There's a few things worth considering:
1) Classroom rules/expectations are not the same thing as procedures/routines. Altogether builds a classroom conducive to the safety of all for the promotion of learning.
2) You teach these rules and procedures so students learn and be held accountable/responsible for their actions and possibly even others.
3) Following through. You may have an endless number of rules but if you don't follow through with them, they're not effective.
With all that said, no skill is more important as your ability to follow through so that the message you send is you mean what you say and say what you mean.
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As a teacher in general, I believe that it is very, very important to establish class rules and routines at the beginning of the year and have those in place as quickly as possible. I would also say that it is VERY IMPORTANT to be consistent with consequences should a classroom rule be broken. A strategy that I have used to address both is to allow the students to be the primary voice in establishing the classroom rules and routines. I also allow the students to be the primary voice in establishing the consequences for breaking a rule, with a clear understanding, of course, that as the teacher, I always have the power of veto! Involving the students allows the students to setup an environment that they truly feel that they are a part of and also forces the student to be accountable when a consequence is necessary.
I agree with Rodney. Definitely involve students in the creation of the classroom routines and consequences. Giving them a voice at the beginning of the year when you discuss why specific routines and consequences are necessary makes for much better reflection if students fail to follow the rules. Creating a class, "compact" which students and parents sign which outlines the reasons for specific consequences helps to increase respect and communication with families. This also is a great opportunity to think about whether or not specific consequences will be successful in eliminating the undesired behavior. If there is not a clear connection, the consequence may not be effective.
I believe in order to have a successful start to a new year; you will want to let the kids know what you expect from them in the beginning. You will need to set rules and boundaries and if the students show appropriate behavior, or do what you have asked of them, acknowledge it. When students do not give you what you have asked for in behavior and/or rules, then you will need to address it quickly but appropriately. Listen to the students, there may be a problem or reason whey the student is acting the way they are. You may be to redirect or come to a solution before a situation goes to far. The students need to be made aware that there will be consequences for their actions if they do not follow the rules set for your classroom. You will need to be consistent and follow through with the rules you have set for your class.
Another way to have good classroom management is to be prepared with what you are going to teach in order to keep the students engaged. If the students are activity participating in the lesson you will not have to worry about behavior problems with the students. This will also give you and your students a good line of communication if they are actively working with you and other students.
This book is amazing and you will be too if you follow it! Be consistent with discipline.
Have a plan the first day!
Work on procedures for six weeks. Practice, practice, practice until they get it right. Be consistent!
Ask co-workers about building procedures and follow them.
Ask for help ...it's not a weakness, it's a strength!
Here is a simple and fun 15 minute, once per week strategy, to repetitively motivate and inspire elementary and middle school students to excel academically and socially and to respect their teachers, schools, peers and the learning process. Particularly relevant to your question are the home page, benefits page and FAQ's at: www.OnGiantsShoulders.ORG
Rebecca's book suggestion is right on the money! I would also recommend the Wongs' new book "THE Classroom Management Book."
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