Back to School Series: Make Rules and Routines Fun

bored student sitting in class

It’s the beginning of a new year. Many students burst out of bed, excited for what the first day of school will hold. They are excited to see who’s in their class, find out what kind of teacher you are, and leave their parents (or babysitters) behind. Then, they enter the classroom and the typical teacher spends the first couple of hours talking about rules! Way to kill the excitement. So how can you make rules and routines fun these first few days?

Introducing rules and routines for your classroom is an extremely important task at the beginning of a school year. The thoroughness to which you explain your expectations will set you up for success or chaos. Still, you don’t have to bore your students to death as you explain how your classroom will operate. Below, I’ve put together a few really FUN and engaging ways you can introduce students to your classroom procedures.

Classroom Scavenger Hunt

Instead of you moving around the room and telling students where everything is, while they sit in their desk, give them a scavenger hunt and send them to find key areas in your room. Have them find areas such as: where they turn in assignments, where they place their library books, how do you do lunch count? Areas such as these don’t need any explanation, you just need the student to know where it is. Here are a few good examples of scavenger hunts that I’ve found:

You could make the the scavenger hunt even more detailed if you want. For example, instead of just having students find the daily schedule, you might ask them to write down the subject that comes after lunch. Or, you can do this scavenger hunt after you’ve already explained some routines and include questions about the routines in the scavenger hunt. “Find the homework tray. What should you do if you forget your homework? ___________”  Perhaps the student is supposed to move the clip with their name on it to the No Homework sign next to the tray.

“Good Choice/Bad Choice” Sort

For younger students you could read a story about a child that did or didn’t follow the rules. Some great ones are written below. 

David Goes To School by David Shannon

David Learns Schools Rules by David Shannon

Manners at School by Carrie Finn

Interrupting Chicken by David Stein 

My Mouth Is a Volcano by Julia Cook 

I Just Want to Do It My Way by Julia Cook

What If Everyone Did That? by Julia Cook 

Then, have them sort your classroom expectations into “Good Choices” and “Bad Choices”. Get the sorting cards by clicking on the photo. 

Rules Stem Challenge

For older students Teachers are Terrific has an awesome blog post where she suggests having students create a model to depict a classroom rule. This is a great way to make rules and routines fun!

Pictionary of Rules

Slightly different idea is that you could have students play Pictionary to draw a picture of a rule. Students pair up, give each pair a list of the rules. They take turns picking a rule and drawing it while the other guesses. 

Charades with Rules

In this version of charades, the teacher will write all the classroom rules or routines down on different slips of paper. Put the slips of paper in a hat, bowl or something so the students can draw from the pile. One by one different students will come up, draw a slip of paper and act out what rule is written on the slip. Here’s the twist… During the first round students can talk, make actions and use props. Once each slip of paper has been acted out, place all the slips back in the bowl. Round two, students can only act things out (no words, no props). After all the slips have been acted out, put them back in the bowl. Round three, the student “acting out the rule” can only use ONE word to get the rest of the group to guess what is on the slip of paper. They can’t do any actions or use any props. By round three, everyone already knows what rules are in the bowl. They just have to figure out which rule the person is referring to based on the one word they said. 


Create a circle of chairs in the room. A small group of students enters the middle of the circle. Together they can correctly act out how to follow a classroom rule/procedure. Or, they act out the INCORRECT way to do it. Students love this game and are always quick to volunteer. 

What’s Missing?

This is an activity you can use if you are teaching a procedure/routine that has multiple steps. Demonstrate the proper routine first. Next, either you (or a student) does the routine again with one step taken out. The rest of the class needs to guess what step was left out. 

Establishing the rules and routines in your classroom takes more than just explaining them one time. I hope using one or several of these ideas can help your students remember the routines while still having fun. Read the rest of my Back to School Series below