Sharing Early Literacy Learning Journeys

Shirley and I are supervising 50 children from our two classes on the verandah as they eat lunch and put lunchboxes away. Some children are sitting, waiting for the bell. Jaydeen is pushing her friend and shouting. It’s a situation early years teachers often encounter. How should we react? What words work at times like this? Do some words work better than others?

The answer plays out in front of me…

“Jaydeen. OTT,” says Shirley quietly. Jaydeen looks sheepishly at her teacher, then sits down with classmates ready to go out for play.

“Wow. That works well, Shirley. What’s OTT?” I ask.
Shirley smiles and replies, “Over The Top.”
I turn to her and nod, “I could try that…”

Shirley’s acronym, OTT  and words ‘Over The Top’ are new to me. They are simple and they work. I like her words and I like her calm, positive tone as she uses ‘words that work’ for her, to shape Jaydeen’s behaviour.

I call them ‘words that work’ —words that get the desired result, quickly, effectively and with minimal fuss and muss.

What are the top 3 ‘words that work’ for me in shaping children’s behaviour?

Top 3  ‘Words that work’  for me:

Thanks                         …as in, ‘Close the door. Thanks.’

Quality                          …as in,That’s quality work.’

Either/Or                    ‘Either keep your hands to yourself, or leave the group.’

Whether you are grappling with inappropriate behaviours, or nurturing good behaviours into even better ones, I wonder ‘what words work’ particularly well for you?

In the comments box, tell us about the top 3 ‘words that work’ for you.
I know we also use gestures, sounds etc. to shape behaviours, but for now let’s stick to words that work for you. It could be an acronym like Shirley’s, a phrase or two words. It doesn’t matter. Let’s share and learn together.

I’ll compile the list of ‘words that work’ and publish them so you can pick and choose ones that work for you.

Tweet this post, like it on Facebook, e-mail it to your friends, so we can share as many ‘words that work’ as possible by the end of January.

I hope your first week back is going well.

Comments on: "What words work for you? Shaping behaviours in your early years classroom…" (6)

  1. Hi Coral,

    Here are my `words that work’-

    1. `Sensational’ – I wish I could show you the hand actions that accompany this but basically when someone does something special – it might be `sensational’ work or behaviours – we tumble one hand over the other and end up in thumbs up position (whilst saying `seennnnnSATIONAL’ ! Very positive and the kids love encouraging and rewarding one another.
    2. `Good choice’ – An easy reminder – Are you making a good choice? Please make a `good choice’.
    3. `Stop, look, listen’ – with accompanying hand movements. Always said slowly and clearly with the expectation that everyone will be doing each action as they are called.

    Thanks for the great starting school series Coral – I have enjoyed reading about your classroom (you write beautifully!).


    • Hi Jen,

      Thanks for your ‘words that work’. They sound terrific and will be added to the list immediately.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the Starting School Series – one of the most exciting times for a teacher I think.
      Have a great start… and a wonderful 2012.

      Thanks for your kind words,

  2. Sally Bailey said:

    Something I love about Shirley’s words, are that they are not a big ‘telling off’ in front of everyone; using the initials only makes the comment ‘quiet’ and private, allowing the student to retain their dignity. I’m sure this makes the receiver much more accepting of the advice.

    My words that work well are:
    1. When a student has just explained really well how they worked something out, I get them to come to the front with me and I introduce them to the class and say ” Sandy is now the teacher. Listen to her while she teaches you about a fantastic way to work the problem out.” As soon as I announce a new student teacher, everyone’s attention zooms in to see what they’re going to say.

    2. Using “I like/love how you …..” makes praise more personal, and genuine.

    3. Sometimes it’s quite ok, and even necessary to say (as I have to with my own son,) “This is not negotiable!”

    • Hi Sally,
      Thanks for your comments – and analysis of Shirley’s OTT.

      Your ‘words that work’ will be added to the list.
      ‘Child as teacher’ is an example of powerful peer learning.
      Your ‘I like/love how…’ is close to another favourite of mine: ‘I like the way…you are co-operating at the blocks’ for example, in that it enables us to be specific about the behaviour we want to encourage.
      ‘This is not negotiable’ is strong – similar to ‘This is not a choice.’
      Thanks for your ‘words that work’ Sally.

  3. ‘when & then’ – eg when you have finished (xyz) then you can do (abc)
    ‘switch on’s – things that help our bodies to be “switched on” and ready to learn
    ‘switch off’s – things that cause us to “switch off” learning

    • Hi Pip,
      Thanks for starting the ball rolling. I know ‘when & then’ but ‘switch on/switch off’ are new to me. Sounds good.

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