Classroom Expectations

Eleven Important Examples of Classroom Expectations and Rules

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What are Your Classroom Expectations and Rules?

View the video version of this blog post here.

Before we get to the 11 classroom expectations and rules, let’s chat a bit. How do you determine what will be your classroom expectations and rules?

Have you decided where do classroom expectations examples come from?

Do you Google them?

Talk to colleagues?

Ask your principal? 

I have always found that my best source for determining the best examples of classroom expectations was by asking my students, and every year I have the same set of classroom expectations.  How is that?

What are Classroom Expectations and Rules, and Why are Cassroom Expectations Important?

What are Classroom Expectations and Rules?

First let’s briefly touch upon the difference between classroom expectations vs rules.

Rules are what we tend to impose upon kids, and many kiddos work hard to run circles around us as we attempt to impose them and belabour the importance of classroom rules. 

Expectations are what we, the students and teacher, expect of each other to feel safe and content in the class.

When you start to understand that all students, whether they know it or not, want to feel safe, cared for, seen and accepted. the importance of setting expectations in the classroom.

The right classroom expectations and rules combined with respectful, gracious and effective teacher reinforcement is foundational to solid classroom management. So then, how to establish classroom expectations and rulesis the question. 

Why are Classroom Expectations Important?

When you simply ask the students “Why are expectations important in a classroom?”, (first insuring they understand the word expectation) they will come up with some great examples.  They will be able to explain the importance, and at the same time they will identify some expectations. 

“Don’t hit!”  “Don’t shout” “No running in the halls.” “Don’t interrupt.” Every.Single. Year.

This is because these are actions that most students hate when they are done to them.  They are often a little forgetful of their own participation of course.  

Aren’t we all?  

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All students are coming from different expectations at home, and classroom expectations provides them with a common set of expectations that provides stability for both the teacher and the student.

This discussion is an excellent opportunity to model the culture that I want to exist in the class. By responding to their negative statements (ie. don’t hit) with positive expectations (ie. keep hands to self) I am modelling positive language because I strongly believe in the power of positive language.

How Negative Language Changes the Focus.

Because positive affirmations go a long way in how I reinforce classroom expectations and rules, I want the students to see the power of positive language.

So I teach them.

I start by helping them to understand the power of negative language first, but first I want to make sure you understand the impact of negative language.

Try this activity for yourself to see why.

First set a timer for 30 seconds.  Now once I say go I want you to press “Start” and then try hard not to think about a purple elephant for the entire 30 seconds.

When your timer goes off, read the next paragraph. Go.

Were you successful?  If you were you are atypical. 

Research has shown that the more you try not to think of something you think about it. 

Actually, you try to spend the whole time saying to yourself, “Don’t think about a purple elephant.” which in fact has you thinking about a purple elephant the whole time. 

Or, you intentionally focus on your trip to Mexico last Christmas, and then you check in every once in awhile to make sure you aren’t thinking about a purple elephant.  

Negative language doesn’t work because it provides the wrong focus for the students.

They are focused on what they aren’t supposed to do, and what we focus on in life is what we do. 

Beside …. What do you want to do more … nag kids out of poor choices or teach them by reminding them what good choices look like?  

Neuroscientists have explored this topic, and the jury is in, we all need lots of repetition and practice to create automaticity in our behaviours. 

Your students are going to need reminders, so whether or not you will be reminding them is not the question.  How you are going to remind them is the question. 

I choose affirmations.

But I digress …😉

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Modelling positive language from the outset creates a safe environment for the students, builds their relationship with you, and then positively impacts the classroom community.

Involving Students in Choosing and Establishing Classroom Expectations and Rules.

Giving Students Input into Choice

As I am writing down some examples of classroom expectations I say things like, “I agree. I don’t want anyone to hit. How do we stop other people from hitting us?” I get all sorts of answers from, “Use your words.” to “Tell them to stop.”

“Hmm”, I ask, “how do we avoid getting hit the first time?” Then  I help them to understand that these things are choices, and we are going to focus on how to make good choices together, rather than focusing on bad choices after they have happened.  

I then model how it works. As I poll students for ideas. I get answers like “Don’t hit.”

 “Hmm I like that, but would you be okay if I change that to “Keep hands to self? If we all remember to keep hands to ourselves, then hopefully we will make the right choices and never have to tell someone else not to hit us.”

Oh yes, they all say.  They like it. 

Next we discuss “Don’t shout. “Hmmmm, what tone of voice should we use?” 

From this you will become aware of the language that they have already learned from prior classrooms which gives them consistency, familiarity and control. I have heard various terms such as quiet voice, inside voice, calm voice etc. Together you take a vote and choose which terminology you will use, and because they have suggested it and voted on it this is their idea.  

Their expectation. 

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Honouring the importance of their voice and ideas in the classroom from the very beginning sets a solid foundation for classroom community.

Creating Social Swareness as We Decide Upon Classroom Expectations and Rules.

We might have a bit of a discussion about running in the halls. Why is this an important rule? 

Often they are stumped because really they are just trying to move quickly and do the job they have been given to do. They have been told not to run before, but has anyone ever told them why? 

This is a teachable moment.  “Hmmm, have you ever been in a class when you or the teacher needed to close the door because students were being very noisy in the hallway?”

“You have?  Has that frustrated you or distracted you at all?” 

“Is that how we want to take care of our brothers and sisters, or our friends in other classes?”  


“So we need to be quiet in the hallway.  Which do you think is quieter in the hallway running or walking?”

“I agree, walking is quieter.  What about in  the classroom? Why don’t we want to run in the classroom?”

