Caring Classrooms: Setting Expectations and Rules Together!

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By Stacey Belisle


A Saint C.A.R.E.S.! That’s what we say at Saint Croix Falls Elementary School. C.A.R.E.S. stands for Cooperation, Assertion, Responsibility, Empathy, and Self Control, several character traits we hold dear.

Each year, before my class and I decide on rules for the classroom, we spend about a week learning about these traits. I want the kids to have a good understanding of what each word means, as well as what that trait looks like, sounds like, and feels like in our school and classroom (see sample below.) To support this teaching, I use our school PBIS website (feel free to steal ideas and resources from us!)

After we have a good idea of what each word mean students brainstorm rules for each trait and I write all ideas on the Promethean board. Once we have lots of good suggestion, we have a class discussion.  We see if we can combine ideas looklikeand drop redundant ones. Once we have a solid list we rewrite the rules on sticky notes. I remind the kids to be sure to state the rules in a positive way. For example, instead of “don’t be rude,” we said “be polite.”

We then categorize our rules using C.A.R.E.S. and put them on our class chart, like on the picture below. The last step is for each student and me to sign the rules. This is important for two reasons: one, the students have come up with these rules, they aren’t just rules I am imposing on them; and two, their signature is an acknowledgement they agree to abide by these rules. I have found that because the students are involved in making the rules, they are more invested and will be much more likely to follow these rules.


Using stick notes or taped index cards makes it very easy to update and modify at any time. For example, if you’re like me, you noticed right away that one rule is negatively stated! It could quickly and easily be changed. I can also pull off specific rules to highlight on any given day. If I notice off task behavior, I can pull down the “use your time wisely” rule to highlight and offer students feedback on.

Give it a try and let us know how it works for you and your students!



Stacey Belisle teaches 4th Grade at St. Croix Falls Elementary. Prior to     teaching and learning with children, she was a paralegal at a small family law   firm. She earned her Master’s in Education in 2014.

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