Master Classroom Management: Expert Tips for Establishing Norms and Expectations

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Welcome to our summer series of Classroom Management by Design for the Primary Teachers. Each week we will give you a new piece to the classroom management puzzle to have in place when you head back to school this fall. Think of it as a Lego kit just waiting to be built. 

Classroom Management by Design for Primary Teachers - Week 3:

Mastering Classroom Management: Expert Tips for Establishing Norms and Expectations

As a primary teacher with over 20 years of experience, I’ve come to understand that effective classroom management goes beyond simply setting rules. It’s about creating a harmonious learning environment where students feel respected, valued, and engaged. One of the foundational steps in achieving this is establishing clear classroom norms. This involves setting clear rules and expectations, developing effective classroom rules, aligning them with your vision and values, and creating a classroom contract with your students. In this blog post, I’ll delve deeper into these steps to help you achieve classroom management success.


Phase 1: Setting Clear Rules and Expectations

The Hidden Power of Explicitness

Teachers often underestimate the power of being explicit. Many assume that students inherently understand what is expected of them, but the reality is that children need clear, detailed guidance. Explicit rules eliminate ambiguity and provide a solid framework within which students can operate.


Key Strategies

 1. Be Explicit and Specific:

   - Clearly articulate your rules and expectations using simple, straightforward language. Avoid vague statements and be specific about the behaviors you expect.

   - Example: Instead of saying "Be respectful," say "Use kind words and listen when others are speaking."

2. Involve Students in the Process:

   - Involving students in the rule-setting process can increase their buy-in and commitment to following the rules. Discuss the importance of having rules and ask for their input on what rules they think are necessary for a positive classroom environment.

   - Activity: Have a class discussion about the importance of rules and brainstorm a list of potential rules together. This collaborative approach helps students feel valued and respected.

3. Use Positive Language:

   - Frame your rules positively to encourage desired behaviors rather than focusing on what students should not do. Positive language helps create a more supportive and encouraging classroom atmosphere.

   - Example: Instead of saying "Don’t run in the classroom," say "Walk safely in the classroom."

4. Keep It Simple:

   - Limit the number of rules to a manageable number, typically 3-5, to ensure that students can easily remember and follow them. Each rule should address a key aspect of classroom behavior.

   - Example: Respect each other, follow directions, and take care of our classroom.


Lightbulb Moment…

Many teachers are unaware that children often interpret rules differently based on their own experiences and backgrounds. It’s crucial to explain the rationale behind each rule, ensuring that students understand the purpose and importance of following it. This step, often overlooked, can significantly enhance compliance and cooperation.


Phase 2: Developing Effective Classroom Rules

Aligning Rules with Vision and Values

Your classroom rules should reflect your vision and values. Think about the kind of environment you want to create and ensure that your rules support that vision.

 Strategies for Developing Rules

1. Align Rules with Your Vision and Values:

   - Your classroom rules should reflect your vision and values. Think about the kind of environment you want to create and ensure that your rules support that vision.

   - Example: If your vision includes fostering a collaborative learning environment, include rules that promote teamwork and mutual respect.

 2. Be Consistent:

   - Consistency is key to effective classroom management. Apply the rules consistently and fairly to all students. This helps build trust and ensures that students understand the importance of following the rules.

   - Example: If one student receives a consequence for not following a rule, ensure that the same consequence applies to any other student who breaks the same rule. 

3. Reinforce Rules Regularly:

   - Regularly review and reinforce the rules with your students. This helps keep the rules fresh in their minds and reinforces their importance.

   - Activity: Start each week with a brief review of the classroom rules. Discuss why each rule is important and how it helps create a positive learning environment.

4. Model Expected Behavior:

   - As the teacher, you set the tone for your classroom. Model the behaviors you expect from your students. Your actions speak louder than words, and students are more likely to follow the rules if they see you adhering to them.

   -Example: If one of your rules is to listen when others are speaking, demonstrate active listening by giving students your full attention when they speak.


