4 Positive Classroom Rules that Improve Student Behavior


One year during summer PD our Dean of Culture told us that rules are meant to keep students safe and save time; she was emphasizing the value of the school wide routines we were rolling out that school year. I had never heard rules described in that way before, and for me it was the simplest, most effective way to understand the value of school rules. That year when my class and I discussed rules and expectations I shared that same idea of rules saving time and keeping us safe. Throughout the year when my students needed a reminder we would do a call and response to remind us about the value of rules. As adults we know why students need rules but students must also understand the “why” behind them.

→ Download our PBIS playbook to learn how to enhance your PBIS program

Teachers should have a vision of the rules that they want to govern their classroom.  There are a few things to consider when you are creating rules for you classroom:

  • Keep the list short, about 3-5 rules.
  • Positively frame all rules. Focusing on the positive results of a behavior rather than the negative will set the tone in your classroom.
  • Make the rules general. Keep your rules broad enough to encompass a few ideas.
  • Create rules that are easy to remember.

Here is a list of 4 rules that can improve student behavior.

We are safe.

I often make this the first rule in my classroom because it is really the most important. While school is a place to learn the ultimate goal is for us to learn in a safe, calm environment. This broadly stated rule sets the tone for some specific issues that can come up in the classroom throughout the school year. The idea of being safe includes physical and emotional safety.

Although the rule is stated broadly it is a good idea to discuss specific examples of being safe and being unsafe both physically and emotionally. Some specific issues that this rule covers includes:

  • Hitting, pushing, fighting
  • Using class materials safely i.e chairs, scissors, manipulatives etc.
  • Following safety procedures i.e. fire drill, lockdowns
  • Bullying

We are respectful.

This rule discusses how students are expected to interact with each other, how students are expected to interact with the teacher, and how students are expected to interact with the classroom. Some specific issues that this rule covers includes:

  • Using kind words
  • Listening to other teachers and staff in the school
  • Listening to your peers
  • Having a respectful tone
  • Treating the classroom and school materials nicely
  • Respecting personal space and peoples personal requests

We follow directions the first time.

This rule can apply to almost anything that happens in the classroom. I like this rule because it emphasizes listening the first time a direction is given. This rule focuses on being responsive to a direction immediately. It is very useful when you are establishing routines and expectations and when giving directions for classroom assignments and activities. Some specific issues that this rule covers include:

  • Directions for any assignment or activity during class
  • Safety procedures
  • Class routines and transitions

We work hard and try our best.

This rule addresses student work and work ethic on assignments or any challenges, behavioral or academic, that the student might be having. Some specific issues that this rule covers includes:

  • Preparedness
  • Effort on classwork and homework
  • Work completion
  • Organization
  • Self management of behavior/ self reflection of action

To establish classroom rules consider role-playing rules; give students a chance to act out examples and non examples of each class rule. It is a fun activity and concrete way to review rules at the start of the school year. In addition to having classroom rules, social and emotional learning (SEL) can allow students to develop empathy and the social and emotional competencies of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. With positive class rules and SEL teachers can improve student behavior.

Here at Kickboard we have seen school culture transform because of effective implementations of PBIS. We also have the tools and resources to support your school team as they begin to implement PBIS as a way to promote positive school culture. Click here to learn more about how Kickboard can support PBIS in your school.