Set Up To Win The Game!

Set Up To Win The Game

I recently read an article about the current Bridezilla phenomenon. The American documentary series of the same name explores what happens to seemingly ‘normal’ girls once they are planning a wedding- on the TV show they often become uncontrollable, bullying, emotional and use whatever means necessary to get what they want. All this to plan what is supposed to be the happiest day of their lives!!

One of the wedding planners was quoted as saying:

‘The happiest brides are the ones with the fewest rules’.

It’s the same in the classroom. The more rules you have, the more chance there is that one of your students is breaking a rule at any given time.

The secret is simplicity. Keep your class rules or expectations low in number (3-5 is ideal), state them positively (raise your hand to speak NOT don’t call out) and teach them explicitly just as you would teach the processes in Maths.

At the beginning of the year, it is a great idea to spend some time getting to know your students, setting clear expectations and developing the skills students need to learn effectively in your class.

This time will be well-spent, setting you and your students up to win the game!

It will save you time and energy later on, help your students feel safe and calm because they know what is expected of them, and it will make your life as a teacher much more enjoyable!


1. Negotiate class expectations. Hold a class meeting and give all your students a voice in how they think the class should operate including what they expect from you, their teacher. Spend some time looking at the values that guide your school and your class to make this a meaningful process for you and your students. Some teachers like to create a whole class agreement that everyone signs, that is displayed proudly in the classroom.

2. Explicitly teach your expectations for behaviour and work tasks. Think of behaviour as another subject you need to teach your students and be creative. Use simulations, games, role plays, written tasks, visual arts etc. to teach the behaviour you want to see. Make it fun!

3. Display expectations prominently in the classroom with visual cues. Students could create visuals using a variety of media. Consider how stop signs on the road or quiet signs in hospitals remind us of expected behaviours.

4. Reinforce students for following class expectations. Specific praise reinforces the target student and prompts others to do the same. An individual reward system and/or whole class reward system used strategically builds morale and class cooperation.

5. Negotiate fair, respectful responses with the students for when they don’t follow the expectations. Have a clear hierarchy of consequences that are meaningful, restorative and teach students the skills they need to get along with others and work productively in the classroom.

6. Reteach expectations when necessary e.g. in a new situation or when behaviour has deteriorated. There are times throughout the year, when you may need to revisit or redo your class expectations because you may have let things slip, or the class dynamic has changed. Never assume that teaching a skill once is sufficient.

7. Teach your class routines. Every teacher is different and has different ways of doing things, so you need to teach your students how to work in your classroom. Consider all the variables: how does a student ask to go to the bathroom, how do they ask for your help, what is the process for getting work corrected, where do they put their homework?

Marie Amaro