Establishing rules or guidelines for the behavior you expect at school (or at home) is imperative. Setting clear expectations, lets students know what is okay and what is not. Ideally, you want to establish rules early and reference them often.
Having a few rules is ideal; avoid making a long list of things kids should and shouldn’t do. Also, if you involve your students or children in the process, they are more likely to follow and understand the rules.
I teach the rules as a regular lesson on the first day of class and then go over them everyday for 2 weeks. I have students work in groups to brainstorm rules they would like to see in their classroom. Then I introduce my 4 rules: Be Kind, Be Ready, Be On Task, and Be Safe. After explaining the rationale and meaning, I take the lists of rules that student brainstormed, and then together, using my rules as “categories” we place students’ rules in the correct category.
In an ESL environment, it is important to make sure that students understand the rules despite the language barriers. I incorporate a worksheet where students practice writing the rules, match the rules with pictures, and translate their understanding of the rule into their native language. Also, we play charades with the rules to add a bit of fun and make the lesson more active. Throughout the year, if I see students breaking a rule, I will say, “What rule are you breaking?” and students will respond appropriately in English.
The next step is to establish the consequences for breaking the rules. This is another area where you can incorporate student input.