Revisiting Classroom Rules

by Kristin Holst, M.Ed.

The rosy glow that usually surrounds the first month of school is slowly fading. By this time of year, teachers have diligently displayed, taught, and reviewed their classroom rules. However, with upcoming holiday breaks and other departures from the daily routine, a refresher course on behavior expectations may be needed to keep everybody on track. The following describes a creative and entertaining strategy that helps clarify for students what appropriate behavior looks and sounds like.

A general education teacher in an inclusive setting was faced with a dilemma last year. His three classroom rules were: Be respectful to teachers; Be respectful to peers; and Be respectful to school property. While many teachers experience success employing similar versions of these basic rules, this teacher quickly found that, to his group of students, the term "respectful" seemed to be written in an obscure dialect that they did not seem to be able to agree upon. Luckily, his co-teacher was able to help.

The co-teacher employed an innovative strategy that involved having all students demonstrate correct and incorrect ways of interpreting the rules. She wrote several scripts depicting appropriate and inappropriate behaviors. Over the course of a few days, the co-teacher digitally recorded various groups of students acting out these scripts in different locations in the building. These brief vignettes were then embedded into a lesson designed to teach appropriate behavior in various contexts.

The special education co-teacher used PowerPoint to review examples and non-examples of following the classroom rules. The class discussed what correct and incorrect implementation of the rules would look and sound like, and then recorded these characteristics on a T-chart (Johnson, Johnson, & Holubec, 1998). See example below for an illustration of a T-chart that depicts the information presented in this article. After all rules had been thoroughly examined, she then played the video clips with the children recorded earlier and asked them to identify which behaviors were acceptable and which were not. The students had to use the characteristics generated in the T-chart as justifications for their judgment.

Respectful Behavior
Looks like...
Sounds like...

Raising your hand

Waiting until the teachers call on you

Having eye contact with teacher

Listening to others

Allowing others to talk

Saying "excuse me"

Using a nice voice

Demonstrating a pleasant attitude

It is vitally important that classroom rules be reviewed throughout the school year to remind students of behavioral expectations. This behavioral strategy served as a powerful teaching tool through which the co-teachers were able to remind the class that they knew what respect meant; they had either modeled or identified the appropriate behaviors. The strategy also provided an entertaining, concrete refresher lesson that, once finished, could be used throughout the school year.

Acknowledgments: A special thank you to Trish Magner and Steven Holst from Bethel Manor Elementary School, York County Public Schools, Virginia.


Johnson, D., Johnson, R., & Holubec, E. (1998). Cooperation in the classroom. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Date: November/December 2004