Before I took over my classes, I held a session with the students to collaboratively determine our expectations of the class community. I explained the concept of a social contract, and told students I wanted to include them in the creation of some of the rules of the classroom. Students first brainstormed in pairs some basic rules that would be important for ensuring a good learning environment. I then took their ideas and wrote them down on chart paper, using the students' own words as much as possible to increase the sense of ownership. I had in mind a list of guidelines I hoped the students would approximate, and many of them were indeed brought up in some fashion. The final list was:
Respect your classmates and your teacher.
Come to class on time.
Be prepared for class.
Raise your hand and wait to be recognized.
Don't speak when others are speaking.
No being disruptive, loud, or fooling around in class.
Keep bad/negative comments to yourself.
Throughout the course of the semester, I found it useful to refer back to this contract whenever student behavior became problematic.