Creating Classroom Guidelines

Creating Classroom Guidelines with your students allows them to participate in ownership of the classroom itself and the manner in which everyone is expected to treat each other and the space. Once established with full buy-in from the students, future difficulties with behavior will be minimized, and when they do occur, they will be more easily dealt with because there is a foundational, agreed upon understanding among the students that you can reference.

Utilizing the Circle format to establish classroom guidelines with your class is an excellent way to equalize and include all voices. If you are not comfortable leading your class in Circle, please make certain that in whatever manner your class has this discussion, you include every voice.

Establishing Classroom Guidelines

Decide on the approach you would like to use:

“My Job – Your Job”

  1. Everyone shares, including the teacher, what they believe the job of the student is in order for the class to be able to feel safe and so everyone can do good work. Do as many rounds as needed, and write down everything that is offered on a flip chart or board.
  2. Everyone shares, including the teacher, what they believe the job of the teacher is so that everyone can feel safe, that they belong, and can do good work.
  3. On another day, go back over the Students’ list. Discuss which guidelines should be grouped together (i.e. Be kind, Be nice, Be caring could fold into Be Kind.) Discuss what the students feel this looks like in action. “When someone is being kind to you, what are they doing?” Work at the list until you have a concise, doable list of guidelines for the students that they all agree to. As the teacher you also contribute to the list.
  4. Do the same for the Teacher’s Job List. These now are the Classroom Guidelines and should be posted and referenced at least once a week, if not daily as part of check-in, as well as when problems arise.

From Scratch

  1. Ask what each student (and include yourself) needs from the rest of the group in order to feel safe and to be able to learn and do good work.
    • How do they need others to behave and to treat them?
    • What are they willing to commit to in how they behave in class and toward everyone else?
    • As you go around the Circle or the room, write all contributions on a flip chart. As in My Job Your Job, paraphrase where helpful, and check a guideline repeated by another student. This way if 10 students say “Respecting each other” is important, and you have 10 checkmarks, the class can see just how important this is to everyone.
  2. Spend time as able (can be subsequent days) to explore more deeply what each of the guidelines looks like in action. When someone is treating you with respect, what are they doing? This question might elicit a variety of answers – they’re being nice to me; they listen to me; they don’t tease me… The following questions will take them deeper into understanding their guidelines and into ownership. These questions could be posed 1 per day over time.
    • Do these guidelines apply only in the classroom, or everywhere in school?
    • How about outside of school?
    • How are we doing?
    • Which of our guidelines are you going to commit to being mindful of today?
    • Which of our guidelines do we need to work on? (Follow with further questions applicable to where they are struggling.)
    • I’ve noticed that many of you are really working hard on _. How do you think this is effecting our classroom time together?
  3. And when a student isn’t honoring the guidelines, you can ask him/her, “
    • Could you look at the guidelines we agreed to and tell me where you’re having a hard time right now? What do you need to get back on track and practice ?”
    • Or maybe several students or the class as a whole are not honoring the guidelines or one of them. You can Circle up or call for a discussion and say, “Wow, I think we’ve forgotten about honoring each other by honoring our guidelines! Let’s take a few minutes to breathe… and then I’m going to pass around this Talking Piece.
      • What do you need right now?
      • Which of our Guidelines will you honor for the rest of class?
    • Or whatever question you deem will help the situation…