No Classroom Rules = Better Classroom Management


Before we get any further into this post, let me assure you my kids definitely *think* there are classroom rules. 😉 But, I don’t call them that and I haven’t for a long time. By the time they get to fifth grade, even the most well-behaved students are OVER the long lessons on classroom rules. I started using "Work Hard" and "Be Kind" after reading There Are No Shortcuts by Rafe Esquith.

I had a major paradigm shift in the way I handled discipline and spoke to my students, which in turn had a big impact on my classroom management. Rafe has written several books and has been a huge influence on me personally, but that's a story for another day. 😊

So exactly how does that affect my classroom management? What do I do instead? I’m excited to share a part of that with you today!

(side note: There are affiliate links throughout this post. That means I get a small commission when you make a purchase through those links. It helps keep the lights on over here! )


It sounds so primary, doesn’t it? Almost preschool-ish! But it has worked so well for me I can’t really describe it another way. Our kids know better and can choose better – but they need us to remind them sometimes. 

When my students come in on the first day, the first thing they see is our door. 

After morning announcements, our first order of business is our inaugural morning meeting. I like to start it off by saying…

“WE are going to do two things in here all year long. We are going to WORK HARD and we are going to BE KIND. Who can tell me what it means to WORK HARD?”

Right off the bat, the kids recognize that there are plenty of "rules" that fall under our two guiding principles. Like... pretty much all of them! 

We make a t-chart and describe what it means to work hard and be kind in the fifth grade. We discuss what it looks like and sounds like when fifth graders are NOT working hard or being kind. Don't skip this step! It's incredibly powerful, and it really sets the tone for the expectations I have for them this year. 

I still wanted to dig a little deeper with my students so I pulled out some of my "old tricks" from my time at a Leader in Me school.


Part of determining our guiding principles as a class is going over what it means to “Be Kind” and “Work Hard.” Those are the values I stress to them throughout the year. I also spend time talking about the 7 Habits of Happy Kids and what it means for us (as fifth graders) to use them. 

I’m not at a Leader in Me school anymore, but several of the things I practice daily in my classroom are carryovers from my six years in a school with a strong LIM program in place. 

If you’re in a kindergarten through third-grade classroom, you might want to investigate using The 7 Habits of Happy Kids to introduce the leadership habits to your students. We focus on one habit a day until we’ve gone through all seven. 

For fourth and fifth grade teachers, this book can feel a bit primary. I ended up writing my own stories to go along with each of the habits, and we turned it into a group activity. 

For each habit, I’ve written eight stories – 4 examples and 4 non-examples of the habit in action. Students work in small groups to determine whether the children in the story are using the target leadership habit or not. When they have their answer, I ask the teams to describe to their classmates why (or why not) the story does (or doesn’t) use the habit we’re discussing that day. There are also templates for students to write out their own scenarios. We usually focus on one habit a day until we've reviewed them all, so this is a a great writing activity for the first week or so.

I also have a primary version of the sorts. The students will use them a bit differently, but the ideas are the same. There is more visual support in this set (and YES, the stories are different), and I've also included an "If... Then..." scenario sort for students to complete as you study each habit.

Now for one of the questions I get the most often - HOW do you fit it all in????


I want my students to emulate the leadership habits I’m modeling and teaching. The habits should feel as though they are a part of who we are. It’s NOT instantaneous, but it does feel more natural to look for and talk about the habits throughout our day as the year goes on.

For example, we might talk about how the countries that made up the Allied forces could have been more proactive prior to the start of World War II. We examine historical figures and talk about which habits are a part of their legacy.

When we’re doing read alouds, we look for ways the characters are using the seven leadership habits.

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key is our first read aloud and it's FULL of places to stop and talk about how Joey (and the adults in his life) could have really used the seven habits. Look for those everyday moments!

We also connect the habits to current events and our everyday lives in and out of the classroom.

For more ideas on making those connections, make sure you're following my 7 Habits pinboard!

There’s so much more to talk about, and I can’t wait to continue this conversation with you. I'll be back soon with a post on books that I love to use to teach each habit, as well as some new leadership freebies! Make sure you’re subscribed to my email list so you’ll be the first to know when a new blog post is out, or if an exclusive freebie is headed your way!

If you sign up today, I have some TEN FREE PAGES of common and proper nouns activities for you! 


  1. This is so similar to what we do! I also write on the board something similar to what Rafe did with his class. In liquid chalk I write: 3rd graders are aware of time, space, and others. That covers a lot! Thanks for your suggestions. I've added your primary sorts to my wishlist at TPT. I think I'd really like to use them this year.
    Laughter and Consistency

    1. Thanks Jan! I love your class motto! It does cover the same things. I hope you enjoy the primary sorts!