How To Use ‘The Power Of One’ Strategy To Improve Behavior

Smart Classroom Management: How To Use The Power Of OneYou’re going to love this classroom management strategy. So much so that you may end up using it every day—maybe several times a day.

It’s called ‘the power of one.’

The power of one is a proactive strategy you can use whenever your students have to do something.

It can be anything—lining up for recess, turning in work, gathering materials for an assignment. It can be something you just taught them, or a routine your students perform every day.

It doesn’t matter what it is. When you use the power of one strategy, your students will perform how you want and with better behavior than when you don’t use it.

A note of warning:

The power of one strategy is simple, and after learning about it, you may be skeptical. That’s okay. Try it once, though, and you’ll be hooked.

Are you ready? Have I built it up enough?

The Power Of One

Here is how it works.

After giving directions for whatever it is you want your students to do, follow these five steps:

1. Pause.

A pause creates anticipation, drawing more attention to you and interest in whatever comes next. It also gives you a moment to glance around the room and confirm that your students are attentive and ready to begin.

2. Choose one.

Choose one student to do whatever it is you want your entire class to do. This student will model the task you want completed, by him or herself, while everyone else observes. Who you choose only matters in that it must be someone you’re confident will perform the task correctly.

3. Student performs.

Don’t say a word while the chosen student is performing the task. Stand at a distance and watch to make sure it is done correctly. When the student finishes, be sure to offer a small gesture of praise.

4. Allow for questions.

Although you’re unlikely to have any, allow for questions—just in case. Then ask if there is anyone who, for any reason, will not be able to perform the task as modeled. (This is an effective questioning technique and a topic for another day.)

5. The rest of the class performs.

Now give your signal. A simple “go” will do. The rest of your students will then perform the task exactly how you want. No roughhousing, pushing, arguing, or other disruptions. No wasting time. No reteaching.

Why It Works

The power of one strategy works because…

  • There is soft pressure on the chosen student. And as long as you’re clear with your instructions, he or she will be determined to perform the task exactly as taught.
  • After proving that the task can be completed perfectly by an ordinary student, the rest of your class will be eager to show that they can do it just as well.
  • This form of modeling is made all the more effective because a student is doing the modeling–and without a hovering, play-by-play calling, micromanaging teacher.


The only limitation is time.

The power of one strategy works with any task, routine, or activity you want your class to do that takes less than a couple of minutes to complete. Anything longer than that should be broken down into smaller chunks and modeled by different students.

Simple Yet Impactful

The longer I teach the more I’m convinced that simple things done well have the greatest impact on classroom management.

The power of one strategy is a perfect example.

Try it and see.

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4 Responses to How To Use ‘The Power Of One’ Strategy To Improve Behavior

  1. JoDee Luna September 8, 2010 at 5:47 am #


    Your materials are simple to follow yet brilliant. I run a high-tech literacy program for middle school students with the most challenging population possible. I had determined to seek additional help for classroom management when my sister, a fifth grade teacher, passed on your wonderful resources to me. I look forward to applying your strategies this coming school year and am extremely grateful for your assistance.

  2. Chris Bryner September 8, 2010 at 11:34 am #

    I have been doing this before I knew what it is called, and it works! I’ve incorporated so much of what I’ve learned from this site, and with great success. For a first year teacher, the value of this resource and its results cannot be overstated. Thanks.

  3. PR August 31, 2012 at 7:14 pm #

    I’ve just moved to middle school after teaching elementary (5th grade) for 12 years. 80% of my previous school’s students come from very affluent neighborhoods. I’m now driving 40 miles to a Title 1 middle school with 98% of the student population on free/reduced lunch. After just 2 weeks, I’m frustrated, dejected, and questioning my abilities as an effective teacher as I drive home (crying) each day. My most difficult students are mostly all in one class together, a remedial math class. They have no motivation other than maintaining their ‘rep’ in the surrounding areas. I’m so very hopeful that your articles will renew my confidence to the point that I won’t give up on my teaching career or my students.

    • Michael Linsin September 1, 2012 at 8:52 am #

      Hi PR,

      There is a lot on this website to give you hope. I recommend starting in the Classroom Management Tips category and then going from there. The key when faced with an especially difficult class is taking things very slow, pausing often, and never moving on until you get exactly what you want from your students.