Classroom Rules

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Class Rules

Clear Agreed Class Rules

'Your old enough to know the school rules by now!' I remember this being said by a teacher to a class of six and seven years olds. Was she right or wrong to say this? I reflected on this and my answer is that she is both right and wrong! By this I mean that she was right to engender high expectations of the children's understanding and recall of rules. But she was also wrong because social rules are so complex that we all need a little help working out what we need to do at times.

As children get older we do expect that they will know right from wrong and be able to apply this through 'common sense'. However, like all areas of our development some students are better at this whilst others struggle. Those who find following classroom rules challenging usually do so for one of the following reasons:

Lack of knowledge of the rule
Lack of understanding of the rule
Lack of recall of the rule
Lack of self-control affecting the rule
Lack of ownership of the rule

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Lack of knowledge of the rule

Clearly young and immature students will need to learn school and class rules. And just like teaching anything complex it requires a lot of repetition of input and contextual anchors in order to be learnt. Often in school too much is assumed about the prior-learning of rules and students of all ages can benefit from additional opportunities to revisit, discuss and agree rules.

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Lack of understanding of the rule

As teachers we accept that students will have gaps in their knowledge and understanding about the curriculum. However, we tend to be less generous in accepting gaps in their understanding of school rules. So as discussed above students benefit from opportunities to revisit, discuss and agree rules.

Some students, such as those with ASD often struggle with the application of social rules. They may often be unaware that a rule has been applied, such as working in silence, because they missed the social cues to listen to the instruction from the teacher. Some may not automatically understand that any whole class instruction or rule also includes them. ASD students can also be poor at generalising rules and may obediently follow a rule in one specific context but not recognise the need to do if the context has changed. For example, in a different classroom. These students often benefit from the teacher's use of their name to cue them into listening and reinforcing that the rule also applies to them. They may also benefit from social stories that help explain why a rule should be followed.

Students with delayed language acquisition may also struggle with understanding the subtle nuances of rules. This may be particularly so for younger children who may have limited vocabulary. These students may benefit from adult supported small group work exploring their understanding of the rules.

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