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Establishing Ground Rules on the First (or Second) Day of Class

Establishing ground rules or "group norms" can go a long way in minimizing disruptive classroom behaviors. If you decide to establish ground rules, consider the following:

  1. In small groups, have students develop one or two ground rules they think should guide the class. Usually they come up with the same thing you would, but they feel more ownership because they developed them.
  2. Prior to developing ground rules, ask students how many of them attended a class where one or more students' behaviors interfered with their learning. List the types of behaviors they found disruptive on the board and have them refer to this list as they develop ground rules. (Pike and Arch, 1997)
  3. As the groups report, ask for consensus and tweak as needed. To save time, ask each group to share only what they have that is different from the last group that reported.
  4. If the students leave out something you deem critical, add it.
  5. If you have access to a teaching station, you (or a student) can type these up as they are reported.
  6. At the next class, bring a copy for everyone to sign and post it to your class site for their reference.
  7. You may find that you have to refer your students to the ground rules throughout the semester, and in some instances even modify them.

For more tips on establishing classroom rules

Establishing Classroom Rules

For more ideas on dealing with distracting, monopolizing and withdrawing behaviors

Dealing with Monopolizing, Distracting and Withdrawing Behaviors

For more tips on the first day of class go to

First Day(s) of Class
What's In a Name? Strategies for Remembering Students' Names
The First Day
Getting your Class off to a Great Start


"Teaching Strategies: First Day(s) of Class." Center for Research on Learning and Teaching. U. of Michigan, 2009. Web. 19 May 2010.

"Teaching Tips Index." Faculty Development. Honolulu Comm. Coll., 2008. Web. 19 May 2010.

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