Inviting student input when creating class expectations is a great way to practice collaboration and encourage accountability over behavior. The following are some steps you can follow to make the exercise as effective as possible and cultivate a positive classroom culture.

Brainstorm as a class

Start off with a brainstorming session where students share their ideas about what the class rules should be. You’ll likely find that students’ suggestions fall under a few different categories, such as respecting others’ property and personal space, paying attention during lessons, and being considerate of others’ feelings.

For example, younger students may focus on basic behavioral rules like “no hitting” and “no kicking.” You can help them understand that these rules are covered under the general guideline of “respect others’ personal space,” and there’s no need to outline very specific behaviors in detail.

Have students look for these kinds of groupings themselves, so they can practice their analytical skills.

Keep it simple and positive

Classroom rules should be clear, simple, and framed in positive terms. Some recommendations to consider:

Limit guidelines to five basic universal rules at most. This ensures that expectations are clear and easy for students to remember.

– Use positive language. For example, “Submit all assignments on time” is far more positive phrasing than “Don’t hand in work late.” (For more tips on how teachers can use language to promote a positive learning environment, see our post here.)

– Go through examples of situations where a rule would apply. Have students brainstorm what it could look like to be considerate of others’ feelings. For instance: “wait until it’s your turn to speak” or “laugh with others, but not at others.”

– For clarity, keep classroom rules visible at all times. A poster on the wall with the class-generated list of expectations written on it is a great reference for teachers and students.


Some benefits of getting class input when setting expectations:

1. Students will feel involved and valued in the process, and will have a sense of ownership over classroom rules.

2. They will have a clear understanding of expectations and can be held accountable for the guidelines they helped establish.

3. They will learn the value of brainstorming and collaborating as a group.






Image credit: “Class rules” by Linda Hartley (CC BY 2.0).