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Set Up Rules and Routines 

Give Yourself More Time To Teach

Rules and routines keep your class running smoothly so that you have more time for teaching academics. Here are some ideas for establishing, using, and reinforcing rules and routines.


Rules are just like other instructional activities. They have to be taught, reviewed, and reinforced if they are to be remembered. As we start the year, the teaching of rules and routines is the first activity we should accomplish. Once this has been done, we can begin to teach and will teach more by the end of the year than if we had simply handed out books and started instruction.

Introduce each rule and discuss the variety of behaviors that the rule might include. Reinforce students who are following the rules. Thank them for their consideration. At the elementary level, reinforcement can be done aloud. Upper grade, middle, and high school students can be thanked quietly and privately.

Rules should be both written and taught to students at the beginning of the year. Guidelines for establishing rules are:

  • Involve the class in making the rules.
  • Keep the rules short and easy to understand.
  • Phrase the rules in a positive way.
  • Remind the class of the rules at times other than when someone has misbehaved.
  • Make different rules for different kinds of activities.
  • Key children in to when different rules apply.
  • Post the rules and review them periodically.
  • If a rule isn't working, change it.


Sample Rules

Elementary School

  • Be polite.
  • Let others work.
  • Work quietly.

Middle School

  • Enter class quietly.
  • Raise hands to talk.
  • Respect the rights of others.

High School

  • Enter class quietly.
  • Raise hands to talk.
  • Respect others' rights to speak.


Routines refer to specific behaviors and activities that are taught in order to provide smooth, uninterrupted class operation.

Routines, carefully taught, can save large amounts of time during the year. When students know exactly what is expected of them in a variety of situations, the time saved can be spent teaching rather than organizing or disciplining.

Develop, teach, and enforce a specific routine for these basic situations:

  • Passing papers
  • Leaving to go to the restroom
  • Sharpening pencils
  • Heading of papers
  • Getting supplies and books
  • Working in small groups
  • Dismissing the class
  • When assignments are complete
  • Putting away materials
  • Safety routines
  • Taking attendance

Administrative Procedures

What are students to do while roll, lunch count, and administrivia are completed?

What are the procedures for students who are tardy, have excuses, or leave early?

What are the routines for hall and playground behaviors, e.g., lining up, walking in the halls, passing time, lockers, lunchroom, restrooms?

What are the school or district procedures that must be followed?


Adapted from National Education Association's "I Can Do It" Classroom Management training module, developed by California Teachers Association. For more information about this program, contact NEA Teacher Quality at (202) 822-7333.

Copyright © 1999 by the California Teachers Association. Republished with permission



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