The Appropriate Behavior Expectations Case Study

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• Identify and describe three expectations for appropriate classroom behavior
for young children with examples for each.

• Critically analyze Ron’s challenging behaviors to determine contributing
factors (as presented in Level A Case 1).

• Construct two specific strategies for addressing Ron’s challenging
behavior, and describe the implementation plan and desired outcomes.

The Appropriate Behavior Expectations Case Study paper

• Must be 2-3 double-spaced page in length (not including title and
references pages) and formatted according to APA style as outlined in the
UAGC Writing Center’s APA Style (Links to an external site.)

• Must include a scholarly reference
• Use this as a reference along with a scholarly reference
• Kaiser, B., & Rasminsky, J. S. (2016). Challenging Behavior in Young

Children (4th ed.). Pearson Education

• Must include a separate title page with the following:

o Title of paper
o Student’s name
o Course name and number
o Instructor’s name
o Date submitted

When you envision the ideal early childhood classroom, you see children working in

groups, getting along, demonstrating problem-solving skills, and being totally engaged

in the stellar lesson or activity you have created. However, as we all know, that

classroom does not just “happen.” It takes a tremendous amount of effort and

preparation on the teacher’s part for this harmony to exist. Teachers must let their

students know their expectations. This is generally done by teaching the rules of the

classroom. In addition to stating the rules and procedures, a teacher must respond to

children’s actions both positive and negative in order to demonstrate their expectations.

This way, appropriate expected classroom behavior can become the classroom norm,

instead of the exception so that you can spend your time engaging with your students in

the amazing, creative lessons you have created instead of dealing with negative


Chapter 8

The Physical Environment

“Space speaks to each of us,” the late Jim Greenman (2005) wrote in Caring Spaces, Learning Places (p.

13). Think of a library, a restaurant, a swimming pool—each lets you know exactly what behavior is

expected there. So does a classroom.

As we’ve seen, the social climate delivers most of the message, but the relationship between the social

climate and the physical space is reciprocal. Because each influences the other, the physical

environment provides important clues for the people within it. That is, the way you set up your

classroom can help to prevent challenging behavior (Katz & McClellan, 1997). The overall plan of the

area, the arrangement of furniture and materials, and the use of wall space will invite children to be

comfortable or uneasy, inclusive or elitist, orderly or out of control, prosocial or aggressive. It is easier to

change a space than to change behavior, but paradoxically, changing the physical space can change

behavior. This is why property owners scrub off graffiti and repair broken windows: They want people to

know that their buildings are cared for and deserve respect.

Sharing space, toys, and the teacher’s attention all day long is stressful for children. Most states regulate

teacher–child ratio, group size, and classroom space per child (Epstein & Barnett, 2012), and Head Start

and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) (2007) have standards as well.

But even when standards are followed, many children end up in classrooms where the conditions are

less than optimal, making it difficult for those who require more space or adult attention to have their

needs met.

How can your space help you to create a caring, cooperative, and inclusive community that encourages

learning and fosters appropriate prosocial behavior? How can the surroundings help you to meet the

children’s needs for belonging, autonomy, and competence (Deci & Ryan, 1985)? Here are some ideas.


First impressions are crucial. As you ready your space for the first day of school, take a look at the

children’s files and talk with their previous teachers to find out more about their lives and interests.

When children and their families see themselves and their culture reflected in the classroom, they are

more likely to feel that they belong and become engaged in what’s going on, so decorate accordingly.

Prepare a place for each child to store her belongings; to help families feel at home, outfit an area with

at least one piece of adult-sized furniture. Then you, too, can sit comfortably, and there will be laps

where children can cuddle. Add a carpet, a lamp, some plants, books for parents and toys for younger

siblings, photos of families and staff, and a sign welcoming everyone in all the languages of the

classroom (Gonzalez-Mena, 2010).

Arranging the Furniture

You will no doubt reconfigure your space many times over the course of the year as you come to know

the children better, hold class meetings, and teach groups of varying sizes. But the basic arrangement—

home base—should indicate your top priorities and facilitate the behavior you’re trying to nurture.

Each area should have a clear purpose that the children understand (Hyson, 2008). When there are a

great many rules and restrictions, children with challenging behavior have trouble functioning, so be

sure your room setup allows them to move around without constant warnings. If you mark the

boundaries clearly, construct an entrance and an exit to each area, and lay out well-defined pathways

from one area to another by putting masking tape or cut-out footprints on the floor, the children will

feel more comfortable and their behavior will be more cooperative and less disruptive.

In an early childhood or kindergarten classroom, the dramatic play area inspires the most complex social

interaction, followed by blocks, games, woodworking, sand, and manipulatives (Quay, Weaver, & Neel,

1986), so create spaces that can accommodate these small-group activities and encourage children to

play together. Even the computer and listening center can have seating for more than one child. The

result will be more friendships, better executive function, and improved social and emotional skills.

To cultivate independence and autonomy and help children develop self-regulation skills, arrange the

space so that they can choose activities and materials for themselves. In addition to containing plentiful

supplies, the activity centers and shelves should be well organized, inviting, easily accessible, and

strategically located. If the blocks are next to a high traffic area, sooner or later someone will knock over

a construction masterpiece, causing anger and frustration. Put quiet activities—reading, writing, and

art—close together and far away from noise. When everything resides in well-marked areas and

containers, the children know where each item belongs, simplifying cleanup.

Dramatic play, woodworking, and blocks present more opportunities for social interaction—and also for


Studio 8/Pearson Education

It’s important to have a place where children can shut out the world. This is especially true for children

with very stressful lives. Construct an area where primary school children can study, take a break, meet

in a small group, or recover from a meltdown. Younger children also need a private retreat with soft

furniture and pillows. Note, however, that a quiet space in a noisy room may not work for very

distractible and easily stimulated children, who may unconsciously use challenging behavior to take

refuge in the office.

It’s equally important to designate a spot where the whole community can come together for circle,

meeting, and story time—preferably on a carpet area that doesn’t face open shelves.

As you position things, remember the empty space. Too much open space inspires running, chasing, and

chaos. Use low shelves and furniture to divide large spaces into uncluttered, well-organized areas.

In the primary school classroom, the configuration of desks and tables should reflect your goals and

philosophy. Small tables or desks pushed together to form clusters of three to six students let everyone

know that cooperation and collaboration are expected. In this position the children can work together,

share materials, and help each other. If there are clear routes between desk clusters, small groups can

collaborate without distracting one another, and you’ll have enough space to move from group to group

listening, helping, taking part in discussions.

Desks in rows tell the children the classroom is teacher-centered. This formation makes it harder for

children to talk to one another, and teachers interact more with children in the “action zone”—the front

row and the middle of the class (Adams & Biddle, 1970). If you choose this arrangement, seat some

struggling students and dual-language learners near the front, sprinkle others throughout the class, and

make a point of walking around and paying attention to children all over the room. Later in the year you

may feel relaxed enough to try other floor plans.

Whatever arrangement you select, prepare seat assignments for the first day of school. If children sit

where they please, they’re more likely to form cliques, whereas mixing them up develops new ties,

promotes social skills, and enables diverse talents to emerge. Again, reading students’ files and talking

with colleagues will help you decide who to put where.

Children who are easily distracted may need assistance to focus. Seat them near the front of the room

and away from windows and high traffic areas, such as doors, the pencil sharpener, and your desk. If you

place them beside children who know how to concentrate, they’ll have good role models and partners

for collaboration (U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs [OSEP], 2004).

Consider placing your own desk at the back or side of the room where it won’t create a barrier between

you and the children, where you can see the whole class, and where you can meet with individuals or

small groups without disturbing other children.

What about Personal Space?

All children need personal space as they move around the room and interact with their peers. How

much depends on their culture and temperament. Children with challenging behavior often have a

definite idea of how much personal space they should have, and an invasion may instantly trigger

pushing and shoving. Help Andrew understand that Eva didn’t mean to come so near and give him a

script to tell her to move back: “Say, ‘I don’t like it when you come so close.’ ” These discussions alert

Andrew to his own and others’ space requirements and help him extend his tolerance of another

person’s proximity.

