your students in a beginning of the year activity designed to give them some ownership in the creation of classroom rules with you. Continue to think ahead of time about key rules for you and the values that support them, but create a space for your students to contribute to this reflection with you. This blog post will help you understand the impact it can have on your students and it will give you three concrete classroom activities you can use to structure this important conversation.
  2. Create a visual representation of this set of agreed upon rules and norms, and introduce them to the class the day after the activity. This will help you and them have a foundation to refer back to when it comes to the key rules of our learning environment. Use this opportunity to connect these rules back to your vision for success in this classroom. It will help grounding them in a bigger purpose.
  3. Involve your students also in the design of a consequence ladder. If the idea of involving them with negative consequences feels a bit scary, start by having them brainstorm ideas of what positive consequences could be when the class or individuals reach academic and intrapersonal goals. Students love to provide input there and they will help you come up with a list aligned to their true interests and often cheaper than the one you would have come up with. In case you want to preview a few ideas ahead of hearing theirs, the list  of PBIS rewards included in the resource section below can help.
  4. Continuously refer to the expectations met, or to the rules broken as “our learning environment rules”, as opposed to “Mr. or Ms. X” rules. This semantic difference is essential to continuously reinforce in your students the message that we design these rules together with a vision in mind centered on their success.
  5. Hold regular face to face or digital class forums that allow you to celebrate your students progress, address areas of growth but also open the floor to student feedback aimed at improving the quality of the common learning environment. In the video titled Class Forum in the resource section, Master Teacher Jeff Astor shares how he holds a face to face class forum with his high schoolers every week. If the idea of giving and receiving feedback in this format feels a bit scary at first to you and your students, it is totally possible to give students an anonymous Google Form survey or to have an anonymous Class Padlet.
  6. Follow through by showing your students you read their feedback and you took into account their ideas. The first time you will add a rule or modify a procedure based on your students feedback, you will send the signal to your students that you have the same growth mindset you are trying to build in them. Don’t feel however like you have to incorporate all of their feedback, they would probably feel unsettled by this idea. Feel free to push back ideas but try to always bring it back to the vision for learning and their big goals.
  7. Repeat this process every time you introduce a new type of activities or a new structure (like a station rotation or a group project), involve your students in the creation of this new set of expectations and procedures. In the video included in the resource section below, BetterLesson Instructional Coach Romain Bertrand leads a group of students in a discussion aimed at creating a common set of expectations for blended learning activities.
  8. Repeat this feedback and improvement cycle throughout the year. Support this effort by establishing also a system of classroom jobs aligned with the specific needs of your learning environment. To implement such a system meaningfully, check out our Classroom Job strategy in this same domain.

Special Education Modification

For students with disabilities that impact their ability to meet classroom expectations, it is particularly important to ensure that a) all IEP accommodations are in place and b) that student growth towards their IEP goals is recognized with positive reinforcement.

For students who struggle with transitions or procedures, providing visual references with reminders of what to do can help them navigate difficult moments. For example, you might add a "What to have on your desk at the start of class" anchor chart or a "What to do when you’re stuck" anchor chart. Or consider exploring the "Y Chart" strategy in the BetterLesson lab to teach students to focus on what their actions or the tasks they are engaging in should look like and sound like. 

EL Modification

For students who are learning English, use images as cues for your written class procedure reference materials. For example, include a picture of a pencil next to instructions about what writing utensil students need, or include an image to represent the meaning of a key vocabulary term.

Coach Tip

Romain Bertrand
BetterLesson Instructional Coach

Consider your level of readiness and comfort with classroom management to determine if you are ready to start with this on day one. If you don’t feel ready yet, it is better to delay the start of this process a bit. It could the first time you do a certain type of activities later in the Fall, or at the beginning of the 2nd semester.

To learn more about empowering students to design and improve classroom culture, explore the Classroom Management Reconsidered strategy in the BetterLesson Lab.

Tech Tools

Google Form

  • GoogleForms is a tool that helps teachers generate online surveys and quizzes.

  • This tool supports this strategy because teachers can use it to create one generic form and send it regularly to students for feedback. This tool can preserve students' anonymity when giving feedback. It also organizes the data into a spreadsheet that will save teachers time.

Padlet

  • Padlet supports teachers to create a digital poster board where all students can share ideas in the form of text, pictures, or videos.

  • This tool supports this strategy because teachers can use to to create one generic anonymous feedback bulletin board for the development or improvement of class rules or procedures. It is different from Google Forms as it allows the whole class to see all suggestions.

Related Lessons

  • Explore the "8 Systems - Blogs" lesson by 7th Grade Science BetterLesson Master Teacher Mariana Garcia Serrato included in the resources below to see how she uses a spreadsheet as a scoreboard to keep track of points and highlight students as they work on the team project.
  • Explore the "Classcraft" resource by 9th grade Science BetterLesson Blended Master Teacher Jessica Anderson to see how she uses Classcraft, a team-based, role-play gamification tool, for classroom management.
  • Explore the "Culture Building with the Math Practice Standards" lesson by 11th grade Algebra BetterLesson Master Teacher Jarod Hammel to see how he uses riddles, funny interviews, mission statements, and slogans to shape the classroom culture.
  • Explore the "Implementing Classroom Rules and Procedures" lesson by 7th grade ELA BetterLesson Master Teacher Kristal Doolin to see how she asks students to connect the Robert Frost quote, "Good fences make good neighbors," to class procedures. 
  • Explore the "Becoming a Community of Learners" lesson by 6th grade ELA BetterLesson Master Teacher Sue Andrews to see how her students develop collaborative skills by sharing ideas that lead to success within a community of learners.
  • Explore the "Rules in the Classroom" lesson by Kindergarten BetterLesson Master teacher Joanne Clapp to see how she has students brainstorm rules for the classroom.