Lightbulb Moment:

Many teachers don’t realize the importance of modeling expected behavior. Your students are constantly observing you, and your actions significantly impact their behavior. By consistently demonstrating the behaviors you expect, you reinforce the rules and create a culture of respect and responsibility.


Phase 3: Creating a Classroom Contract

A classroom contract is a powerful tool for reinforcing rules and expectations. It is a written agreement between you and your students that outlines the agreed-upon rules and consequences. This contract helps hold everyone accountable and promotes a sense of ownership and responsibility among students.


Steps to Create a Classroom Contract

1. Discuss and Agree on Rules:

   - Have a class discussion about the rules. Ensure that everyone understands and agrees on the rules. This collaborative approach increases buy-in and commitment.

2. Write the Contract:

   - Write the rules in clear, simple language. Include the consequences for not following the rules. Make sure the contract is easy to read and understand.

3. Have Students Sign the Contract:

   - Once the contract is written, have each student sign it. This symbolizes their commitment to following the rules. Consider having students decorate the contract to make it a fun and engaging activity.

4. Display the Contract:

   - Display the signed contract prominently in the classroom. This serves as a constant reminder of the agreed-upon rules and expectations.

5. Review and Reflect:

   - Periodically review the contract with your students. Reflect on how well the class is adhering to the rules and discuss any necessary adjustments.


Lightbulb Moment:

Many teachers underestimate the power of a classroom contract in promoting accountability and responsibility. A well-crafted contract can transform the classroom dynamic, fostering a sense of community and shared commitment to the established norms.


Benefits of a Classroom Contract

- Promotes Accountability: Students are more likely to follow the rules if they have committed to them in writing.

- Encourages Responsibility: A classroom contract fosters a sense of ownership and responsibility among students.

- Reinforces Expectations: Displaying the contract in the classroom serves as a constant reminder of the rules and expectations.

- Builds a Positive Classroom Culture: A classroom contract helps create a collaborative and respectful learning environment.


Establishing classroom norms by setting clear rules and expectations, developing effective rules, and creating a classroom contract are essential steps for achieving classroom management success. By involving students in the process, using positive language, and aligning rules with your vision and values, you can create a positive and productive learning environment. 

Remember, consistency and reinforcement are key to maintaining these norms. Regularly review and reflect on the rules with your students to ensure they remain relevant and effective. As you implement these strategies, you’ll see a significant improvement in classroom behavior, student engagement, and overall learning outcomes.


By laying a solid foundation with clear norms and expectations, you’ll be well on your way to creating a thriving classroom community where every student can succeed. Through thoughtful planning and consistent application, you can achieve the level of classroom management success that fosters a supportive and effective learning environment.

Guess What’s Ready…

So many teachers have been asking me about effective classroom management strategies.

And I’ve seen so many make the mistake of wasting months of their time because they don’t know their teaching style. 

And that’s just backwards because knowing your teaching style is like having a roadmap to success in the classroom.

I have put together a FREE training that will help teachers like you master your teaching style.

Take the "Identify Your Teaching Style Quiz" NOW:

  • You’ll take a brief quiz to identify your teaching style.
  • You’ll receive your FREE training video for your unique teaching style to help you improve your classroom management. 

Teaching Style Quiz


Did you know I organize a FREE Facebook Group for Mastering Classroom Management? We are gearing up for our summer sessions, so if you’re looking for a simple way to improve your classroom management join the already 200+ teachers that have signed up: Mastering Classroom Management Facebook Group

Your ebook GIFT: Empowering Primary Teachers: Effectively Manage Disruptive and Violent Behaviors in the Classroom.



If you enjoyed the tips in this post, you might also enjoy this series of videos Classroom Management by Design for Primary Teachers:

  1. Unlock Classroom Success: How to Create Your Vision and Values
  2. Transform Your Primary Classroom: Expert Tips for Designing Flow and Roles

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