Classroom Norms & Procedures

The classroom is a complex environment, and any number of things could potentially disrupt student learning. One of your roles as a teacher is to manage the learning environment to minimize distractions and maximize learning. A strong system of classroom management typically includes the following components:

  1. Clearly defined purpose
  2. Positively stated behavioral norms
  3. Consequence hierarchy
  4. Positive reinforcement system
  5. Established classroom procedures
  6. Consistency

In this section, you will learn how to establish clear expectations for student behavior and define classroom procedures to maximize instructional time.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this chapter, you will be able to:

  • Explain the purpose of classroom norms/rules; and
  • Justify the need for planning and practicing classroom procedures.

Behavioral Norms*

Defining behavioral expectations helps establish an environment where students can engage in the learning process. Effective classroom management starts with defining your expectations for student behavior (Marzano, 2007). Classroom rules, also referred to as norms, express standards of behavior for which individual students need to take responsibility. Consider how the typical set of classroom rules listed below define expectations for student behavior.

  • Treat others with courtesy and politeness.
  • Make sure to bring the required materials to class and to activities.
  • Be on time for class and other activities.
  • Listen to the teacher and to others when they are speaking.
  • Follow all school rules.

Care should be taken when constructing classroom rules or norms. Most education experts recommend a small number of general, positively stated, behavior-based rules (Thorson, 2003; Brophy, 2004). Notice in the list above, the rules are not numerous, they are stated in positive terms (“Do X…” rather than negative terms “Do not do Y…”), and each covers a collection of more specific behaviors. For example, the rule “Bring all materials to class” covers bringing pencils, paper, textbooks, homework papers, and permission slips—depending on the situation. As a result of their generality, behavioral expectations can be applied across a variety of situations.

Key Elements of Strong Norms

  • Concise in wording and few in number (3-5)
  • Objective and easy to observe
  • Positively stated
  • Something that you are prepared to uphold at all times
Tips from the Pros: Strategies to Try

Wondering where to begin? Check out Jennifer Gonzalez’s blog post, Classroom Management: 4 Keys to Starting the Year off Right, where she explains her 4 Keys to Start the Year off Right which focuses on developing rules and consequences.

Classroom behavioral norms can be planned either by the teacher alone or by the teacher with input from students. Rules defined by the teacher may be more efficient and consistent, and in this sense fairer, but rules influenced by the students may be supported more fully by the students. Because rules focus strongly on personal responsibility, however, there is a stronger case for involving students in making them (Brookfield, 2006; Kohn, 2006). As a new teacher, it is typically easier to start with a predetermined set of expectations and involve students in the “unpacking” of the norms when discussing why they are necessary. Including students in describing what good and bad examples look like will go a long way in building student “buy-in” to your plan.


Consequences are the result of an action. Therefore, consequences could result in a positive or negative outcome. Applying positive consequences can be used to reinforce desired behavior and help you in establishing a positive learning environment. However, establishing a positive learning environment doesn’t guarantee that your students will always meet your expectations. Later chapters will focus on methods to correct off-task behavior, but once you have developed a set of behavioral norms you need to consider what will happen when students do not meet those expectations. Consequences should be used when attempts to correct student behavior have not been successful. Ideally, consequences should relate to the behavioral infraction, be delivered privately, grow in severity, and be meaningful to students (See Doug Lemov’s posts about the Art of Consequences Part 1 and Part 2). If students do not understand the reason behind the consequence or do not care about the impact of the consequence, then the chances of the consequence changing behavior decrease. To best support your goal of establishing a positive learning environment and positive relationships with your student it would be best to start with minor interventions before moving to school-based consequences. A sample plan for responding to off-task behavior might look like the list below.

  • Warning
  • Conference with Teacher
  • Call Home
  • Referral to Office

Key Elements of Strong Response Hierarchies:

Positive Consequences

  • Tied to the needs of students. Some students are more intrinsically motivated than others and require systems to support their choices.
  • 3 Types: tangible, social, and activity
  • Aligned to your classroom values
  • Generous. Systems should allow for as much reinforcement as possible.

Negative Consequences

  • Increase support as students move up the consequence hierarchy
  • Appropriate for the grade and amount of time in class
  • Include consequences students care about and don’t want to happen
  • Include a “severity clause” for dangerous or extremely disrespectful behavior
  • Delivered quickly, early, consistently, privately, and without emotion.

Designing behavioral norms and response techniques will be a work in progress for you as you find your rhythm in your classroom and what works with your style and best for your students. One of the best things you can do as a young teacher is to talk to other teachers and even observe the classrooms of your peers. If you are looking for an experienced teacher that writes a lot about classroom management, then I suggest checking out Michael Linsin’s blog as he regularly shares strategies and resources to help you hone your management skills.

Tips from the Pros: Creating a SHARED Vision

Wondering how to partner with your students to establish classroom expectations? Check out Bob Sullo’s blog post, Beyond Goals: Creating an Inspiring Classroom, where he provides step-by-step actions you can take to build a shared vision of an inspiring classroom.

Procedures to Routines*

“The number one problem in the classroom is not discipline; it is the lack of procedures and routines.” -Harry Wong

Routines or procedures are specific ways of doing common, repeated classroom tasks or activities. Examples include checking daily attendance, dealing with students who arrive late, or granting permission to leave the classroom for an errand. Academically related procedures include ways of turning in daily homework (e.g. putting it on a designated shelf at a particular time), of gaining the teacher’s attention during quiet seatwork (e.g. raising your hand and waiting), and of starting a “free choice” activity after completing a classroom assignment. Procedures serve the practical purpose of making activities and tasks flow smoothly. As such, procedures are more like social conventions than moral expectations.

For teachers, an initial management task is to establish procedures and routines as promptly as possible. Teachers should plan and practice critical routines before students arrive on day one (Bambrick-Santoyo, 2016). Planning exactly how you want a routine to work and how you will teach it to students will increase the likelihood that your students understand and follow your routine. Thus, saving valuable teaching and learning time. When planning routines try to limit the number of steps to keep the routine manageable. Practice the routine yourself to make sure that it works smoothly, then script how you will practice the routine with your students. Once your students arrive, then practice, practice, practice. You may need to revise your procedure if it is not working efficiently or you may need to refresh students with a practice session mid-year if they begin to slip. Either way, investing the time in planning routines will go a long way in maximizing your instructional time and managing behavior. If you are looking for a template to help plan your rollout of a new procedure, then check out the Rolling Out Procedures template.

Key Elements of Procedures:

  • Concise number of steps
  • Designed for common classroom tasks
  • Discussed and practiced
    • Explain how the procedure benefits the students to build buy-in
    • Model good and bad execution
    • Practice, practice, practice

Tips from the Pros: How to Start the Year

Wondering how to begin your school year? Check out Joey Feith’s blog post, How I Start My School Year: Lesson One, where he explains how his year starts in his PE classes focuses on developing expectations, consequences, and a culture conducive to learning (3-part series).

Or, check out John Spencer’s article, 5 Ways to Get to Know Your Students at the Start of the Year.

Lastly, Jennifer Gonzalez and Michael Linson share ideas on what to do When Students Won’t Stop Talking that align well with the concepts discussed in this chapter.


Classroom management is not something best left to chance. The more you plan and define your expectations, the more likely your classroom will run smoothly. Having a plan does not mean you won’t have to make adjustments along the way, but with a system in place, you and your students can spend more time focusing on the teaching and learning process and less time stumbling over misunderstandings.

Summarize Key Understandings

Peer Examples

Check out Rosie Glover’s Classroom Management Plan for an ELA classroom.

Check out this example Classroom Management Plan.

Check out Jordan Baker’s Classroom Management Plan designed for an ELA classroom.

Check out this example classroom management plan.

Check out this example of a classroom management plan created by Allie Turner.

Check out this example of a classroom management plan created by Grace Pere.


Exercise: Use the self-evaluation tool below to assess your current efforts to establish a positive learning environment.

Establishing a Positive Learning Environment Component Yes No Working on It
My classroom norms are observable, measurable, positively stated, understandable, and always apply.
I have 5 or fewer classroom norms.
My classroom norms are prominently posted.
I have developed lessons to teach classroom norms.
I refer to norms regularly when interacting with students.
80% of my students can restate the classroom expectations.
I have identified essential classroom procedures.
I directly teach classroom procedures.
I review and practice classroom procedures with students throughout the year.
I provide specific positive feedback when students follow procedures.
80% of my students can demonstrate classroom procedures.

Suggested Activities

References & Attribution

Attribution: “Behavioral Norms” section was adapted in part from Educational Psychology by Kelvin Seifert, licensed CC BY 3.0. Download for free at

Attribution: “Procedures to Routines” section was adapted in part from Educational Psychology by Kelvin Seifert, licensed CC BY 3.0. Download for free at

Bambrick-Santoyo, P. (2016). Get better faster: A 90-day plan for coaching new teachers. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.

Brookfield, S. (2006). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom, 2nd edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Brophy, J. (2004). Motivating students to learn, 2nd edition. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Kohn, A. (2006). Beyond discipline: From compliance to community. Reston, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Marzano, R. J. (2007). What will I do to establish or maintain classroom rules and procedures? In The Art and Science of Teaching: A Comprehensive Framework for Effective Instruction (117-130). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Thorson, S. (2003). Listening to students: Reflections on secondary classroom management. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.


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Teaching Methods & Practices Copyright © by Jason Proctor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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