Classroom Rules
The Diary of a First Grade Teacher

Classroom rules must be explained to ALL students, and especially to the little ones. Because certain rules are new ones for the first graders, some of the kiddos will speak up and ask questions ...

They’ll ask WHY. Why is a certain school rule important? Why should that rule be followed? Why this? Why that? And that's good that they want to know and to understand.

That's why, when possible, we teachers ask our students to help us make the rules.

Classroom Rules

Telling first graders that the teacher must preserve the classroom learning environment is useless. It’s so much better whenever we can show them why - with examples.

If there's a question, I want my students to ask it, of course! And if they're interested enough to ask questions, I figure they will listen when I answer.

In fact, if there’s one academic skill that I favor above all others, it’s the importance of listening.

While most first graders understand and cooperate with the classroom rules, I’ve found there’s one school rule - in particular – that can be a problem for some of them …

The rule is, "Raise your hand to speak and wait to be called on."

There are exceptions to the rule ... For example, they never have to raise their hands in small group time. However, whenever the entire class is involved in a discussion, they quickly learn THAT'S the time to raise their hands.

But no matter what the rule is, there’s at least one who forgets the rule OR who wants to test that rule. And yes, sometimes it’s simply the fact that the child was not listening!

Importance of Listening

Today, after working several examples on the board, I finished the math lesson and asked, “Does anyone have a question?”

I had told them the page number of the assignment, and it was written on the board also, as always.

As I walked up and down the aisles, it appeared as if every student was preparing to work. “Good! Everyone is working on math, right now.”

A few minutes later, I was seated at a math center with two students whenever Martin blared to no one in particular, “What page did she say for us to do?”

From the corner of my eye, I saw his fingers flipping frantically through his Science book.

Without looking up, he repeated the question, “Huh? WHAT PAGE?”

One by one, he broke the focus of each student. Everyone stopped working.

Loegan said, "Ahmmmmm," and warned him in a sing-song voice, “She can’t hear you.”

Whenever the class laughed, I shook my head.

A hush hung in the air...

Did Martin look up? No. Turning more pages, he said, “What’s wrong?”

This was the fifth week of school, and he had never acted like this before. I'm wondering why now. What was he up to?

What Page?

He practically shouted, "I SAID, WHAT PAGE DO WE 'POST TO DO?”

Everyone was interested now and watched cautiously.

Some of his classmates looked at me and shook their heads. They couldn’t keep from smiling. Others covered their mouths with their little hands and snickered.

I could see they felt proud and happy that they KNEW what the rule was ... They KNEW the page number. They were GLAD they had been listening.

And I was happy because I saw they were beginning to understand why some rules are important.

Now, we were getting somewhere!

Suddenly Martin’s eyes fell on Loegan’s desk. He saw that Loegan’s MATH WORKBOOK was opened.

Reaching inside his desk, he grabbed his workbook and turned to the page that Loegan was on.

Then, in the friendliest of voices, he cleared his throat and sang, “Never mind, Teacher. I fount it!”

Did he finally look up, then? No.

Never once did he look at me. Never once did he look at the board where all of the assignments, including page numbers, are ALWAYS written.

Never once did he look at the face of any of his classmates. And never once did he raise his hand.

Which makes me wonder ... Had he forgotten the rule, or was he testing the rule? I think the problem was he hadn't been listening.

After all, he IS a first grader. Anyway, I'm sure he will soon learn WHY we absolutely must have classroom rules.

So I never did correct him - in front of the class, that is - because Martin, with his loud and lively example, taught his classmates far more vividly than I ever could have one reason WHY the “raise their hand to speak” rule is so important.

And I must say that I was so proud of all of the kiddos who were listening and following the classroom rules!


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