When they’re crowded together, children accidentally bump into each other, ruin one another’s work,

and have lots of misunderstandings, which can lead to frustration and aggression. It therefore makes

sense to control the number who can play in each area. The size of the space, the activity, the

availability of materials, and the chemistry of the participating children are all factors in the equation.

With the children’s collaboration, figure out how many fit comfortably into an area and set up a method

to regulate it. For example, at the entrance to each learning center, place hooks where the children can

hang name cards to claim a play spot.

The numbers in an area can change. You may discover that Andrew can’t function with five children in

the block area—but he’s fine when there are four. The solution is to reduce the number permitted

without pointing at a particular child: “I notice that people are having more fun when there are four

instead of five children in the block area. What do you say we change the number to four and see how it

goes?” Alternately, you could expand and enrich the area with extra materials to make the play more

complex—for example, by adding Legos to the block area or popsicle sticks to the play dough.

Boys often require space to move around. Dan Gartrell (2012) suggests creating a walking track around

the perimeter of the classroom and setting up a physical fitness center to meet their need for physical

play and prevent them from using their energy inappropriately. But physical activities (along with blocks

and dramatic play) also present more opportunities for conflict, so you must supervise closely.

Note that culture also has an impact on the way people use space. An environment that seems warm

and exciting to a child from one culture may appear cold and uninteresting to a child from another. Sybil

Kritchevsky and Elizabeth Prescott (1977) found that Mexican American preschoolers played and

socialized happily in a space that seemed cramped by middle-class European American norms.

Does the Level of Stimulation Make a Difference?

Classroom noise and hubbub make it hard to hear, focus, talk quietly, and settle disputes peacefully.

Children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), hearing loss, sensory integration disorder, or

sensitive temperaments may be particularly affected. Pay attention to the buzz as you move through the

day, and reduce the level of stimulation by turning off the music, leaving some of the wall space blank,

putting away some toys, reducing clutter, and installing a dimmer switch for the lights.

One solution is to think about quiet times. You don’t have to schedule them; if you watch the children

carefully, you’ll know when to say, “Okay, everyone, stop everything, lie down on your back, and look at

the ceiling. Think about how you’re breathing.” (School-aged children can put their heads on their

desks.) Ask them to think about their toes and each individual body part in turn. By the time you’ve

reached the tops of their heads, the atmosphere will be completely altered.

Deck the Walls

Your classroom walls also tell a tale. To show that the classroom belongs to the children, display their

work and be sure everyone in the class is represented. As H. Jerome Freiberg (1999) puts it, “Selecting

the work of a few . . . sends a message that ‘only the best need apply’ ” (p. 167). Add photos and

pictures that reflect their interests, families, and cultural heritage, past and present (but be careful to

avoid a tourist approach).

Designate a spot for posting the rules and other important information, but be careful not to create

visual noise. Like everything else you do, you should have a reason for putting something on the walls.

Consider the Results

You should now be able to survey the whole room from anywhere you stand. If all the children can see

you, your very visibility will deter challenging behavior; if you can see all the children, you’ll be well

situated to detect early triggers and head off challenging behavior before it starts. Try looking at the

space from the child’s perspective, too. By getting down on your knees you’ll see how inviting and

accessible it is. Is there too much visual clutter? Or does it look cold and empty? Are there corridors that

invite running? Are the learning centers visible, clearly defined, large enough, and welcoming? Is the

artwork on the walls at the children’s eye level? Is the space confusing? From this angle, the world

shouldn’t look like a maze.

Creating a Predictable Day with Schedules, Procedures, and Transitions

There is always a tension between providing opportunities for children to develop self-control,

autonomy, initiative, and competence while simultaneously sustaining an orderly learning environment

(Watson & Battistich, 2006). The key is to let the children know your expectations. They find it easier to

function and behave appropriately when they know what to do, how to do it, and what is coming next.

Tell them what you expect on the very first day, and remind them before they begin each activity. When

the environment is predictable and they have the necessary support, there is little need for challenging


In Chapter 7 we discussed one way to create a predictable classroom: Classroom rules clarify

expectations and prevent problem behavior (see pages 130-131). Here are some other techniques for

creating a predictable classroom.

A Daily Schedule

Children enjoy a varied and balanced day with quiet and active, indoor and outdoor time, small-and

large-group, teacher-and child-directed activities (Harms, Clifford, & Cryer, 2005). Predictability and

consistent expectations are especially important at the beginning of the day. To help the children settle

into learning and remind them they belong to a group, start with a regular class meeting or circle time.

While you’re all together, go over the schedule and point out anything unusual, such as a field trip. Post

a picture schedule to help them remember what’s coming next.

Teach Procedures

Procedures also help to establish a predictable environment. The grease that makes the classroom run

smoothly, they tell the children how to carry out certain activities and cover virtually everything from

entering in the morning to leaving at day’s end—personal needs, transitions, participation in teacher-led

activities, working in small groups and centers, getting help, handling materials and equipment. Taught

step by step and practiced assiduously in the early days of the year, they contribute substantially to

children’s success. When you and the children are developing your classroom rules, make sure they’re

consistent with your procedures.

It’s wise to introduce just a few procedures at a time. On the opening day of school, start with those the

children need first—putting away their belongings, entering and leaving the classroom, going to the

bathroom, getting help, and asking questions. Over the next few days you can add other procedures,

such as those all-important beginning-and end-of-the-day routines. Before you begin any new activity,

think about the procedures it will require and how you’ll teach them.

Picture This

With the children’s help, you can make an engaging picture schedule.

Brainstorm: How do the children see the day? Begin with drop-off time or school bus arrival.

Take photographs of every facet of the daily routine—snack, bathroom, dressing for outdoors, recess,

nap, and so on.

Print and laminate the photos in 8” × 10” format.

With the children, arrange the photos in the proper order and put them into an album or on a ring or

post them at eye level with Velcro strips.

Take new pictures throughout the year to update the schedule and give every child a chance to appear

in it.

Save the old photos. You can use them for events that haven’t occurred yet.

Each procedure should have a clear rationale. Carefully explain the reasoning behind it and describe and

demonstrate it, breaking it into simple steps. Then in an animated and creative way practice, practice,

practice until the children can follow the whole procedure quickly and automatically. Provide them with

plenty of prompts and cues, supervise closely, and encourage them with immediate corrective feedback

and positive reinforcement (Evertson, Emmer, & Worsham, 2003).

Review the procedures regularly (especially during the first weeks), and solicit the children’s feedback.

Their ideas are usually helpful and innovative, and when they contribute to developing or fixing a

procedure, they’re more committed to following it. Be sure to post the procedures—along with visual

cues—wherever they’re used.

Legitimize Movement

It may encourage appropriate behavior if children with challenging behavior—who often have trouble

sitting still—have acceptable reasons to move around. It legitimizes activity and builds trust and

responsibility when children can sharpen a pencil, move to a comfy seat in the back of the room, go to

the bathroom, or dispose of their recycling without asking permission. But you still need a procedure—

they must know they can go one at a time, quietly, after the first 20 minutes or whatever you decide.

Taking responsibility for the classroom also gives children legitimate reasons for moving around. You can

assign big jobs that require teamwork (a good arrangement for children from collectivist cultures)

(Trumbull, Rothstein-Fisch, & Greenfield, 2000); children can work in pairs; or each child can have a job

of her own. Make sure the tasks are essential, such as collecting recyclables, bringing in snacks, carrying

messages to the office, watering the plants, leading lines, setting the tables, sweeping, taping ripped

books—the list goes on and on. Post a job chart so everyone knows what to do, and rotate the jobs

every week or two.

Getting from A to B

Transitions present a special challenge for children with challenging behavior. Ideally, the day should

contain as few transitions as possible, but even after you’ve examined your program with a magnifying

glass, there will be some you can’t eliminate. In fact, elementary school classes spend about 15 percent

of their day in transitions (Carter & Doyle, 2006).

