The importance of knowing the consequences

With my crazier students, I make my class rules clear on the board:

  • Rule #1: don’t be rude.
  • Rule #2: don’t be lazy.

That gets me pretty far.

For some of my sixth graders, I have to spell out the rules in a little more detail.

  • Follow directions like we’re playing “Simon Says.”
  • Raise your hand to speak or stand.
  • Speak either English or Pirate.

What I’ve found, though, is that the rules aren’t anything without clearly defined consequences. Mine, for now, look like this:

  1. Warning
  2. Corner
  3. Out

With the consequences clearly defined, students know what they’re getting into. They make decisions: Is this joke worth the time in the corner? And I don’t have to make decisions. I let the rules and consequences do all the work for me.

Students who break the rules inherit the consequences, simple as that. No waffling.

The students then battle the board, not me. And pretty soon, if the rules and consequences stay standard, the students stop battling altogether. They might still choose to break some rules, but they know what’s coming as a result.

But this isn’t just about my students or my class. In any situation, it’s important to know the consequences. That knowledge will influence whether or not you’ll break the rules.