Responding to Defiance in the Moment

Children who defy us often get to the core of our fears as teachers. They make us question our abilities and provoke feelings of insignificance. But when we rise above our own feelings and find developmentally appropriate ways to respond to these students, we offer them a path to success and a model of how to get along in the world.
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Naming Students in Positive Ways

From your “Good morning” greeting to your “Good-bye” at the last bell, every school day gives you many opportunities to address students with words that give them an image of themselves as…
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Reinforcing Language: Giving Middle Schoolers Supportive Feedback

Teacher language—the words, tone, and pace we use when we talk to students—may be the most powerful of all our teaching tools. After all, language permeates nearly every interaction we have with…
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Taking Positive Language Schoolwide

Positive language is a powerful tool for building a calm, safe school climate. The words we use when we talk to students, the intention behind these words, and how we deliver them…
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Strong Communities Build Strong Schools

Ask Dr. Nicole Evans Jones the key to creating a positive climate for children and she’ll tell you it’s all about the people and their relationships. Sure, the curriculum matters. Sure, funding…
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Public Discipline Systems

Public discipline systems—like Class Dojo, stoplights, moving clothespins along a colored card, writing names on the board—can certainly be appealing. Some days can feel as if they’re spent just disciplining, and public…
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How’s Your Reinforcing Language?

Once June arrives, it’s tempting to focus on the more leisurely days ahead. That’s important to do—we all need rest and rejuvenation. But before you begin that well-earned downtime, pause for a…
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Envisioning Language: Naming Positive Identities

Learning and growth require hard work, and to do that hard work, students need to see themselves as capable people who can behave and achieve in ways beyond their current reality. Helping…
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Teaching Without Using Rewards

Children build on their strengths, and to do that building—to grow academically and socially—they need us to recognize and encourage their positive efforts. But what’s the best way to offer that recognition…
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When Students Need More: Taking the Long View

A reality of teaching that all teachers know well is that no matter how effectively we teach, no matter how hard students try, and no matter how many good days the class…
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Magic Minutes

As students arrive first thing in the morning, I’m stationed in my customary position at the door, ready to greet each one. I offer Chase our usual gentle double fist bump and…
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What’s in a Name?

How do you refer to the students in your class when addressing them? At first glance, this may seem like a trivial issue; but consider how many times throughout the day we…
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A Guide on the Side

It's still summer, but I'm thinking ahead to winter. I'm picturing writing workshop time mid-way through the year: Students are busy at the computers, working with an intensity that's balanced by smiles…
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Waiting to Speak

Recently, more than a handful of my first graders were struggling with waiting to ask questions or make comments during direct instruction. I responded by using tried and true teacher practices: giving…
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Magnetic Friendships

As a kid, I was fascinated by magnets: the force they exert, the way they could push and pull through tables, windows, and papers . . . sometimes without even touching! Now…
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Reinforcing, Reminding, and Redirecting

Adapted from the new 2nd edition of The Power of Our Words 
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Sometimes Less Is More

The other day Ben returned to our classroom after a session with the occupational therapist, yelling "I'm here, guys!," which interrupted the lesson and caused a few students to giggle. I looked…
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Noticing Positives

What’s going well in your classroom these days? At this time of year, especially, it’s common for teachers to focus more energy on challenges such as reteaching procedures that aren’t going smoothly,…
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Naming What Children Can Do

Mr. Park's fourth grade class was the most impulsive and squirmy group of children he'd ever taught. Children speaking out of turn, talking to neighbors, playing with small objects, or making odd…
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When Children Are Defiant

I once taught a second grader who sometimes subtly refused to go along with what we were doing. For instance, if we had to leave the classroom and John didn't want to…
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A Lesson Learned About Prizes

During my years of teaching, I have used individual written agreements coupled with a simple token system to give children with particularly challenging behavior the extra support they need to improve. Recently,…
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How Reading About Sammy Healed Me

A few years ago, I had a student who broke me. During our very first Morning Meeting, as my brand new class met each other, he slapped another first grader. Hard. As…
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The Value of Struggle

"When did your courage surprise you?" I was profoundly moved by this question when it was posed at a conference I attended years ago, and it came back to me recently when…
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Close the Gateway to Bullying

An adapted excerpt from Chapter One of the award-winning book, How to Bullyproof Your Classroom
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Read This Book! Opening Minds

How do you create classrooms in which children come to see themselves and their classmates as vital and powerful contributors to their own learning? In his new book, Opening Minds: Using Language…
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Want Positive Behavior? Use Positive Language

"Hello, Tasha! How's your new baby brother?" the principal says as she greets a student in the hallway during morning arrival. Just then a teacher comments to a student at his classroom…
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Questioning Your Assumptions

Winter break can provide teachers a bit of time and space to reflect on how the school year has gone so far, and to decide what adjustments to make in January. This…
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