“You’re right, it is noisy if we are running here too”

“What if we are moving quickly? Is it easier to stay safe if there is something right in front of us if we are moving more slowly?”

“Should I write down ‘Walk inside the school?’ Excellent.” 

Now, you have created social awareness about how our actions impacted others. 

“Now, what was next, oh yes, don’t interrupt.  Hmmm … what does it mean to interrupt?

How do we show in the classroom that we are waiting for our turn to speak? So maybe we should make this choice “Raise our hand to speak.”  

And so it goes.

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We do need to actually teach our students to be aware of and considerate of each other. The first step is gently teaching them that their choices impact others.

Helping Students Create Classroom Expectations and Rules the Teacher Wants

If students don’t come up with things that you want on your list, you ask them questions that raise those expectations. 

“That list looks great! Let me just think of a few things that we will be doing in our class this year.”

“ We do have some fun games that I will be showing you later.  Are there any suggestions for when you are playing with games?”

And I gently guide the conversation to any other choices I think should be included.

Overall I prefer not to have too big a list, but here are examples of classroom expectations and rules that I make sure we have in some type of student terminology:

  • Sharing
  • Hands to self
  • Respectful – make certain they know what thoughtful and respectful mean.
  • Taking turns
  • Hands up to speak
  • Listening to others – this is different from hands up to speak; teach them the difference.
  • Sharing our ideas – this will be important for everyone – both the quiet and the chatty.
  • Inside voice
  • Walking in the school 
  • Do our job
  • Clean up your mess
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Once the expectations are established, then they become a “contract” between you rather than rules they have to follow.

Creating Student Acceptance of the Classroom Expectations and Rules

Students Who May Struggle with the Expectations.

Now that you have your classroom expectations and rules, and everyone has committed to them, take a poll. 

Are there any expectations that anyone disagrees with?  This is really, really important.

You may get hands up. Typically there are one or two cheeky kiddos, and just play it out through conversation.

This is your opportunity to role model that their input really is valuable to you. Have that discussion.  They are often just trying to be cheeky, sometimes they don’t understand a word, or they are afraid that they can’t stop themselves from blurting out.  

This is your opportunity to show patience, compassion, understanding, …  and authority with a firm hand. 

“I don’t want to share.” 

“That is fine, anything that belongs to you, you can use your words to tell your friends that they can’t touch …” “However, not sharing means that you can’t touch anything in the class, because that would involve sharing. Unless, you have a suggestion.”

Usually, by this point they have backed down because nothing in the class belongs to that child, and sharing is a two-way street.  Typically they are just being cheeky, and they will back down by this point. 

However, if this is a neuro atypical student, sharing may really be a problem.  In that case you will need guidance from parents and/or learning support, and you will create a system that works for your class.  

Students Who Want to Commit, but Lack Confidence

“I am not sure that I can remember to put my hand up.”  So, there are two things about this. 

The first one is that keeping our mouths shut and putting up our hands involves impulse control, which is an executive function, and it is brutally difficult for some students. 

However, the second thing about executive functions is that they are developed through interaction with our environment. 

Even those who struggle with their executive functions can grow in this area, but for some, it is a longer, much more frustrating and more painful journey than for others. 

If they have been diagnosed with ADHD, then supporting them through this does take more patience and tolerance, but ADHD is not a free ticket.

This is where neuroplasticity comes in.  I am not going to dig into that here, but, in short, it means rewiring our brains.  

S0 . . . you, the teacher, are the main part of the environment in the classroom.

If executive functions are developed through interactions with the environment, then interacting with you is a significant part of how that student will learn impulse control.  This is not as scary as it sounds.

Yet I digress again…  So now that you know that taking turns to speak will be brutally difficult for some students, how do you respond to them?  

With compassion!

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Students have multiple contexts in their lives, and each one has different expectations. Classroom anchor charts are strong visual supports that remove student stress as.

Enforcing Classroom Expectations and Rules

“I am so grateful you let me know that this will be hard for you, and we can work on it together.  There will be reminders, and as long as I can see that you are doing your best everything will be fine. (This keeps the child who really is struggling feeling safe.) 

Maybe this is a good time for the whole class to know that I expect everyone to do their best with following the classroom expectations and rules, and that will look different for everyone. This is important for them to know from the get-go.  

“However, I know your job is to be here to learn, and my job is to help you to do that.  If I see that you are not doing your best, you might like to know that it is okay.” 

“My job is to help you to do your best, and we just take time to practice at recess. I also understand that doing your best is not the same as being perfect.” 

“We are all going to make mistakes. Me too.  We are all going to help each other. ”  

Right there, you have explained to the whole class that you understand that learning takes time and practice.

They will love to point out your mistakes, and it can be fun to model being comfortable making mistakes. 

I rarely had to stay in at recess to carry through with a child, but that is another entire blog post.  

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Success occurs when students realize that they aren’t following your rules, but, in fact, you are just the person in charge whose job it is to follow through on their expectations. That changes the teacher from a boss to a helper.

Wrapping it all up.

Once you have discussed the expectations with naysayers, you promise a good copy for the wall, and you put it up at the front of the class for the whole year.  Super simple. After that, enforcement is just asking a student if their choices line up with the decisions that we made as a team.  This is a good example of how to use anchor charts in the classroom. After that finding resolution is easy.

Although I have provided some classroom expectation examples, I want to be clear.  These are my essentials, and I have found that the best student commitment to classroom expectations comes if they have created them and agree with them.  From here you design your classroom routines and procedures, referring back to your examples of classroom expectations as necessary. 

What are some of your effective classroom expectations and rules. Share in the comments below!

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