Transitions can be fun.

Kali Nine LLC/Getty Images

Pay Special Attention

Whatever the procedure or transition, children like Andrew—those with a persistent and negative

temperament, those with ADHD or FASD—need extra help from the beginning: Do not wait for their

behavior to demand your assistance. Keep a plan geared to their particular needs in your mind at all

times, and remember that your ultimate goal is to help them manage transitions more easily. For

example, to ensure that Andrew will make it to the next activity without incident, ask him to be your

partner and label his feelings: “I know it’s frustrating when you have to stop building before you’re

ready, but let’s be partners and we can talk about your structure on the way to the park.” This is not a

punishment but a way to help him succeed, and he should be your partner as often as necessary. By

furnishing him with the support necessary to act appropriately, you preserve his self-esteem, boost his

skills, and enable the group to move from one activity to another.

Give a Warning

The number one strategy for managing transitions is a warning. Tell the whole group, “When I finish

reading this story, we will be going outside,” or deliver the message by visiting each small group

individually. But don’t forget that in some cultures, such changes seem arbitrary, so if you have a diverse

group, give the children a proper reason to finish what they’re doing. You can also alert them by

devising a ritual: flash the lights, use a timer, shake a tambourine, sing, or put on music. If you always

use the same song in the same circumstances, the children will soon know how much time they have to

get ready. Alternately, you could sing or play music during the transition itself, lending a positive,

energizing air to the proceedings. To enhance self-regulation, make a game of it by having the children

stop when you stop the music (“Ideas for smooth activity transitions,” 2013).

Assign Tasks at Cleanup

Because some children may be overwhelmed by the chaos of cleanup, take a few minutes to let every

child know what she should do before you give the warning sign. This extra direction (“At cleanup time,

please put the costumes in the trunk”) gives children a goal and a clear responsibility. It also allows you

to provide a rationale for the children who need one (“When we’re ready to clean up, please collect the

markers and put them in the box so that we can use them later”). When children finish their own task,

they can help someone else (“We’re not done until everyone is done”) (Rothstein-Fisch & Trumbull,


Watch as the teacher in this video asks several children what they’ll do during cleanup. Do you think her

selection is random, or is she scaffolding some who may need more guidance? What else does she do to

signal cleanup time?

Rethink the Line

When the class leaves the room for recess, lunch, the bathroom, or anywhere else, it’s important to

have everyone together and focused, but is a straight line necessary? By the time all the children get

into place, Andrew will probably have kicked someone, been sent to the back of the line, or been told to

sit down—none of which will prepare him to behave appropriately during the next activity or be

accepted by his peers. Keep an eye on him, and if you notice he doesn’t know where to go or is starting

to get too close to other children, make him your partner or assign him a task before he gets himself

into trouble.

You can reduce pushing and hitting and help children protect their personal space by arranging shapes

on the floor near the door for the children to stand on (with a reasonable distance between them).

Choose footprints, geometric shapes, or letters of the alphabet; group them by color; or write a child’s

name on each shape.

Before lunch or after a messy activity, all the children will need the classroom sink at the same time.

Most can handle the crowding and waiting, but Andrew will believe the other children are pushing him

on purpose, and he’ll probably push back. Send the children to wash up in small groups, and to expedite

the process, appoint one child to run the soap pump and another to hand out the towels.

Here are some additional techniques to ease transitions:

Give students who are slow to adapt more time to make a change.

Some children feel more comfortable when they know all the concrete details. Tell them where they’re

going, who will be with them, who will be in charge, how long the activity will last.

Some children do better if they have a job to perform during a transition. Let them lead the line, hold

the door, take a note to the Spanish teacher.

Pair a child with a peer buddy who can lower his anxiety and keep him focused.

Prepare all your materials before an activity begins. The children can help set up before and clean up


After a noisy, active period, such as recess or lunch, move the children to quieter learning by reading

them a story.

Make transitions fun and educational. Float down the hall like astronauts; sing the song about the five

little ducks following their mother; count the steps from one place to another; follow the leader’s

motions; or take a theme from a story you read recently. Many songs and games adapt well to this


Moving from Subject to Subject

Some students find it hard to switch from one subject to another and look at you blankly when you tell

them to put away their reading text and take out their math books. To motivate them and focus their

attention, try these ideas:

Take a break. Children can stand and stretch, play Simon Says, or talk to the person beside them for two


Create a ritual chant. Whenever you change subjects, the children can circle the classroom once,

chanting as they walk.

Retrieve items one at a time. Ask students to get just one thing at a time. “Please take out your math

book,” “Take out your workbooks,” “Does everyone have a pencil?”

The Hardest Transitions of All


Many children, including some with specific behavioral disorders, don’t need to sleep or even rest.

Others who glide through the rest of the day without difficulty glow with the effort of staying awake and

entertaining their classmates during nap. All of this can transform you into a dictator or make nap a

nightmare. The physical facilities, your philosophy, and the group itself will all play a role in the solution

you devise. To begin with, everyone benefits if you send the most tired children to nap first. Next,

allocate separate areas for sleepers, resters, and nonsleepers. Children who don’t sleep will tolerate

naptime better if you put on some music, let them look at a book, and as soon as the sleepers fall

asleep, allow them to play quietly with puzzles, markers, and books.

Drop-Off Time

Arrival is the hardest part of the day for many children with challenging behavior. They are bringing

emotional baggage from home—they’re mad because they had to wear their rain boots or upset

because their parents were fighting last night—but you may not be available to tune into their needs.

Everyone is arriving at once, parents want to talk to you, and someone left her lunch box on the bus. Ask

the family or bus driver to alert you if the day’s start has been a disaster so that you can be sure to check

in with the child. If she has trouble almost every morning, talk with the family. They may need to spend

a few minutes settling her in, or they could bring her directly to you, signaling that they trust you and

she should trust you as well.


Communicating openly with families is also critical at the end of the day, when children with challenging

behavior often revert to old patterns. Encourage parents to give their child a few minutes to adjust to

the idea that she’s going home. If they sit beside her, help her finish what she’s doing, talk with her and

her friends, or look at a drawing she made that day, she can prepare herself to leave. Tactfully remind

families about the classroom rules. Just because their parents are present doesn’t mean children can run

in the hall or jump on the trikes.


The curriculum, or program, sets out what children should learn—knowledge, concepts, skills, abilities,

and understandings—and includes goals and plans for supporting their development in every realm—

physical, social, emotional, and cognitive (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009).

Because this is such a tall order, responsibility for preparing or selecting the curriculum in schools rests

with state departments of education and school districts. But in child care centers, this decision belongs

to the administration and teachers who spend many hours each day with the children. The NAEYC tells

us that they can create the best curriculum by acting intentionally, consistently asking themselves what

children need to learn, how children learn best, and how to help children build on what they know and

what they can do (Ritchie & Willer, 2007).

To support children’s interests, engagement, and motivation to learn—and to prevent challenging

behavior as much as possible—a curriculum must be rich and meaningful. It should (Hyson, 2008)

present challenges

have content worth learning, that is, big ideas

connect with children’s experience and interests

involve interaction with peers and teachers

be developmentally appropriate and culturally responsive

If a task is inappropriate, children will do whatever is necessary to avoid failing. Whether it’s a puzzle

with 40 pieces for a child who can manage 25 pieces, a circle that requires an American Indian child to

respond individually, or a math project that demands a lot of sitting from a very active child, the result

will be frustration, and she will find a challenging way to escape. Instead of forcing students to fit into

the program, you can help them to learn—and behave appropriately—by designing and bending the

curriculum to meet their needs.

