How to Establish Clear, and Consistent Behavioral Expectations!

by | Aug 23, 2022


Classroom management does not magically take place by itself. Regardless of the size of the school, the economic background of its students, or your district’s resources, student behavior depends on the personality and preparation of the teacher. Children need to feel safe and understand the rules for behavior in the classroom to succeed. The routines you establish from the first day of school make all the difference in how children interact with each other and with you.

Creating Classroom Rituals and Routines

First, Year Teachers may expect children to intuitively know what behaviors are acceptable; however, veteran teachers will tell you that every teacher must establish his/her management plan for that classroom. That plan will vary depending on the subject matter covered and the activities being done, but it must be clear and concise for it to be effective.

The most seemingly insignificant routine, such as how to turn in homework or where to put backpacks when someone enters the room, must be specific and explained so that the students can comply. There are many charts available for you to use and adapt to your specific needs. This is a comprehensive one that is available from aha! Process for free. You can download an example of a classroom procedures checklist and customize it to address the unique needs of your students.

Establish Proactive and Positive Behavioral Expectations

Children crave positive attention. They need to be complimented and acknowledged when following rules. Sometimes teachers only acknowledge bad behavior, calling the child’s name or reprimanding him/her for misbehaving. If that misbehavior is the only way a child can get your attention, that bad behavior will continue. The classroom management plan for behavior needs to be seen as the key to getting positive feedback from the teacher. Some teachers use a star chart in students’ take-home folders. They get a star if they follow the general classroom rules, like staying in their chair, raising their hand, or completing their homework and returning it. If they don’t get a star, the parent has a visual reminder that they were off task. A star chart (or happy face, thumbs up, whatever) is simple to make:

You can have just one column on a chart if you are focusing on a specific behavior with a student. All students do not have to have the same goals!

Scholastic provides a great selection of free behavior and classroom charts for you to use.

Behavioral Expectations Mini-Lessons

Some teachers use a “stoplight” method of notifying students that the noise level is too high. Cut out a circle from green construction paper and display it on the board at the front of the room. If it starts getting too loud during independent work time, taking it down and putting up a yellow “warning” circle lets them know to lower the volume without saying a word. Return to the green circle when the room quiets down. If it ever increases to “RED”, a consequence must occur, such as a shorter recess.

If your management plan is clearly defined and explained, the second element you must put in place is to be consistent with it. If you tell children they must put their homework in a basket by the door when they enter; you must monitor that they take it out of their backpack and put it there consistently each day. Meet them at the door with a smile and remind them to take the papers out of their backpack and place them in the basket. Over time, repeated practice becomes routine.

Compliment students when they do it automatically. If you allow a child to come in, sit down, and ten minutes later hand you the homework, and you take it from their hand, you are not being consistent with your procedural rule. Instead, you are communicating that that particular rule is bendable and not really important to you. Instead of taking their homework yourself, remind the child that they must put the paper in the basket themselves.

Be friendly but ask them to take their backpack into the hall, re-enter the room, and demonstrate for you how to turn in their homework. Compliment them when they do it right. This is a teachable moment, not a time for a reprimand.

Practice, Practice, Practice Behavioral Expectations

Consistency of classroom management routines is critical at every grade level. Pas, Cash, O’Brennan, Debnam, & Bradshaw (2015) found that “The issue of compliance and disruption may be of particular importance at the secondary level, where the mastery of a specific content area and accumulation of credits in these areas is the focus of each classroom” (p. 144).

One middle school teacher had a clear wall-mounted shoe caddy with 20 pockets on it for ten pairs of shoes. Her students put their cell phones in their pockets (designated with a number corresponding to their seats). It was by the homework basket. As students entered, they put their paper in the basket and their phones in their pockets. It kept cell phones from being disruptive during class, and the daily routine made turning in homework easier to remember. It saved time not having to say, “Did you turn in your homework?” and “Bring me that cell phone!”

Middle school students have such short class periods that every minute of the class must be utilized to cover the curriculum. Stopping to discipline children breaks the flow of the lesson and interrupts learning. Linsin (2014) believes, “Your classroom management plan is the very thing that ensures your students’ freedom to learn and enjoy school.” Clear rules that children understand help your planned lessons that actually get completed in the time you have allotted in your lesson plan.

It’s Not Either Academic Instruction or Behavioral Expectations Mini Lesson-You Must Teach Both!

Here is a classroom management plan specifically for middle school students.

Lastly, students respond favorably when teachers demonstrate their commitment to providing a clear, consistently organized learning environment. Linsin (2019) recommends reviewing the classroom management plan with students throughout the year, especially when things are going well in a class. Complimenting students when they are following the rules reinforces why you have a plan. It shows that you are protecting their time and their freedom to learn. Your commitment to the classroom management plan demonstrates your dedication to your student’s success. Start strong with a written, well-explained plan, and that strength will carry you throughout the year.


Linsin, M. (2014, August 16). How to teach classroom management on the first day of school. Retrieved from Smart Classroom Management:

Pas, E. T., Cash, A. H., O’Brennan, L., Debnam, K. J., & Bradshaw, C. P. (2015). Profiles of classroom behavior in high school: Associations with teacher behavior management strategies and classroom composition. Journal of School Psychology, 53, 137-148. doi:10.1016/j.jsp.2014.12.005

Payne, R. K. (2019). Before you quit teaching. Retrieved from aha! Process: