multiple illustrations of a laptop with students in a video conference, a clock, three students talking, and two hands high-fiving

Teachers know that classroom management is a key component of a healthy learning environment. Throughout the pandemic, many educators created a whole new set of classroom rules and expectations to adapt to virtual instruction models. Standard classroom management procedures — from how students submit homework to how they ask to use the restroom — were all reimagined for online learning. But now that many schools are going back to in-person or hybrid instruction, teachers are once again reevaluating what classroom management looks like. 

How to Set Classroom Rules and Expectations for Students

Here are 14 educator tips for effectively setting and reinforcing classroom rules and expectations with your students.

Create consistency where you can

By building consistency into your classroom norms and routines, you can help your students feel more at ease, even as they readjust to the in-person learning environment. Here’s one idea from the TpT community for creating consistency in your classroom:

  • Make it predictable. “More than ever before, students will rely on the predictability that classrooms offer. Predictability promotes student independence as well as help to reestablish trust that was lost during school closures.” —  Emily from Inclusively Educating

Build norms together

Creating a classroom community is challenging, whether you’re in-person or in a virtual environment. One way to help your students feel connected to their class, is to build classroom norms together. 

  • Let students connect first. “Allowing students opportunities to speak and share on things that they love will allow each child to feel heard and valued. Once they feel this, you can begin speaking on expectations, such as listening to our friends and our teacher when it is their turn to speak.” — Amy Lynn from Amy Lynn Teaches 
  • Model and discuss expectations. “Record videos of yourself modeling expectations. Then, give students a chance to talk and see each other, as well through video conferencing. This will help build connections and foster discussion.” – Kate from BreatheSmileTeach
  • Build a class motto. “Make a class motto together and have a class mission statement. Set learning goals together. Spend time talking and listening to each other.” — Becky from Smiling Students Lesson Plans
  • Set a schedule for online learners. “Give your students a weekly schedule for online learning and provide daily videos for clarity of their expectations each day. These tasks should be done the same way, through the same platform, each week and day.” —  Krista from The Teacher House

Set expectations for live video lessons

If you still have students learning remotely, they need to have just as clear an understanding of your classroom expectations during lessons as the in-person learners do. Rules for behavior and participation will need to be translated into the remote learning environment. Here are some things to keep in mind.

  • Prepare students with a plan B. “Do have a plan B, like a pre-recorded lesson, in case you get disconnected.” — Tanya from Gifted Teacher 305
  • Set expectations for participation. “Set clear expectations and keep track of who is answering and asking questions. Allow for groups to meet in smaller rooms such as breakout rooms.” — Vanessa from Longwing Learning
  • Set rules for using tech features. “Do use all communication features available: video, mic, chat box, emojis, reactions, and tools. [ . . . ] Do use the mute feature of mics for group members who are waiting their turn to talk. Don’t allow other screens (i.e., TV, computer with video game still running or paused) to be ongoing during your session. Don’t allow participants to private chat with other participants (make sure you double check this feature!).” — Angela from The Speech Serenade
  • Create a set of hand signals. “Students will need to know how to [ . . . ] use nonverbal hand signals to indicate agreement or disagreement or that they have a question or that they need to use the bathroom.” — Bethany from Science with Mrs. Lau
  • Use a behavior management system. “I think it is critical to have a classroom management system during virtual lessons. Engagement is even more important during live lessons, as the students’ environments are beyond our control. Whatever your management system is in class, come up with a digital version of it. I use Class Dojo and classical music to help motivate students and keep students focused.” — Melody from Learning N Progress

Communicate norms and expectations with families

When your students are learning remotely, keeping parents and families informed about your expectations is crucial to ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible. Here’s educator advice for doing so.

  • Establish a personal connection. “By starting with a phone call, rather than an email, you establish a voice. By having a phone conversation, you are able to ask questions in real time to form connections with others. However, a follow up email to your phone conversation is essential because you show that you are willing to help a busy parent remember you and your class in a written format.” — Angela from The Speech Serenade.
  • Create a meet the teacher experience. Many schools usually host open house events at the beginning of the year for students and families to get to know their teachers a little better. For parents and caregivers who might not be able to attend in-person (or any families who are still learning remotely!), consider creating a virtual, interactive meet the teacher slideshow to share with them and their families. Ha from Happy Days in First Grade walks through how you can do just that in this video.
  • Share tips and rules for tech use. “It’s best to have parents of your students onboard first, making sure that they are able to monitor their children’s activities online. After this, a whole class Zoom or note on your class site, explaining the procedures and the expectations, will greatly help you to get started.” — Amy Lynn Teaches  
  • Make it easy to find your expectations. “Make sure you have a home base where both students and their parents can quickly access your expectations.” — Nancy from A – PLUS Literature Guides

Resources for Setting Classroom Rules and Expectations

Restorative Circle Prompts by The Radical Maestra
3rd-12th Grade

Meet the Teacher Letter (Over 90 Images) | Back To School Template | Editable by Learning in Wonderland
K-4th Grade

Parent Communication Log – EDITABLE | Printable | Digital | Distance Learning by Foxwell Forest
Not Grade Specific

Setting and reinforcing classroom rules and expectations is a challenge many teachers have faced, whether teaching in an in-person or digital learning environment. But creating consistency, building norms with students, setting expectations, and maintaining strong communication with families are all steps you can take for effective virtual classroom management. 

For even more ideas, browse classroom management resources available on TpT.