When you’re planning your program, it’s important to remember that children have different needs on

different days. On Monday, after an unstructured weekend at home or with a noncustodial parent,

many children have trouble returning to group activities and a different set of expectations. They are

usually back in the groove by midweek, but when Friday rolls around, they’re tired and wondering who

will pick them up. Certain times of the year—Christmas, Halloween, flu season, to name a few—are also

unsettling. All of this means you must reconsider your expectations and rejig the program, perhaps

offering fewer and less challenging options, to coincide with their ability to succeed.

Ultimately, how much the children learn and how much fun they’ll have learning will depend on how

well your curriculum (and your teaching strategies, which we’ll discuss later in this chapter) reflect the

interests, abilities, cultures, and temperaments of the children in your class. Although there are many

curricula available, probably none of them will meet the needs of all of the children you teach.

Sometimes an eclectic approach where you select aspects of several programs works best. No matter

what you do, what’s most important is knowing why you’re doing it and feeling comfortable with it.

Sometimes this is as simple as adding full-body learning opportunities (Gartrell, 2012) and letting the

children work standing up. As you plan, try to think of the child with challenging behavior. If you can

make things work for Andrew, they’ll work better for everyone.

How Do the Common Core State Standards Affect Your Program?

The Common Core—adopted by more than 40 states as of 2015—establishes clear educational

standards in math and English language arts for kindergarten through grade 12, and many educators

worry that having common standards will bring inappropriate content and teaching practices into

primary, kindergarten, and early childhood classrooms (Common Core State Standards Initiative, n.d.).

Meet the Core

The Common Core standards cover ground that teachers of young children are already covering. The

issue is much more how they’re teaching than what they’re teaching.

For example, one kindergarten standard reads, “Decompose numbers less than or equal to 5 into pairs

in more than one way, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record each decomposition by a drawing

or equation (e.g., 5 = 2 + 3 and 5 = 4 + 1)” (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices,

Council of Chief State School Officers, 2010).

This sounds complex and difficult, but teachers can present it so that the children are actively engaged,

thinking, and having fun by asking them to group five Lego pieces in as many ways as possible and to

draw each grouping, and then asking them if there are the same number of pieces in each grouping.

Whatever the age of your students, you are still in control of what happens in the classroom. In the

words of early childhood specialist Karen Nemeth (2012), “Nothing in the standards forces us to teach

preschoolers as if they were older students.”

How does the teacher in this video make the day interesting and provide opportunities for social and

emotional learning, even with the demands of standards and testing?

First, it’s important to know that all 50 states already have early learning content standards for

preschoolers in place, and most have them for infants and toddlers as well (Regenstein, 2013). In fact,

the NAEYC’s developmentally appropriate practice guidelines can be considered standards for early

childhood education. And second, the Common Core and early learning standards are concerned with

what to teach, not with how to teach. They may steer teachers more deeply into some subject matter,

but in their classrooms, teachers can still use developmentally appropriate and culturally responsive

practices to shape the curriculum to the needs of the children they teach (Snow, 2014). If their state or

district mandates the use of teaching manuals geared to the standards, this job may be more difficult,

but in either case, thought and creativity are definitely required.

The Importance of Play

With the increased emphasis on accountability and testing—even of young children—playtime is

disappearing. Kindergarten children spend 2 to 3 hours a day being instructed and tested in literacy and

math but just 30 minutes in free play or choice time (Miller & Almon, 2009). Blocks, sand and water

tables, and dramatic play props have almost vanished.

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Establishing Classroom
Norms & Expectations

Created by Carolyn Evertson, Professor Emeritus, Vanderbilt University
& Inge Poole, PhD, Education Consultant

The contents of this resource were developed under a grant from
the U.S. Department of Education, #H325E120002. However,
those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S.
Department of Education, and you should not assume endorse-
ment by the Federal Government. Project Officer, Sarah Allen

Establishing Classroom Norms & Expectations

Contents: Page

Credits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .ii
Standards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . iii
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . iv
STAR Sheets

Stating Expectations Clearly

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Implementing Classroom Rules and Procedures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Supporting Expectations Consistently . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Reevaluating Established Norms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9

Case Studies
Level A, Case 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Level A, Case 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Level B, Case 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Level C, Case 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15

Answer Key . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18


* For an Answer Key to this case study, please email your full name, title, and institutional
affiliation to the IRIS Center at iris@vanderbilt .edu .

iris .peabody .vanderbilt .edu ii

To Cite This
Case Study Unit

Evertson, C ., Poole, I ., & the IRIS Center . (2003) . Establishing
classroom norms and expectations . Retrieved from https://iris .
peabody .vanderbilt .edu/wp-content/uploads/pdf_case_studies/


Carolyn Evertson
Inge Poole

Case Study
Developers Kim Skow


Erik Dunton
pp . 3, 6 Rules Boxes Adapted from Evertson & Harris, 2003;

Evertson, Emmer, & Worsham, 2003

Establishing Classroom Norms & Expectations


iii iii

Establishing Classroom Norms & Expectations


Licensure and Content Standards
This IRIS Case Study aligns with the following licensure and program standards and topic areas .

Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)
CAEP standards for the accreditation of educators are designed to improve the quality and
effectiveness not only of new instructional practitioners but also the evidence-base used to assess those
qualities in the classroom .

• Standard 1: Content and Pedagogical Knowledge

Council for Exceptional Children (CEC)
CEC standards encompass a wide range of ethics, standards, and practices created to help guide
those who have taken on the crucial role of educating students with disabilities .

• Standard 2: Learning Environments

Interstate Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (InTASC)
InTASC Model Core Teaching Standards are designed to help teachers of all grade levels and content
areas to prepare their students either for college or for employment following graduation .

• Standard 3: Learning Environments

National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)
NCATE standards are intended to serve as professional guidelines for educators . They also overview
the “organizational structures, policies, and procedures” necessary to support them .

• Standard 1: Candidate Knowledge, Skills, and Professional Dispositions

The Division for Early Childhood Recommended Practices (DEC)
The DEC Recommended Practices are designed to help improve the learning outcomes of young
children (birth through age five) who have or who are at-risk for developmental delays or disabilities .

• Topic 3: Environment
• Topic 5: Instruction

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This case study set focuses on the establishment of classroom norms and expectations . This
introduction offers an overview of norms and expectations and how they are communicated and
established in a classroom . To establish norms and expectations in a classroom is a complex, long-
term task . Your skill in successfully undertaking it will evolve as you become more experienced . The
goal of this case study set is to help you understand how to prevent many problem behaviors by
putting supportive classroom structures in place as you set up an effective classroom .
What is an effective classroom? It is one that runs smoothly, with minimal confusion and down
time, and maximizes student learning . An effective classroom has patterns and routines in place
that make interaction and movement within that classroom easy to organize and accomplish . Such
patterns and routines are established through the development of classroom rules and procedures .
Rules are the explicit statements of teacher’s expectations for students’ behavior in a classroom .
Procedures are the patterns for accomplishing classroom tasks . Teachers communicate their
expectations to students through the development and enactment of both .
Expectations are desired behaviors or outcomes . Within a classroom, a teacher can make his or her
expectations known to students, or the teacher can cause students to guess at the expectations . It is
much easier for students to meet a teacher’s expectations when they know what these expectations
are . Teachers can make their expectations known to students by directly teaching the classroom
rules and procedures, providing opportunities for the students to practice them, and consistently
responding to students’ behavior . A teacher’s consistent responses can include both positive
consequences to reinforce a student’s appropriate behavior and negative consequences to deter a
student’s inappropriate behavior .
Students also have expectations for their own behavior . When the behavior that the teacher and
students expect and exhibit becomes so routine that it seems to be in consensus, a classroom norm
for that behavior has been established . Norms can be defined as accustomed ways of perceiving,
believing, evaluating, and acting in an environment (Goodnough, 1971) . In other words, norms are
the familiar ways we have of interacting with each other in a particular setting .

