How many times in a day do you shout, ‘Students, please pay attention.’ or “Don’t make any noise!” on an activity day? If the answers to the aforementioned questions are ‘several times’ or something similar, it is advisable to lay down ground rules for the activities to ensure their smooth conduct. These class room rules act as the first line of defense against misbehavior in the class. They also ensure mutual respect between teachers and students and establish an appropriate atmosphere for learning. The school curriculum comprises a structure of the learning outcomes, but the class rules form the structure for the effective execution of that curriculum. According to the Pamela Buckley and James Cooper, University of Houston, rules affect not only students’ involvement in lessons and activities but also the interpersonal relationships between the students and teachers in the classroom.
Therefore, the rules should be simple and clear for the students to comprehend. Moreover, the rules should be well-defined so that students know the scope of the rules clearly. They should also be enforceable (e.g., “Have self-respect” can neither be easily enforced in class nor does it have much to do with classroom activities). In addition, having them displayed in the class serves as a gentle reminder of appropriate behavior to the students during all classroom activities.
What are the rules for a successful classroom?
The rules may vary from class to class depending upon various factors, such as the class strength, the age group, the potential of students and their I.Q. level. The following general rules help any class form a routine and maintain discipline
1.Politeness towards others:
Most educational institutions focus on the development of the 21st-century skills from an early age, one of which is communication. Students need to learn how to communicate in a polite manner to maintain a calm atmosphere in the class, even during activities such as discussions, debates, and group projects.
Raise your hand, keep your voice down. Sometimes, in a class, students are eager to ask or answer questions and start shouting or making noise. Therefore, it is important to inculcate the habit of raising hands to instill politeness in a student and prevent interruptions between the lecture. It is equally important for students to lower down their voice while working on a project, or when the teacher is absent so that other classes are not disturbed.
2. Punctuality is the golden rule:
Punctuality is an important quality that needs to be instilled in students because classroom activities need to be conducted within a specific time. If the students are not punctual, they will not be able to submit their assignments on time, thereby delaying the completion of the syllabus. Teachers should, therefore, set a time limit for students to settle down at the beginning of the class, while they can utilize that time to prepare for their lesson. This will ensure some respite to the students after the previous class and no unnecessary interruptions during the rest of the class.
3. Keeping the classroom tidy:
It is important to have a clean environment for learning. So, impress it upon your students to keep their classrooms clean. A study conducted by the Brigham Young University in 2008 showed that lack of cleanliness has a negative impact on the physical health of the students, and becomes a hindrance to their learning ability as well.
Therefore, ensure that the students don’t eat their lunch in the classroom and that they dispose of all plastic wrappers or pencil waste in the dustbin kept in the classroom. Make sure that the blackboard (or green board or whiteboard) is clean before the beginning of every class. Also, discourage the students from writing on wooden desks or wasting classroom resources such as chalk or marker ink.
4. Preparations for classes:
Inculcate the habit of pre-preparation for a lesson in your students. Let them know what you will be teaching them in the next class, and what preparatory activities they can do for the upcoming lesson. It might be as simple as reading the chapter in advance, but it will help them in understanding the lesson better.
The model of a flipped classroom learning is increasingly becoming popular among teachers in the higher grades, where students are introduced to learning materials before the class and they deepen their understanding via discussion with peers and problem-solving activities facilitated by teachers. This approach to teaching is recommended for a better understanding of difficult concepts and motivates student participation in the class.
5. Engaging students’ attention:
Children are more prone to distractions than adults, and hence, it is difficult to keep them engaged throughout the period. Therefore, keep asking them relevant questions in between the lessons to keep them engaged. Try to integrate one small but interesting activity as a part of the lesson so that the students do not feel bored. In the case of group projects, make sure their attention is focused on their projects.
The teachers may even use activity kits for hands-on-learning so that the students get a better idea of difficult concepts in a cost-effective way. NextLab provided by Next Education minimizes the abstractness of concepts and motivates students towards learning English, Maths, Science, and Robotics with the help of integrated activity kits.
