There always seems to be an air of anticipation walking into a new classroom on the first day of school. The atmosphere builds as the eager teacher motions students into the room, students nervously approach their new environment, and parents anxiously wave their last goodbyes before the door closes… and then what?
With 20 or so little humans staring attentively at the front of the class, the floor is yours! This is the moment to make a positive first impression, and more importantly, set the stage for the formation of a constructive classroom community. So which preschool classroom rules should you introduce to your students, and how should you approach them?
Here are a few ideas and considerations to get you started… but if you want to cut to the chase, below you can find printable rules for your use!
How to Create Classroom Rules
As you prepare your lesson plan, an important factor to decide is what type of rules you would like to share with your students and how you should communicate them. Establishing these rules will help build the foundation for a strong classroom community and will support pro-social behaviors as children begin to have a more active role in the classroom and are held accountable for their actions. You’ll want to keep your rules simple, use positive phrasing, and incorporate visuals as much as possible!
Create a List
Begin by creating a list of rules that you feel are important for your students to follow. As the teacher, you set the tone and lay the foundation for the way rules should be addressed. This is your call – make it count. From your initial list, select the most important rules that you would like the children to focus on and keep them as a reference when you involve the students.
Keep It Simple
Rules should be short and easy to comprehend. Keep them to a minimum by sticking to no more than 4-5 “golden” rules. By making them straightforward, you can ensure that you are communicating effectively to your students, as opposed to using complex language that can confuse your preschoolers.
Use Positive Phrasing
As the saying goes, “when you can’t find the sunshine, be the sunshine.” Apply this to your rules, and sprinkle in the sunshine! By utilizing positive phrasing in your classroom rules, your students will be less likely to view the rules in a negative light. Instead of using phrases such as “Don’t Run” or “No Yelling,” take the approach of “Walking Feet” and “Quiet Voices.” Using this positive wording allows your students to more easily associate what they should be doing vs. what they shouldn’t be doing.
Pictures are worth a thousand words. Visuals will provide students the cues needed to associate rules with certain actions. Be sure to have a corresponding visual for each rule, as that will help improve recall among students.
Here are some of our favorite rules that you can share with your classroom:
- Quiet Voices
- Looking Eyes
- Walking Feet
- Listening Ears
- Helping Hands
- Clean Classroom
- Safe Play
How to Explain and Introduce Rules into the Classroom
Once you have a grasp on the type of approach and visuals you would like to use, involve the students! Children are more likely to adhere to the rules if they feel like they contributed to their creation. They will have an enhanced sense of ownership and responsibility – helping nurture and build the classroom community as they all actively participate together in the rules’ creation.
Get Students Involved
As your first lesson, it’s time to co-create the classroom rules with your preschoolers. Keep your list of ideal rules handy and steer the students in the right direction. Participation is key! The more the children participate, the more likely they will be to stick to the rules. This activity should also help students break the ice in their new environment, and you’ll likely catch a glimpse into your new students’ personalities!
Explain Each Rule
Once you have decided on a set list of rules as a group, reinforce them by walking through each rule individually. Explain why there is a need for that specific rule and provide examples. This enables children to understand exactly what they should or shouldn’t do so that they can begin to associate specific behaviors with each rule.
Display Your Classroom Rules
Upon finalizing your rules and corresponding visuals, display your masterpiece in the classroom! By having a constant visual presence, you can easily reference the rules in the future and reinforce your teachings on a daily basis.
How to Enforce Classroom Rules
As all teachers know, enforcing classroom rules is an ongoing effort. Children will misbehave and test boundaries, but by proactively including lessons around rules, you can emphasize them to your students and continue to foster a structured and safe classroom environment.
Read and discuss books with relatable characters such as Max, who breaks the rules in Where the Wild Things Are. As you’re reading together, encourage children to share their experiences with rules and consequences related to this subject. This will exemplify to your teachings and help students avoid similar situations.
Here are some of our favorite books to tackle the subject of rules:
Use Positive Reinforcement
Positivity should always be a key element in the classroom environment. When enforcing the rules, do so in a positive manner. When rules are broken, gently remind children of the classroom rules poster.
The goal is never to make a child feel bad about themselves, but instead to redirect their choices and undesirable behavior. Taking the extra one-on-one time with your student will go far in building their confidence and self-esteem and work towards preventing repeat offenses.
Printable Classroom Rules
Below you can find printable classroom rules templates for your use. Simply click on the photo below and it will open in a new window. Then select print in your browser settings.