Establishing Classroom Norms & Expectations


iris .peabody .vanderbilt .edu v

Case Study Set Definitions
Norms familiar ways of interacting in a classroom
Expectations desired behaviors or outcomes
Rules written expectations for behavior in a classroom
Procedures patterns for accomplishing classroom tasks
Within classrooms, a common norm for requesting a turn to speak during instruction is to raise one’s
hand and wait to be acknowledged . This classroom norm develops when a teacher teaches his or
her students how to raise their hands when they want to speak, has students practice raising their
hands, and consistently responds to students’ behavior (positively when they raise their hands, and
negatively when they don’t) . In fact, this norm often becomes so familiar it is used in other settings––
have you ever raised your hand for a turn to speak at the dinner table?
Whereas classroom norms, such as raising one’s hand, are sustained by consensus, they can also
be suspended or changed if they are not supported or reinforced . For example, a norm for being
in class on time ceases to be a norm when there is no consequence for students’ tardiness . Thus,
arriving late becomes the accepted practice . The actions and interactions that a teacher encourages
or allows to become familiar develop into that classroom’s norms . Therefore, thoughtful advance
planning by the teacher can guide and establish effective group norms that support student learning .
For example, prompt attendance promotes student learning by making certain that students are
exposed to as much instructional time as possible . Therefore, a teacher might require prompt
attendance as well establish procedures to make prompt attendance a familiar routine . A classroom
rule regarding prompt attendance might be stated as “Be in your seat and ready for class when
the bell rings .” A procedure involved in preparing for class might require students to place their
completed homework in a designated location as they enter the classroom . When all the procedures
of preparing for class prior to the bell’s ring become routine for students, prompt attendance has
become an established classroom norm .
Ultimately, a teacher wants to establish classroom norms that create an effective classroom in which
student learning time is maximized . In this case study set, we will consider four specific aspects of
establishing classroom norms and expectations:

1 . Stating expectations clearly,
2 . Implementing classroom rules and procedures,
3 . Supporting expectations consistently, and
4 . Reevaluating established norms .

What the Research and Resources Say
• Teachers who establish and maintain norms for an effective learning environment spend more

time teaching because less time is usurped by discipline (Brophy, 2000) .
• Norms that engender a supportive learning environment include acting and interacting

responsibly, treating others with respect and concern, and fostering a learning orientation
(Brophy 1998; 2000; Good & Brophy, 2000; Sergiovanni, 1994) .

• Effective school-wide norms can be established through a school-based program that focuses
on supportive interactions among students (Solomon, Watson, Delucchi, Schaps, & Battistich,
1988) .

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What a STAR Sheet is…What a STAR Sheet is…
A STAR (STrategies And Resources) Sheet provides you with a description of a well-
researched strategy that can help you solve the case studies in this unit .

Brophy, J . E . (1998) . Motivating students to learn . Boston: McGraw-Hill
Brophy, J . E . (2000) . Teaching . Geneva, Switzerland: International Bureau of Education .
Good, T . L ., & Brophy, J . E . (2000) . Looking in classrooms (8th ed .) . New York: Longman .
Goodnough, W . (1971) . Culture, language, and society . Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley .
Sergiovanni, T . (1994) . Building community in schools . San Francisco: Jossey-Bass .
Solomon, D ., Watson, M . S ., Delucchi, K . L ., Schaps, E ., & Battistich, V . (1988) . Enhancing

children’s prosocial behavior in the classroom . American Educational Research Journal, 25(4),
527–554 .

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Establishing Classroom Norms & Expectations
Stating Expectations Clearly


About the Strategy
Expectations are desired behaviors and outcomes . Teachers’ expectations of students are directly
connected to students’ achievement of those expectations . The strategy of stating expectations
clearly involves the explicit acknowledgment of expectations for student actions and interactions in
ways that the students can understand and achieve .

What the Research and Resources Say
• Students both want and need teachers to demonstrate authority by setting realistic academic

and behavioral expectations (Brophy, 1998) .
• Successful classroom managers help students identify what is expected of them and how to

achieve these expectations (Brophy, 1998; Evertson, Emmer, & Worsham, 2003; Evertson &
Harris, 1992) .

• When teachers hold high expectations of students, the students typically meet higher standards
of performance (Good & Brophy, 2000) .

• Low expectations are communicated to students when teachers provide less wait time, fewer or
inappropriate reinforcements, less feedback, fewer opportunities to participate in instruction,
reduced eye-contact, more criticism for failure, or by teachers showing less acceptance of the
student’s ideas (Brophy, 1998; Good & Brophy, 2000) .

• The expectations teachers have for students affect their current performance, and can influence
future performance, particularly at the early grades (Wong, 1998) .

• Clarity in instruction increases student academic engagement and achievement (Evertson &
Emmer, 1982) .

• Clarity in instruction includes actions such as framing the lesson in context, stating key
components of the content, linking these components together, focusing student attention on
important elements, and providing examples (Snyder, Landt, Roberts, Smith, & Voskuil, 1993) .

• In order to clarify expectations during all stages of a lesson, teachers can use advance
organizers to set up instruction, provide guidance and feedback to students during instruction,
and reflect with students after instruction (Brophy, 1998) .

Strategies to Implement
• Know what you want students to do and at what level of achievement . Make sure it is

something they can accomplish .
• In understandable increments, state what the task is, why you are asking students to complete

it, the steps involved, and how the task will be assessed . Provide written directions if possible .
Model the action(s) requested .

• Monitor student progress and offer feedback to students en route and following task completion .

Brophy, J . E . (1998) . Motivating students to learn . Boston: McGraw-Hill .
Evertson, C . M ., & Emmer, E . T . (1982) . Effective management at the beginning of the school year


junior high classes . Journal of Educational Psychology, 74, 485–498 .
Evertson, C . M ., Emmer, E . T ., & Worsham, M . E . (2003) . Classroom management for elementary

teachers (6th ed .) . New York: Allyn & Bacon .
Evertson, C ., & Harris, A . (1992) . What we know about managing classrooms . Educational

Leadership, 49, 74–78 .

Good, T . L ., & Brophy, J . E . (2000) . Looking in classrooms (8th ed .) . New York: Longman .
Johnson, T . C ., Stoner, G ., & Green, S . K . (1996) . Demonstrating the experimenting society model

with classwide behavior management interventions . School Psychology Review, 25(2), 199–
214 .

Snyder, S . J ., Landt, A ., Roberts, J ., Smith, J . S ., & Voskuil, K . (1993, April) . Instructional clarity:
The role of liking and focusing moves on student achievement, motivation and satisfaction.
Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association,
Atlanta . ERIC Document Reproduction Service ED 362 507 .

Wong, H . K ., & Wong, R . T . (1998) . The first days of school . Mountain View, CA: Harry K . Wong
Publications, Inc .

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Establishing Classroom Norms & Expectations

Stating Expectations Clearly

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Establishing Classroom Norms and Expectations

Implementing Classroom Rules and Procedures

About the Strategy
Classroom rules are a teacher’s stated expectations for student behavior . Classroom procedures are
patterns for accomplishing classroom tasks . Classroom rules and procedures are connected in three
ways . First, rules are the expectation boundaries within which procedures are followed . Second,
procedures form routines that help students to meet the expectations stated in the rules . Third, both
rules and procedures must be taught, practiced, and consistently supported to be effective in the
classroom . (Cohesive sets of rules and procedures are two aspects of a comprehensive behavior
management system .)

What the Research and Resources Say
• A dependable system of rules and procedures provides structure for students . This structure helps

students to be engaged with instructional tasks and communicates to students that the teacher
cares for them . (Brophy, 1998) .

• Authoritative implementation of rules includes communicating care and respect for students,
teaching students what is expected of them and why this is of value, and responding to
students’ actions and interactions in ways that help them to become more responsible self-
regulated learners (Brophy, 1998) .

• Rules are few in number, always apply, and must be understood by all . Procedures are many in
number, are specific to certain tasks, and must be understood by all . (Evertson & Harris, 2003)

• Teaching rules and procedures to students at the beginning of the year and enforcing them
consistently across time increases student academic achievement and task engagement
(Evertson, 1985; 1989; Evertson & Emmer, 1982; Evertson, Emmer, Sanford, & Clements,
1983; Johnson, Stoner, & Green, 1996) .