6. Encouraging students to follow your directions effectively:
One of the most important ways to ensure that classroom activities run smoothly is to encourage the students to follow your instructions properly and promptly. For doing so, the teachers should provide direct and specific instructions to the students to avoid any confusion. Moreover, the instructions should be age-appropriate.
Give one instruction at a time because many students in the class will not be able to remember all of them at the time of execution. Also, give them time to process the information and seek clarification in case they do not understand something. This is especially helpful when the students are doing hands-on-learning activities. In such cases, the teachers should write down the directions on the blackboard.
7. Reminding them to bring their own materials:
The teachers should regularly remind the students to bring their own materials for the lesson/activity to prevent them from developing the habit of borrowing materials all the time. If a student is unable to procure the materials due to financial problems, you must talk to the Principal about it. Make sure to provide the materials required for the activities that are not easily available in the market.
8. Collaboration for working together and helping others:
Collaborative learning, an important 21st-century skill, not only helps students in deepening their understanding of concepts, but also instills real-life skills such as higher-level thinking skills, oral communication, self-management and leadership skills in them.
Some collaborative learning activities include discussions, debates, think-or-write-in-pairs activities, case studies and lab assignments, which will help the students learn the real-life skills. The teacher should monitor how effectively the students can handle group projects, especially when there is a disagreement about the execution of the project.
9. Keeping all classroom electronic-equipment safe:
If the class uses gadgets such as multi-touch whiteboards and projectors, ensure that the students never use them without the supervision of a teacher. The students should also be discouraged to play inside the class so that they don’t accidentally break any equipment.
Students should learn to take care of their own devices such as tablets, which are specially programmed for educational purposes, and the best way to raise awareness is to organize campaigns as part of the school culture.
10. Above all, working hard and having fun!
As the old saying goes, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. Thus, the teacher should also ensure that the students have a balanced routine of work and fun.
Additional Note— Use the Learning Management Systems for daily updates (for schools which use LMS): Manage the daily affairs of the classroom digitally, and make the students aware of its functioning. Using learning management systems can save a lot of time in assigning and collecting homework and also maintaining a record about the day’s agenda. This can enable personalized learning possible through advanced teaching aids and teacher-student-progress tracking.
Next Education eases collaboration between teachers and students through its LMS, which is a part of the NextLearningPlatform (NLP). It enables students to submit their work online, access their books in the digital classroom and have one-on-one tutorial sessions with experts for a deep understanding of the lessons.
The teacher as the guardian of class rules
It is the duty of the teacher to implement the class rules effectively, which can be taken care of by the monitor when the teacher is on leave. In case of deliberate rule-breaking, the teacher can provide a warning, perhaps once or twice. If it continues, the student can be told to do some extra activity, which would aid them in the long run. Avoid subjecting a student to rewriting lines as a form of punishment as it wastes time. Even if you want to assign a writing exercise, make sure that it comprises something constructive, such as a poem or a part of a lesson that they are required to memorize.
However, if the misbehavior continues, collaborate with the parents/guardians to resolve the issue. Parents also need to be aware of the classroom environment of their children, which can be communicated to them via tools such as newsletters, social media posts and open-house days. If that does not work, take the help of the dean or the principal, and make sure that the matter is dealt with in a fair manner. The student may have some psychological reasons for the ongoing misdemeanor, and thus, such a child needs to be handled carefully, or the efforts of disciplining the child might backfire.
Important Note: It is imperative that the rules are age-appropriate. For primary and pre-primary levels, visuals along with the rules help the students remember better. Moreover, short and crisp phrases, such as ‘Helping Hands’, ‘Listening Ears’ and ‘Quiet Voices’ are easier for a student to remember. For higher grades, the rules should be more detailed and focused towards academic achievement. There can be subject-specific rules as in for science or computer labs.
To conclude, remember the difference between establishing control over your classroom and trying to control your students. The class rules are required to create a coherent classroom procedure and bring forth learning outcomes and not to make students comply with your wishes. This is why it is good to let students provide you with feedback about the functioning of the class.them. Moreover, ensure that the students are happy with the rules in place and that the rules are flexible enough to cater to all kinds of students.