How To Stop Repeating Yourself And Start Speaking With Power

Smart Classroom Management: How To Stop Repeating Yourself And Start Speaking With PowerDo you repeat yourself when giving directions?

Most teachers do.

Besides wasting time and energy, repeating yourself weakens the power of your words.

It causes students to tune you out.

When your students become conditioned to you repeating yourself, they know they can take their time following your directions.

They can finish the paragraph they’re reading. They can carry on their conversation a bit longer.

They can cruise through the day without urgency because they know you’ll repeat your directions—and anything else important—over and over again.

How To Speak With Power

Repeating yourself is a habit you must break if you want your words to have impact.

The good news is that it isn’t difficult to do. Chances are, you’ll find it liberating.

Just follow these eight steps:

1. Stop moving.

Before addressing your class, stop moving and stand in one place. This helps students focus on you and your message. It also acts as a modeling device; they’ll mimic what they see from you.

2. Ask for attention.

Ask for your students’ attention using a normal speaking voice. I recommend something simple like, “Can I have your attention, please.” Then wait until every student is quiet and looking at you before opening your mouth.

3. Say it once.

Give your instructions once using clear, direct language. And don’t over explain. Giving too much information is a common mistake. Keep it simple. Tell your students only what you want them to do.

4. Pause.

A longer-than-normal pause will keep students focused on you. If you speak again right away without a generous pause, you’ll lose them. Looking away as the teacher begins speaking is another behavior teachers condition students to do. A well-timed pause eliminates this danger.

5. Ask a negative.

Ask your students if any of them does not know what to do. This is an effective questioning technique that helps shift the responsibility for learning from the teacher to the students. If a student does raise his or her hand, tell the student to ask a neighbor after you give your signal to begin.

6. Give your “Go” signal.

Go is a power word that initiates action. As soon as you say it, your students will get busy doing something. If you follow the guidelines given here, however, they’ll do what you ask of them.

7. Don’t help.

You’ve done your part. Now it’s their turn. The responsibility to carry out your instructions lies with them, not you. If you notice a student lost or unsure of what to do, resist jumping in to help.

Give the student a chance to figure out what to do on his/her own or to ask a classmate. If you’re the type of teacher who is quick help, then you’ll create dependent students (i.e., learned helplessness).

8. Do not repeat.

If a student asks you what they’re supposed to do, answer by telling the student to follow your directions. This encourages students to 1) listen intently to directions and 2) take responsibility by finding out from a classmate. This is key to creating a classroom of sharp, independent students.

Big Benefits

By following the guidelines above and never repeating yourself, you’ll cut the amount of talking you do in half. You’ll have better energy at the end of the day. You’ll get a lot more done.

But best of all, your words will have power—power that causes students to tune in to the sound of your voice and to carry out your directions with speed and accuracy.

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18 Responses to How To Stop Repeating Yourself And Start Speaking With Power

  1. Casey October 2, 2010 at 11:37 pm #

    Hi Michael,
    I just got into my placement for my student teaching. It’s with a first grade class, and I’m wanting to try out some of the things you recommend. This in particular sounds good, especially for distracted 6-year-olds!

    • Michael Linsin October 3, 2010 at 10:20 am #

      Good luck, Casey! You’ll do great.


  2. Aunt Goon October 3, 2010 at 4:06 pm #

    Hi Michael,
    Just a note to tell you I have gotten so many wonderful tips from your blog. I am beginning to love my first graders after teaching fourth for seventeen years! I am so proud of you. Hugs to Jackie.

    • Michael Linsin October 3, 2010 at 4:21 pm #

      Thanks Aunt Goon!

  3. Sharon November 20, 2010 at 6:03 pm #

    Hi Michael,
    I love your blogs! I have gotten so much useful information from them. I teach 9th grade students, and while some of them take more time to alter learned behavior, your methods have helped make my classroom a more positive, effective environment.
    Thanks, and keep up the good work!

    • Michael Linsin November 21, 2010 at 7:53 am #

      Thanks Sharon!

  4. Zakirullah Haqiqzai August 23, 2011 at 10:42 am #


    I can’t express that how useful your information is. I’m really benefiting from it. I really appreciate you.


    • Michael Linsin August 23, 2011 at 4:48 pm #

      Hi Zakirullah,

      How thoughtful of you to take the time to let me know you’re enjoying the website. I appreciate you too!


  5. Aspen March 4, 2012 at 9:58 pm #

    Hi Michael-
    I adopted your classroom management plan overnight when I realized that my kindergarteners were the ones running the class. I stayed up till 3:30 am reading countless articles and have found them to be really effective. My struggle comes at the end of the day when I ask my students to clean up the room. They take too long and rarely do a good job. I have four students who go out of their way and cover everyone else’s ground. I feel overbearing if I tell them “Rule #1, follow directions: because you weren’t following the directions to clean the room your card is changed.” two minutes before school is over. What do you suggest?

    • Michael Linsin March 5, 2012 at 7:47 am #

      Hi Aspen,

      Have you taught your students how to clean the room? It must be modeled like everything else. Also, read the article, How To Handle Whole-Class Misbehavior. Oh, and you’re not overbearing if you’re following your classroom management plan.


  6. Jacqueline May 26, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

    Hi Michael,

    I find all your articles very informative and they helped my teaching practice a lot. Can I just question then article above in relation to students with learning support needs. I teach high school and have classes 7-9, with a high degree of children who need support, but I have found in one class where I do have to repeat myself, the more capable students are now relieant on this and ask more questions than the learning sport kids! Any tips?

    • Michael Linsin May 26, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

      Hi Jacqueline,

      I’m sorry, I’m not sure I understand your question. Please email me and try to ask your question more directly. I’m happy to help!


  7. Christina November 12, 2012 at 10:29 am #

    Thanks for the article. I teach an ESL class and I’m worried that if the kids don’t understand it could be from having a language barrier and not always from inattention. Is there any way to deal with this without enabling learned helplessness?

    • Michael Linsin November 12, 2012 at 10:37 am #

      Hi Christine,

      This underscores the importance of detailed modeling—so, so critical to a teacher’s success. Be sure and read through the Teacher Modeling category of the archive. In the meantime, I’ll put your topic on the long list of future articles.


  8. mima March 16, 2013 at 2:16 am #

    One of my high school classes is especially chatty and I’m not sure how to manage this. Its a classroom if 24 and whenever there is the slightest chance most of them start talking. I have used multiple methods but when there is any distraction like the phone ringing, someone asking a question, a transition phase or an announcement over the intercom, they all start talking again.

    • Michael Linsin March 16, 2013 at 11:54 am #

      Hi Mima,

      The short answer is that you have to teach your students what you expect and when, and then hold them accountable for it.


  9. Jennifer February 10, 2014 at 6:28 pm #

    I’m definitely going to use everything I possibly can from your site. This is my 12th year teaching and something’s got to give. I know what I need to do, now it’s taking what I’ve learned and putting it into practice.

    • Michael Linsin February 10, 2014 at 8:12 pm #

      You can do it, Jennifer!