• Effective teaching includes teaching functional routines (procedures) to students at the beginning
of the year and using these routines to efficiently move through the school day (Leinhardt,
Weidman, & Hammond, 1987) .

• Having all students––including those with behavioral difficulties––participate in developing
classroom rules offers them the opportunity to cooperate, collaborate, and make connections
with each other as well as to develop a sense of ownership in the classroom (Castle & Rogers,
1993; Martin & Hayes, 1998) .

Sample Classroom Rules

1 . Respect yourself, your peers, and their property .
2 . Talk at appropriate times and use appropriate voices .
3 . Be in your seat and ready for class when the bell rings .
4 . Follow my directions .
5 . Obey all school rules .

Adapted from Evertson & Harris, 2003;

Evertson, Emmer, & Worsham, 2003

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Example Rules and Procedures
The chart below connects sample classroom rules with some examples of procedures that help
students meet the expectation(s) within the stated rule .

Rule Sample Corresponding Procedure(s)
Respect yourself, your
peers, and their property.

Ask and receive permission before borrowing something.

Be in your seat and ready
for class when the bell

Place your completed homework in the homework basket as
you enter class.

Get permission to talk. 1. Raise your hand to request a turn when the teacher is
2. Use indoor voices during a class discussion, waiting for a
pause in the conversation to insert your thought.

Strategies to Implement
• Anticipate what students need to know and do in the classroom, both academically and

socially, before the school year begins . Plan for the first days of school based on these learning
goals . For example, if students’ prompt attendance is needed to maximize instructional time,
then plan for corresponding classroom rules and procedures by responding to such questions

– What time will class begin?
– How will I be prepared to begin class promptly?
– How will I present my expectations of promptness to students?
– What consequences will result from tardiness?

• Select rules and procedures that you are able to sustain and state them positively (e .g ., “Walk
in the hallways” rather than “Don’t run”) . See Guidelines for Writing Rules at the end of this
STAR Sheet .

• Begin modeling and discussing the class rules and procedures on the first day of school .
• Explain to students the purpose and rationale for classroom rules and procedures .
• Identify positive examples of class rules and procedures in action and provide role-play

opportunities for each .
• Develop, teach, practice, and support new procedures as necessary to support effective

routines in the classroom .
• Consistently respond to student behavior regarding the established classroom rules and

procedures .

Keep in Mind
• Your rules (developed with your students or on your own) should support your learning goals

for the class, should be ones your students can understand and accomplish, and should be
associated with clear positive and negative consequences . These rules may vary by subject
matter, grade level, and group dynamics .

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• Writing rules with your students is a lengthy process (2–3 mornings/ class sessions) .
• The procedures you establish in your classroom should help students to comply with your stated

expectations, should be ones your students can understand and accomplish, and should be
retaught as needed to help students remember the patterns .

• Your actions and interactions with students can either support or undermine the classroom rules
and procedures you are implementing . For example, if a teacher uses humiliation or sarcasm to
communicate with students, the students are significantly less likely to feel respected and to offer
respect to others in turn .

Castle, K ., & Rogers, K . (1993) . Rule-creating in a constructivist classroom community . Childhood

Education, 70(2), 77–80 .
Evertson, C . M . (1985) . Training teachers in classroom management: An experiment in secondary

classrooms . Journal of Educational Research, 79, 51–58 .
Evertson, C . M . (1989) . Improving elementary classroom management: A school-based training

program for beginning the year . Journal of Educational Research, 83(2), 82–90 .
Evertson, C . M ., & Emmer, E . T . (1982) . Effective management at the beginning of the school year

in junior high classes . Journal of Educational Psychology, 74, 485–498 .
Evertson, C . M ., Emmer, E . T ., Sanford, J . P ., & Clements, B . S . (1983) . Improving classroom

management: An experiment in elementary classrooms . The Elementary School Journal, 84,
173–188 .

Evertson, C . M ., & Harris, A . H . (2003) . COMP: Creating conditions for learning . Nashville, TN:
Vanderbilt University .

Johnson, T . C ., Stoner, G ., & Green, S . K . (1996) . Demonstrating the experimenting society model
with classwide behavior management interventions . School Psychology Review, 25(2), 199–
214 .

Leinhardt, G ., Weidman, C ., & Hammond, K . M . (1987) . Introduction and integration of classroom
routines by expert teachers . Curriculum Inquiry, 17(2), 135–175 .

Martin, H ., & Hayes, S . (1998) . Overcoming obstacles: Approaches to dealing with problem
pupils . British Journal of Special Education, 25(3), 135–139 .

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Guidelines for Writing Rules*

(Accompanies Implementing Classroom Rules and Procedures STAR Sheet)

Rules govern relationships––with others, time, space, and materials . They are consistent
across situations and few in number . The eight guidelines below can help you develop
effective rules for your classroom .

1. Consistent with school rules
Classroom rules should not conflict with school rules; school rules should be in
effect in the classroom .

2. Understandable
Rules must be stated so that students clearly understand what is meant .
Vocabulary should be consistent with students’ grade and ability level .

3. Doable
Rules must be such that students are capable of following them . They must be
within students maturation level and mental and physical abilities .

4. Manageable
Rules should be easily monitored and not require excessive classroom time to
hold students accountable .

5. Always applicable
Rules should be consistent; they should not vary or change .

6. Stated positively
Stating rules positively encourages the desired behavior . Although it is sometimes
difficult to state all rules positively, most “don’ts” can be transformed to “do’s .”
(Even “No gum” can be stated as “Leave all gum at home .”)

7. Stated behaviorally
Rules are easily understood and monitored when defined with action statements
beginning with a verb––statements that describe what students are to “do”––such
as “Leave all gum at home” or “Bring needed materials to class .”

8. Consistent with your own philosophy
Your rules should reflect what you believe about how students learn best .

*Used with permission. Evertson, C. M., & Harris, A. H. (2003). COMP: Creating Conditions for Learning (6th ed.). Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt
University. p. 2.08E.

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Establishing Classroom Norms and Expectations

Supporting Expectations Consistently

About the Strategy
The consistent support of expectations is essential to the development of classroom norms that
promote student learning . Consistency requires that the teacher equitably reinforces appropriate
student behavior and deters inappropriate student behavior . Teachers must first teach students the
classroom rules and procedures, provide students practice with them, and then consistently respond
to student actions and interactions in regard to these rules and procedures . (Teacher responses or
consequences are one component of a comprehensive behavior management system .)

What the Research and Resources Say
• Teaching rules and procedures to students at the beginning of the year and enforcing them

consistently across time increases student academic achievement and task engagement
(Evertson, 1985; 1989; Evertson & Emmer, 1982; Johnson, Stoner, & Green, 1996) .

• Teachers should focus on increasing positive behavior and interactions by consistently enforcing
expectations (Shores, Gunter, & Jack, 1993) .

• When teachers are inconsistent in their enforcement of expectations, students become uncertain
of what those expectations are and whether the expectations apply to them (Evertson, Emmer,
& Worsham, 2003) .

• Three sources for inconsistency occur when a teacher exhibits:
a . unreasonable expectations,
b . incomplete monitoring, and
c . halfhearted expectations (Evertson, Emmer, & Worsham, 2003) . Students cannot

accomplish the unreasonable, try to get away with what they can, and know when a
behavior is not really expected .

• Teachers who respond consistently feel positive about their teaching and help students improve
their performance (Freiberg, Stein, & Huang, 1995) .

• Clearly stating expectations and consistently supporting them lends credibility to a teacher’s
authority (Good & Brophy, 2000) .

Strategies to Implement
• Know and understand both your expectations for students and your responses when students

meet or do not meet these expectations . You should have responses for meeting your
expectations (positive, or supporting, consequences) and for not meeting your expectations
(negative, or deterring, consequences) .

• State expectations clearly . Post your classroom rules . Practice the classroom procedures until
they become routine .

