I don't like the word rules. I tend to want to bend them, immediately.
Instead, I prefer "guidelines for harmonious living" but that's a little long for an elementary classroom.
So instead, we shall call our guide lines norms. Norms, in contrast to rules, are created by and with the group that they'll affect. Rules are imposed upon a group by a leader and often met with resistance. Not to go all social contracts and political science on you, but rules don't always lend themselves to I-Thou relationships. I want I-Thou relationships in my classroom where respect, individuality, rights and cooperation are emphasized.
(Thank you to countless political theory classes and the ideas of Locke, Socrates, Hobbes, Rawls, Buber & the whole gang)
So instead of making rules posters, we are going to make a class constitution and set our norms during the first week of school. By creating a social contract with my students rather than handing down rules, I will create an environment where discourse is encouraged. I won't tell them what I want our class norms to be, I'll guide their discussion and let them generate norms of how we'll thrive in room 45.
To do this, I'll generate their question stems for gallery walks and let them go.
After they've had a chance to answer all of the questions, I'll bring them back together for a Socratic chat about each poster. We will establish norms for general classroom cooperation, small group interactions, student-teacher expectations and most importantly, they'll get the opportunity to reflect upon their own goals. They get to decide how they want to conduct themselves and how they want to grow academically this year.
Granted, they won't have total control because well, they're ten. However, they hopefully will feel a lot more ownership over the classroom and hold one another accountable to our norms. Not my rules, our norms.
I'll display our norms on a wordle and something cute like this:
(Except it won't say rules!)