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Rules and routines keep your class running smoothly so that you have more time for teaching academics. Here are some ideas to consider before the new school year starts.


Rules are just like other instructional activities. They have to be taught, reviewed and reinforced if they are to be remembered. The teaching of rules and routines should be done at the start of the year.

Introduce each rule and discuss the variety of behaviors that the rule might include. Reinforce students who are following the rules. Thank them for their consideration. At the elementary level, reinforcement can be done aloud. Upper-grade, middle and high school students can be thanked quietly and privately.


  • Involve the class in making the rules.
  • Keep the rules short and easy to understand.
  • Phrase the rules in a positive way.
  • Remind the class of the rules at times other than when someone has misbehaved.
  • Make different rules for different kinds of activities.
  • Key students in to when different rules apply.
  • Post the rules and review them periodically.
  • If a rule isn’t working, change it.

Sample rules

Elementary school:

  • Be polite
  • Let others work
  • Work quietly

Middle and high school:

  • Enter class quietly
  • Raise hands to talk
  • Respect the rights of others


Routines refer to specific behaviors and activities that are taught to provide smooth, uninterrupted class operation. When students know exactly what is expected of them in a variety of situations, the time saved can be spent teaching rather than organizing or disciplining.

Develop, teach and enforce a specific routine for these basic situations:

  • Passing papers
  • Leaving to go to the restroom
  • Sharpening pencils
  • Heading of papers
  • Getting supplies and books
  • Working in small groups
  • Dismissing the class
  • When assignments are complete
  • Putting away materials
  • Safety routines
  • Taking attendance

Administrative procedures

  • What are students to do while roll, lunch count and administrivia are completed?
  • What are the procedures for students who are tardy, have excuses, or leave early?
  • What are the routines for hall and playground behaviors, such as lining up, walking in the halls, passing time, lockers, lunchroom, restrooms?
  • What are the school or district procedures that must be followed?

Adapted from NEA’s “I Can Do It” classroom management training module, developed by CTA. 


Follow the links below to see the other parts of the 2018 “Back to School” feature section.

Back to School: How to Motivate Your Students Back to School: A Great Ride Back to School: On Trend in the Classroom Back to School: Pro Tips Back to School: Rules and Routines