• Rules and Motivation

    Establishing classroom rules at the beginning of the school year is essential to have a good school year.  The extent of the rules depends on the grade level.  For example, in the Kindergarten class I am in for my clinical only has 5 simple rules whereas last semester I was in a 5th grade classroom that had more rules that weren't as basic.  I think that if there are good rules established, the students will be motivated during the year to have a good classroom setting and work hard.

    I am a pre-service educator right now and would like to teach a special education self-contained classroom at a high school in the future.  What are some good rules to establish for a high school special education class and how can we keep these students motivated during the year?

Recent Reply
  • Throw away the rules

    Hey Jackie, I must respectfully disagree with most of what you say about rules. Not only do rules create disruption, they serve to undermine motivation. I'm always troubled by pre-service educators who stress rules, which obviously call for accompanying consequences, as they are passing on this archaic system to new teachers, promulgating methods that don't work.

    My suggestion would be to throw away all of your rules. Although you don't list yours in your post, most teachers advocating rules, even "5 simple rules" for kindergarten, likely have things like "remain seated, raise your hand, keep your hands to yourself, no gum, no talking, etc."

    The problem with this carrots-and-sticks system is that it only encourages disruption and discourages a sense of community. When students have consequences held over their heads, they are tempted to test the system to see what they can get away with. When consequences are handed out, any existing teacher-student rapport is damaged and learning is lost. This is also when "She-just-doesn't-like-me" attitudes are cultivated by the teacher.

    I used to use rules and consequences and failed miserably when I did. When I changed to a results-only classroom, I quickly learned that giving students more freedom in a workshop-style seeting created a classroom that had no room for carrots and sticks. 

    Try discussing how to be successful with your students and never mention rules. Discuss mutual respect and how mature choices eliminate the need for rules and consequences.Remind students that you are against rules and punishments, because you are there to help them become better people. They'll appreciate this.

    As far as motivating students at any level, the best approach is to provide meaningful activities and projects that keep students interested. Eliminate worksheets, homework and most tests and quizzes. Give students choice in their learning and integrate as much technology as possible. You'll be shocked at how even the most reluctant learners become willing participants.


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