Saturday, 7 January 2017

Setting Up Classroom Rules and Expectations

Setting up classroom rules and expectations is an essential part of everyone's 'Back to School' routine. A classroom environment with clear expectations will help your year run smoothly and save you a lot of headaches!

For the past two years, I have set up my expectations in an explicit way which teaches students the expected behaviours for each. I love this system because I find it's very easy to slip into the trap of throwing phrases around such as 'Please work safely', but do students really know what that means? Unless we teach students how they can demonstrate this behaviour, then we can't expect a change or expect them to demonstrate it.

Here are 3 tips for setting up your classroom expectations;

1. Positively Worded Expectations
Expectations are set up in a positive way in an affirmation format. Positively worded phrases help establish and maintain a positive classroom environment. Rule reminders are easy; "Remember, in our class we listen to each other". I have these hung up on my 'Super Students Wall' for easy reference.

Find this here

2. Explicit Teaching - Teach expected behaviours
For each expectation, I made up a social story, which explicitly explained the ways in which students can demonstrate these expectations. Here's an example from 'We listen to each other'.

Find this here.
Students are given examples of what they need to be doing in order to be listening; they need to wait until someone has finished speaking, look at the person, keep their body still and think about what is being said. While we might think these are basic skills that they should already come to school with, we cannot assume that this is true. Each student is different and comes to school with different experiences. Teach what you want to see!

Here are some examples from the other expectations;

Find the bundle, here.

When introducing these, I focus on one expectation a day. It becomes our behaviour goal and I remind students that I am looking for students who can do it. When I see students demonstrating the behaviour, I give specific feedback e.g. "I like the way you are moving safely by walking to the floor" or "I like the way you are taking turns by giving the toy to _____". Children love praise/acknowledgment and you'll find that other students will start doing the same in order to receive the praise too.

3. Ownership
Giving students ownership is important too. An activity which builds ownership is student booklets.
Students can colour and decorate to make the booklet their own. They can be kept in chair bags, tote trays or book boxes for when they need to be referred back to. Alternatively, they can be taken home to be read and discussed with parents.

I like using these books during reflection time. Ask students "What do you need to be doing?" "What can you do next time?".

These three things should help ensure your classroom runs smoothly. Remember, expectations shouldn't just be a start of the year thing. They should be referred to as often as the need arises. If you want to see something, teach it!

I hope this post has inspired you in setting up your classroom expectations.

If you are interested in the bundle, you can find it here. It includes 7 expectation booklets and 7 student booklets.


  1. Classroom rules are so important! This is such a great post, I love your rules posters! :)

    Teaching Autism

  2. I love how you make so many of the rules "we do", not "we don't". Making the focus on how to behave positively. Thank you.

    1. Yes, I think it makes so much more of a difference when things are worded positively!

  3. Love the positively worded expectations!