• Monitor students’ progress in meeting expectations .
• Provide feedback to students as they work so they know if they are meeting your expectations .

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• Indicate to students when they have or have not met your expectations . Respond to all students
who meet or do not meet your expectations in an equitable manner consistent with your plans
(as determined by first tip) .

Keep in Mind
• Supporting your expectations is not always easy or popular, but it is the best way to assure that

all students have equal opportunities to succeed . An adjective that might be used to describe a
teacher who exhibits consistency is “fair .”

• Making exceptions for individuals to meet your expectations at a different level is sometimes
necessary (e .g ., extenuating circumstances, IEP requirements, etc .), but may communicate to
other students that the original expectation is not reasonable or meaningful . Be prudent about
adjusting your expectations for individuals and be sure to communicate those adjustments and
the rationale for them to students .

Evertson, C . M . (1985) . Training teachers in classroom management: An experiment in secondary

classrooms . Journal of Educational Research, 79, 51–58 .
Evertson, C . M . (1989) Improving elementary classroom management: A school-based training

program for beginning the year . Journal of Educational Research, 83(2), 82–90 .
Evertson, C . M . & Emmer, E . (1982) . Effective management at the beginning of the school year in

junior high classes . Journal of Educational Psychology, 74, 485–498 .
Evertson, C . M ., Emmer, E . T ., & Worsham, M . E . (2003) . Classroom management for elementary

teachers (6th ed .) . Boston: Allyn and Bacon .
Freiberg, H ., Stein, T ., & Huang, S . (1995) . Effects of a classroom management intervention on

student achievement in inner-city elementary schools . Educational Research and Evaluation: An
International Journal on Theory and Practice, 1, 36–66 .

Good, T . L ., & Brophy, J . E . (2000) . Looking in classrooms (8th ed .) . New York: Longman .
Johnson, T . C ., Stoner, G ., & Green, S . K . (1996) . Demonstrating the experimenting society model

with classwide behavior management interventions . School Psychology Review, 25(2), 199–
214 .

Shores, R . E ., Gunter, P . L ., & Jack, S . L . (1993) . Classroom management strategies: Are they
setting events for coercion? Behavioral Disorders, 18(2), 92–102 .

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Establishing Classroom Norms and Expectations

Reevaluating Established Norms

About the Strategy
Reevaluating established norms is the practice of reflecting upon, and adjusting as necessary, the
accepted classroom norms . Since norms are developed and maintained through the interactions
of individuals, they can shift and change . The environments in which the norms are established
can also change . While reflecting upon the established classroom norms, a teacher compares
the accepted norms of the classroom to those desired for maintaining an effective classroom .
When a discrepancy is found between what is needed for a successful learning environment and
the established classroom norms, the teacher must adjust these norms through instruction, clear
communication of expectations, and consistent support of these expectations . The process of
reevaluating established norms is one portion of a teacher’s continual evaluation of the learning
environment in his or her classroom .

What the Research and Resources Say
• As students become more familiar with classroom routines and procedures, additional

instructional formats and more challenging work can be incorporated (Evertson, Emmer,
& Worsham, 2003; Good & Brophy, 2000) . These changes may require adaptations to
established classroom norms .

Strategies to Implement
• Regularly reflect on the classroom rules and procedures implemented in the classroom . Consider

the students’ actions and interactions as well as your own . Compare the accepted norms (what
has become familiar in your classroom) with what is required for an effective classroom .

• Continue to support and reinforce constructive classroom norms through the classroom rules and
procedures you have implemented . Note: Procedures can be changed as needed to support
constructive classroom norms .

• Where changes are needed, discuss with students the rationale for the change and the process
needed to achieve it . Note: Sometimes the change that is required is for you to be more
consistent when responding to student actions and interactions .

• State your expectations clearly to students and support these expectations consistently .

Keep in Mind
• If you wish to increase student commitment to altering a classroom norm, involve them in the

planning and implementation of the change process .
• Changing established norms can be difficult and time-consuming . Students who do not

understand or agree with the need for change may resist the process .

Evertson, C . M ., Emmer, E . T ., & Worsham, M . E . (2003) . Classroom management for elementary

teachers (6th ed .) . Boston: Allyn and Bacon .
Good, T . L ., & Brophy, J . E . (2000) . Looking in classrooms (8th ed .) . New York: Longman .


Student: Ron
Grade: 1st
Age: 6 .8
Context: 10 weeks into the school year (mid-October)

On the first morning of the school year, Ms . Bosco greeted each first grader at the door with a smile .
She introduced herself and asked the student’s name before leading the student to his or her assigned
desk and helping to place the student’s things there . She then asked for the student to have a seat with
the other first graders on the carpet at the front of the room . She showed the student an X with the
student’s name written across it as his or her special seating spot . The Xs formed a circle on the carpet .
When all the students were seated, Ms . Bosco played a game with the group to help her and the
students to learn each other’s names . She also asked each student to share one special fact about him-
or herself . She then moved into a reading lesson with the class .
On the second morning of the school year, Ms . Bosco greeted each student by name with a smile at
the door . As they entered, she asked them to place their things on their desks and then sit on their
Xs at the carpet . When all students were seated in the circle, Ms . Bosco played a game to help her
and the students review each other’s names . She asked each child to identify something special
about his or her neighbor to the right . She then asked two students to model for the class how to
enter the room at the start of each day, put their things away, and be seated on their Xs at the
carpet . Ms . Bosco then moved into a reading lesson for the day with the class .
In mid-October, Ron moves into Ms . Bosco’s class from another school district . On his first day, his
registration process takes about thirty minutes, so he does not get to join the class until after the
reading lesson is already in progress . When the intercom announces they will be receiving a new
student, Ms . Bosco interrupts the reading lesson to welcome Ron, meet his parents, and help Ron put
his things into his desk . As Ms . Bosco helps Ron find an open space in which to sit at the circle with
the rest of the class, she tells Ron that the class is trying to find rhyming words in the story she has
read aloud . She then continues the lesson with the class . In this lesson and throughout the day, Ron
appears to be distracted and starts misbehaving .
On Tuesday morning, Ron comes to the classroom and goes immediately to the aquarium at the
back of the room to watch the fish . When the bell rings to start the day, he leaves his things at the
aquarium and comes late to the circle, pushing to sit between two students even though there is
an empty space available . Ms . Bosco tells Ron to have a seat at the empty space and then begins
the morning routine . By the start of the reading lesson, Ron is sprawled across the carpet, making
noises, and bumping into his neighbors . The students seated around Ron begin complaining to Ms .
Bosco about his behavior .

iris .peabody .vanderbilt .edu 10

Establishing Classroom Norms and Expectations
Level A • Case 1


iris .peabody .vanderbilt .edu 11

When the class goes to the music room for its morning specials class, Ms . Bosco tries to reflect on
Ron’s behavior . She reads through the materials that were sent by his previous school and finds that
Ron’s previous teacher had noted he was easily distracted, especially during transitions . Ms . Bosco
then sets the following goals for Ron to meet by the end of the week:

• Increase Ron’s sense of membership in the classroom community by having him sit with the
class on the carpet in a listening position and by helping him use each of his peer’s names and
helping them to use his

• Increase Ron’s understanding of and commitment to the established classroom norms,
beginning with the morning routine, by having him follow the class’s established procedures

Possible Strategies
• Stating expectations clearly
• Implementing classroom rules and procedures

!! Assignment Assignment
• Read the Case Study Set Introduction and the STAR sheets on each of the possible strategies .
• Using the strategies listed above, write one suggestion that Ms . Bosco can implement for each

of Ron’s goals . Explain why the suggestions would be helpful in meeting Ron’s goals .

iris .peabody .vanderbilt .edu 12

Establishing Classroom Norms and Expectations
Level A • Case 2


Grade: 4th
Context: Class of 23 students, 20 minutes before lunch

Halfway through Mr . English’s daily writing lesson, the four students from his classroom who
receive morning special education services in language arts return to class in preparation for lunch .
Because the special education teacher works with students from several grade levels, he is not able
to mesh his schedule completely with the fourth grade and cannot rearrange his schedule . Though
the special education teacher tries to cover many of the fourth grade language arts skills with these
four students, Mr . English senses that the students are falling farther behind their peers because they
do not get to participate in some of the classroom language arts instruction (e .g ., writing) .
As the year has progressed, when these four students return to his class, they begin to act out
and disturb the students participating in the writing lesson . Mr . English is becoming increasingly
frustrated with the behavior of the four students . He feels he spends the last half of each writing
lesson trying to keep these four students quiet so the rest of the class can learn to write . Mr . English
sets the following goals for the next four weeks:

• Increase the quantity and quality of writing time for the class
• Decrease the misbehavior of the four students

Note that Mr . English is not currently including the four students receiving language arts special
education services in his writing lessons .

