Starting a Successful School Year—Norms and Rules

As teachers begin a new school year, there are several things that they need to consider to ensure a smooth and successful academic year. It is important for teachers to establish clear expectations for their students regarding behavior, classroom rules, and a positive learning environment.

Many groups I have participated in start by developing norms. In business groups establishing norms is crucial for ensuring productivity, efficiency, and a positive work environment. Norms are a set of unwritten rules that govern how members of a group interact with each other and work towards common goals. When norms are established, they create a shared understanding of what is expected of everyone in the group, which helps to eliminate confusion and conflict. These goals are applicable and desirable for the classroom.

For example, a norm might be that everyone is expected to contribute to group discussions, or that all decisions should be made by consensus. When everyone in the group understands and follows these norms, it can lead to more productive and efficient meetings, as well as a stronger sense of teamwork and shared purpose.

Additionally, norms can help to create a positive and inclusive work environment. By establishing norms that promote respect, empathy, and open-mindedness, businesses can foster a culture of diversity and inclusivity.

Those same attributes are important in my classroom. While the school rules and the classroom rules were developed before the students arrived, developing norms as a group provided a way for students to have a voice and feel valued. Norms govern how students interact with each other and with the teacher, and they help to create a positive classroom culture. Examples of classroom norms might include being respectful of others’ opinions, actively participating in class discussions, and taking responsibility for one’s own learning.

Developing classroom norms is an important part of creating a positive and productive learning environment. Here are some questions that you can ask students to help establish these norms:

  1. What does respect look like in our classroom?
  2. How can we ensure that everyone’s voice is heard and valued?
  3. What are some ways we can show kindness and empathy towards one another?
  4. How can we work together to solve problems and conflicts that arise?
  5. What are our expectations for behavior during class discussions and activities?
  6. How can we create a safe and inclusive environment for all students?
  7. How can we support each other in our learning and growth?
  8. How can we hold ourselves and each other accountable for following these norms?

By involving students in the process of establishing classroom norms, you can help create a sense of ownership and investment in their own learning and growth.

Looking for Additional Back to School Resources?

Wanting to start your class with both an academic focus AND get to know your students without giving them one more survey, find someone who, 2 truths and a lie, or other activity which they will have completed in multiple other classes before they come to yours? This resource is for you. There are two differentiated passages. Using three readability formulas, these passages have averaged a reading grade level of 6.5 and 8.8 Select the one closest to your students or differentiate. You might even let students choose the one they want to read. Both cover the same content and prepare students to answer the same questions.

The passage gives a brief history of schools. Following the passage there are questions/activities which cover a wide-variety of topics and provide a catalyst for discussion and getting to know your students.

Activities covered include:

Academic questions about the article to start your class with an academic focus

Questions to help you know your students and their interests

A question to begin student thinking/discussion about rules/norms

A home/school connection question asking students to find out about school in the lives of older adults

A question designed to elicit student feedback on at-home learning, perhaps providing insight into the experience/obstacles for the student

A question designed to give a snapshot of student writing


Everything you need for the first month of a reading classroom is included in this bundle! Over 500 pages of resources, activities, and learning resources! Included in this comprehensive bundle you will find:

A sample class syllabus

Getting to Know You Activity

A 10 Day Autobiography Project

Student Info Page

Back to School Parent Page

Prefixes, Roots

–vocabulary activities

–games, crosswords

–prefix/root lists and activities

–comprehensive exam

Independent Reading recordkeeping spreadsheet

Independent reading teacher tips

Independent reading conference notebook

Conferencing topics and tips

Log sheets for reading conferences–quick scoring for teacher

Words per minute instructions

Oral reading fluency check guide

52 task cards for scoring guide

Nonfiction reading passage linked with historical event tied to each day of the month

–each topic has three passages at three grade levels

–comprehension questions

–main idea


–organizational pattern



chronological order

spatial order

order of importance




–data tracking of comprehension skills