Ground Rules

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Establishing ground rules is one of the first activities of classroom and team building.  Ground rules are guidelines created by the team group/class/group and facilitate an atmosphere of open communication.  A climate of trust and comfort is essential for candid discussion.  These ground rules are the standard for behavior by which all agree to operate while in the group.


  • to increase communication
  • to increase risk-taking
  • to increase productivity
  • to increase effectiveness


  • They should be established as one of the first orders of business and remain in effect through all team meetings-changed only as a group decision.
  • Try reviewing ground rules before:
    • class discussion
    • working in cooperative groups or teams
    • class meetings
    • lab activities
    • field trips
    • attending an assembly

What do they look like?

  • everyone participates
  • listen to each other in a environment of respect and acceptance
  • stay on topic
  • what is said here, stays here
  • only one person speaks at a time (no side conversations)
  • take turns
  • attack problems not people
  • agree to disagree
  • treat others as you want to be treated.

How many?
no more than 4 or 5

How?  Steps for Creating Ground Rules

Ask yourself:  What do I, as an individual, need to think about to ensure a safe environment to discuss possibly difficult and/or controversial issues.
Discuss what ground rules will be necessary in order to accomplish the goals and expectations for the year/activity.
The group leader/teacher/facilitator leads a brainstorming session regarding ways to get everyone’s ideas.
Tools used include: Brainstorming, Affinity Diagram, Nominal Group Technique (NGT).

  1. Brainstorm: Group members write their suggestions on a card/post-it. When all have finished – either share individually or group in an affinity diagram.
  2. Affinity Diagram: Group like items – Each student shares his/her ideas and a classroom affinity diagram is made which combine like ideas.
  3. Nominal Group Technique: Once the Affinity Diagram has been constructed, the NGT tool is used to narrow down the ideas to the “critical few”.
  4. Consensus: All students need to be able to “support” the ground rules.  Consensus is achieved through discussion.
  5. Discuss the ground rules and have each student sign them.  Post them publicly in the classroom and refer to them each morning.
  6. Continue to discuss how the ground rules will help the class achieve the agreed upon goals and mission statement.


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Downloadable PDF: classroom rules and behavior expectations found on

Published on November 17, 2011 at 11:04 pm Comments (0)

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