Helping Students Follow the Rules

Do you have that one, or maybe nine, students that want to follow the rules? They really do! They want so badly to please you, but there seems to be this force working against them. These are usually your students that are hard on themselves, struggle to maintain self control, and have a tough time in the classroom. They can also be some of the sweetest kiddos in the world, because they are really searching for acceptance and approval from you.
These students are prime for outside influences, and often think that the world is against them. We can help these students to feel successful by putting a few easy to follow steps into the classroom that will help students to have a more positive self image, and build their sense of self worth. 

Expectation Reminders

The key to reminding students of the expectations is to be respectful and use phrases such as "We agreed," or "When we discussed this." Make sure that you use "We" language to build the sense of support for your student instead of instilling an us versus them mentality. Many students only need this subtle verbal reminder. 

For tougher students, it is a great idea to sit down together and write an expectation contract that you both sign. During this sit down make sure to establish the expectation as well as what the student feels they need in order to meet the expectation. This way, you each have expectations to meet and the student gets a sense that you are in this together. 

Make a Better Choice

When a student is having a tough time in the moment a simple question can make or break the situation. With younger students you might say, "What would be a better choice?" With older students a good alternative is "What would be a more responsible way of doing that?" 

Either way, the key is to interrupt the student's thought process, and remind them that it is their choice. This can be very powerful. 


Just like asking students to make a better choice, a simple redirect can help a student to evaluate their situation and determine an alternative with better options. This option is most powerful when you are able to stop the student right as they head off the rails. A redirect should be simple, one word even, that pulls a student back to engagement. 

Right Now Validation

We all get in a mood where nothing can help, but this one might just be the trick. Right now validation means making students aware that you understand how they are feeling, but also letting them know that the task at hand has to be completed. It might sound a little like, "I know that you are frustrated with this math problem and we can talk about that, but we need to figure out a way to solve it before we can move on."

This validates the student's emotion and feelings, but reinforces the idea that the work must be done.

"Get Out of Jail Free" 

Sometimes students fall off a fit of a ledge when something little happens and they don't know how to come back from it. Sometimes it seems easier to them to truly be in trouble than to admit that their situation isn't that bad and move on. This is especially true if a student is trying to "save face" in front of their peers. 

By allowing students an out of sorts for recovering from a minor blip in order to be able to move on and get back on task you give them the power to make positive choices. 

Want to Know More?

The following are some great options for books for yourself and to share with students that can help empower them to take control of their choices. (affiliate links)

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