Finding out what works and what doesn’t work at the beginning of the school year is always a tricky proposition. Each class is so different and each student brings something new to the table that you may not have experienced before. One of the keys to creating a successful year is establishing a strong set of classroom rules right from the start. As guest blogger Jordon Furnell explains, that time is not only crucial for setting the year up, but for establishing that strong sense of classroom community. Find out how she starts the year off right.
Establishing Classroom Rules
by Jordon Furnell, Guest Blogger
The first few weeks of school are my absolute favorite part of the year. Not only am I getting to know my new students, but the entire class is working toward establishing routines, building a classroom community, and preparing for another year of fun and excitement in 5th grade.
As teachers, we have been instructed that the first few days and weeks are so vitally important for the entire school year. Talk about pressure! We’re welcoming our new batch of students, getting them accustomed to the functions of our classroom, and establishing a positive classroom climate to name a few. Did I mention establishing rules and norms? Oh yes, add that to the growing list.
One important aspect of classroom management is establishing a classroom set of rules or norms. I am a firm believer that this should be done collectively. If your entire class is establishing the rules together, then students will feel ownership and hold one another accountable. The positive results of creating rules are endless. I’m going to share with you two different ways to establish classroom rules with your students.
In my first year of teaching, I was in a second grade classroom. In our first week of school, it was time to crank out a few classroom expectations. I brought my class to the carpet and we read the story, Officer Buckle & Gloria written by Peggy Rathmann. This picture book is a charming story of a police officer who visits a school to enforce safety and rules with his pet dog Gloria. It’s a great introduction to the purpose of rules for a school and how important they can be for all students. After reading the story, I began a brainstorming session with my students.
On the white board, we made a list of rules we felt were necessary in our classroom. Of course, the popular book inspired a few rules during our brainstorming. Such as: never stand on a chair and hang posters, never bring your dog to school, never yell in school, and so on. As you can see, the book sparked great ideas for rules, but my students weren’t quite grasping necessary rules for our classroom. With a little prompting from me, we began to think of practical norms for our classroom and eventually we had a code to live by for the year. Our rules consisted of being respectful to one another, turning our brains on every morning, using materials safely, and having a positive attitude.
Fast forward to August 2011, I began my second year of teaching in a 5th grade classroom. I still wanted to utilize the idea of collaborating on our classroom rules, although I was hesitant to use Officer Buckle for fear that students had heard it several times already. Thanks to a classmate from college, I was introduced to the story, The Kingdom with No Rules, No Laws, and No King by Norman Stiles. A quick Google search will lead you to a copy of this story for your classroom files. The story begins like this,
“Once upon a time a young boy named Benjamin lived in a kingdom that had no rules and no laws of any kind.
It also had no king…but let’s not get into that now.
It did have: majestic mountain ranges, roaring rivers, really cool castles, cutesy cottages, beautiful birds and adorable furry animals, great weather, miles of beaches, perfect waves, all kinds of excellent trees great for climbing, and a more than adequate number of benches for people to sit on…”
Our young boy Benjamin experiences life in this kingdom without any rules and soon begins helping his community establish rules for baseball, eating ice cream, singing cowboys, and so on. At the conclusion of the story, we followed the same routine as my second graders; together we brainstormed a list of rules for our school year.
It was a powerful moment in the beginning stages of building our classroom community. My students were listening to one another’s ideas and collaborating with one another to develop our classroom rules. Eventually, we identified three rules that our classroom would abide by. Each individual was given a copy of our “Kingdom Rules” and were asked to sign to ensure accountability and ownership. Later in the year, we revisited our classroom rules as a constant reminder of what we had established from day one.
About the Author
Jordon Furnell is a 5th grade teacher in Lake Ozark, Missouri. She loves taking adventures and spending time with her family and friends. When not in the classroom, Jordon enjoys experimenting with baking and crafting. Her blog: www.messyjofu.blogspot.com chronicles her successes and not so successful moments in life.