Possible Strategies
• Implementing classroom rules and procedures
• Supporting expectations consistently
• Reevaluating established norms

!! Assignment Assignment
• Read the Case Study Set Introduction and the STAR sheets on each of the three possible

strategies .
• Give one suggestion from each strategy that may be helpful to Mr . English in meeting the goals

for his class .

iris .peabody .vanderbilt .edu 13

Establishing Classroom Norms and Expectations
Level B • Case 1


Student: Shandra
Grade: 5th
Age: 11 .2
Context: Math class, end of the first grading period

While calculating his students’ grades for the first grading period, Mr . Washington discovers a
problem . Although one of his students, Shandra, is receiving Title I tutoring for math, she has a low
grade in his math class for the period . Speaking with Shandra’s Title I tutor, Mr . Washington learns
that part of her tutoring included talking with her Title I peers about her mathematical thinking . The
Title I tutor indicates that Shandra is doing well in tutoring and should also be doing well in his
class .
Mr . Washington usually lectures during his math instruction . The rest of the lesson is usually
filled with independent seatwork . Therefore, there isn’t an opportunity for Shandra to talk with
anyone about her mathematical thinking . In fact, because students are not allowed to talk while
Mr . Washington is teaching or while they do their independent seatwork, in effect a norm of “no
talking” has developed in his math classes .
Mr . Washington wants to provide instruction that will offer Shandra a chance to succeed . For the
next grading period, he plans to include partner work in his math instruction . The talking procedure
that he uses for partner work in his current science class holds that student conversation cannot
begin until Mr . Washington gives permission, it must be on the science topic, and it must be only
loud enough for partners to hear each other . This procedure works well with the class rule “Get
permission to talk .” In conjunction with adapting his math instruction and implementing a procedure
to support it, Mr . Washington sets the following goals for Shandra during the second grading

• Increase her conversation with peers about her mathematical thinking
• Increase her grade in math

In addition, he sets the following goals for himself:
• Increase his use of partner work in math instruction
• Increase his assistance with students vocalizing their mathematic thinking

Possible Strategies
• Stating expectations clearly
• Implementing classroom rules and procedures
• Supporting expectations consistently
• Reevaluating established norms

iris .peabody .vanderbilt .edu 14

!! Assignment Assignment
• Review the Case Study Set Introduction and the STAR sheets on the four possible strategies .
• Select two strategies that Mr . Washington will use as he shifts from lecturing to using partner

work in his math instruction . Describe how Mr . Washington will use these two strategies to meet
his goals and how these strategies will help Shandra to reach her goals .

iris .peabody .vanderbilt .edu 15

Establishing Classroom Norms and Expectations
Level C • Case 1


Grade: 3rd
Context: Friday of the third week of school, redistribution of students among classrooms to meet
state class-size requirements

Ms . Jung received a list of eighteen students today that will compose her class beginning on
Monday . Twelve of her current students will remain with her, twelve will be assigned to new
classrooms, and six new students will be assigned to her classroom . Before going home, Ms . Jung
speaks briefly with the other third grade teachers to share instructional information about the new
students in each teacher’s classroom .
During the weekend, Ms . Jung considers how she will help the students in her classroom to become
a coherent group . She also considers the established classroom norms, their applicability to the
new group of students, and the ways she can support her expectations for students . Ms . Jung is
particularly concerned about the amount of student movement in and out of the classroom required
throughout the day . Her basic schedule follows the pattern listed below (left) . In addition to the
class instruction outlined in her schedule, some individual students will need to go for instruction
outside Ms . Jung’s class . Individual outside instruction involving third graders includes the following
scheduled activities noted below (right) .


Start Stop Activity
8:30 9:00 Morning meeting (attendance, daily

news, etc.) in Ms. Jung’s room

10:00 10:25 Title I math tutoring

11:00 11:25 Title I reading tutoring

1:00 1:54 Special education instruction

2:15 3:00 Special education instruction
Tuesday – Thursday

12:30 2:30 Gifted education instruction
Monday – Wednesday – Friday

2:40 3:10 Counseling session (Children of
divorce) Participating students leave
school from the counselor’s office

Start Stop Activity
8:30 9:00 Morning meeting (attendance, daily

news, etc.) in Ms. Jung’s room
9:00 9:45 Specials (P.E., art, music, library) in

specials classrooms
9:45 10:30 Math instruction in Ms. Jung’s room
10:30 11:25 Reading instruction
11:25 11:30 Restroom break en route to

11:30 12:00 Lunch in the cafeteria
12:00 12:30 Recess on the playground
12:30 12:45 Reading aloud in Ms. Jung’s room
12:45 1:15 Social studies instruction
1:15 1:45 Science instruction in the science

1:45 2:15 Recess on the playground
2:15 2:45 Writing instruction in Ms. Jung’s

2:45 3:00 Sustained silent reading
3:00 3:10 Preparation for going home

iris .peabody .vanderbilt .edu 16

Several of Ms . Jung’s students will need to move in and out of her classroom at different times . Her
class list, below, notes student participation in individual outside instruction and information related
to student movement . New students to her class are designated with an asterisk (*) .

A=Absent T=Tardy D=Dismissed

Possible Strategies
• Stating expectations clearly
• Implementing classroom rules and procedures
• Supporting expectations consistently
• Reevaluating established norms

!! Assignment Assignment
• Review the Case Study Set Introduction and the STAR sheets on the four possible strategies .
• Write a statement describing how each strategy will be implemented as Ms . Jung works with

her newly structured class .
• In writing,

1) Select a classroom norm that would allow successful student movement to outside
instruction as needed and maximize time for learning . (This norm may be stated as a
rule .) .

2) Explain why you believe the norm will be effective .

Name M T W T F Notes:
Lew ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ Title I math, Title I reading
Jan ✓ A ✓ ✓ ✓ ADHD, inconsistent medication, constantly in motion
Derrl ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ Title I math, Special Education (reading)

✓ ✓ A ✓ ✓

Title I math, Title I reading
Brian* ✓ ✓ ✓ T ✓ Title I reading
Cheryl ✓ A ✓ ✓ ✓ Title I reading
Jay* ✓ ✓ ✓ A A Uses a wheelchair
Myra* ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ Special Education (math)
Ellis* ✓ A ✓ ✓ ✓ Counseling session
Mendy ✓ ✓ D A ✓ Counseling session
Keith* ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ Experiencing early signs of kidney failure. Needs frequent,

immediate access to a restroom.
Shauna ✓ ✓ T ✓ ✓ Gifted Education, Counseling session
Robb A ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓

Tandy A A ✓ ✓ ✓

David ✓ ✓ ✓ A ✓

Alissa* A ✓ A ✓ ✓

Pecos ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓


✓ ✓ A ✓ ✓

iris .peabody .vanderbilt .edu 17

3) Write two expectations Ms . Jung must state clearly to the entire class to help establish
this norm .

4) State a specific procedure concerning movement she must teach Lew (you may need to
refer back to the classroom schedule) .

5) State a specific procedure concerning movement she must teach Myra (you may need
to refer back to the classroom schedule) .

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