Ministry of Education, Guyana

Rules and Routines in the Classroom

Being a model for what we expect is at times inconvenient and exhausting, but it comes with the job.

Follow Through

Rules have consequences, and routines have reminders. What worked for me was far fewer rules and many, many more routines and procedures.

Once you make a rule, you have to stick with it. Students will expect a warning, a second warning, and then a consequence. A rule cannot be treated like a routine ever. If being on time is a classroom rule, for example, when a student walks in 22 seconds late, we can’t say, “I reminded you yesterday about being tardy” we have to say, “This is a warning and a consequence will follow.” And then, a consequence has to follow if they walk in two seconds late two days later.

All the other students are watching and expecting the follow through. If we just sigh, shake our head, and let it slide, students will not see being on time as a rule. We need to be selective when choosing that small handful of rules because those will need to be enforced.

Choosing Routines to Emphasize

There will be procedures and routines that will take several seconds to go over and others that are more in-depth. The ones that take extra effort to explain and model are often those that are border on being rules, like getting out of your seat.

You’ll want to address all scenarios for getting out of one’s seat: sharpening a pencil, getting supplies or a tissue, turning in work, etc. I always told students, “If you’re up, you are on a mission,” which sets it up nicely: If you see a student wandering a bit or stopping at a classmate’s desk for an off-topic chat, ask, “What’s your mission?” This serves as a gentle reminder. The key word here is reminder this kind of situation doesn’t need a consequence.

There isn’t really a limit to how many routines and procedures you have, but you’ll need to make sure each one is clear to every learner in your room.


Be it a rule or a routine, kids have to know what it looks like, with examples, on day one. If a rule is a general, all-encompassing one like “be respectful to all,” you’ll have to give numerous examples of what that looks like and what it doesn’t look like.

Have the class brainstorm examples and add a few yourself. Some of the things we expect students to bring up: no name-calling or putdowns, and hands to yourselves. However, students always brainstorm things beyond what we can imagine, so it’s important that they’re part of this process. It gives a keener understanding of the rules for the class collectively.

Every time we decide to involve students in the decision-making or discovery process in the classroom, it takes considerably longer. We’re often tempted to just give them the information. But exploring examples of what the rules and routines look like together gives students ownership around these agreements, which will pay off the entire school year.

The Ultimate Goal

Of course, the ultimate goal of teaching is not enforcing rules and routines but teaching effectively. And when teachers are together, we spend most of our time talking not about classroom management, but about effective teaching. When we’re effective, the majority of kids are learning and getting what they need, goals and objectives are achieved, and we teachers feel an incredible sense of accomplishment.


Read 4701 times Last modified on Thursday, 21 September 2017 10:16
You are here: Home Teachers Tips for Teaching Rules and Routines in the Classroom