The Easiest Way To Improve Classroom Behavior

The Easiest Way To Improve Classroom BehaviorThe easiest way to improve classroom behavior is one few teachers ever consider.

It’s at once blatantly obvious and far off the grid.

You won’t find it in modern professional books and are unlikely to hear about it at conferences.

Yet, it’s as plain as day and works every time.

It doesn’t entail making drastic changes. It doesn’t entail extra planning or specialized training.

It doesn’t entail selling, persuading, or convincing your students of anything.

In fact, they’ll be all for it.

For it is both a universal truth and a welcome balm to any human interaction.

So what is this miracle strategy?

It’s politeness.

Walk into any polite classroom anywhere in the world and there you will find well-behaved students. You’ll find happiness and harmony, smiles and friendship, community and contentment.

So how do you bring more politeness into your classroom?

You teach it. You model what it looks like. You practice and encourage it until it becomes part of the fabric of your classroom.

Teachers who focus on this one oft-neglected strategy have far fewer problems with classroom management. They have fewer problems with disrespect, bullying, bickering, and the like.

If you’ve never taught politeness before, the most effective approach is to focus on just three foundational areas.

  1. Please and thank you.
  1. Hello and goodbye.
  1. Excuse me and after you.

These three alone will change the tone of your classroom, inspire more profound acts of kindness, and result in better overall classroom behavior.

The first step in teaching them is to model what they look like.

Ask for volunteers to help you as you act out how to greet a classmate, how to accept a helping hand, or how to pause and allow someone to pass in front of you.

Use everyday examples from the classroom while emphasizing the importance of tone, body language, and eye contact.

Once you’ve covered each foundational area, break your students into groups and let them practice on their own. Pose common situations and then give them a few minutes to role-play each one.

A tablemate is leaving for the day.

Two students approach the pencil sharpener at the same time.

A classmate helps you on an assignment.

You accidentally bump into someone while lining up for lunch.

Periodic refreshers throughout the year are a good idea, but gentle reminders keep it going. Good teachers are in the habit of  stage-whispering cues whenever a student forgets.

“Please.”

“Good morning.”

“Excuse me.”

These simple words, conveyed with a smile just a few times a week, will sustain and nurture the kind, considerate, and well-behaved learning environment you’re after.

But you must be the leader, the chief role model, the pillar of politeness. Every day. Sarcasm, impatience, and grouchiness will undo any good vibrations you’ve created.

Teaching politeness is a simple little thing. Easily disregarded, quickly forgotten, and too 1950s for today’s educational complexities.

But in the hands of a teacher willing to make it a priority, it’s powerful stuff.

It transforms and uplifts.

It endures and inspires.

It leaves a mark that never fades away.

PSThe Smart Principal’s Recess Behavior Plan is now available worldwide and ready for download. For more information, click here.

Also, if you haven’t done so already, please join us. It’s free! Click here and begin receiving classroom management articles like this one in your email box every week.

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12 Responses to The Easiest Way To Improve Classroom Behavior

  1. JD Sayle April 25, 2015 at 9:30 am #

    This is sooo true! Thanks for posting this Michael. Every year I feel that I devote more time at the beginning of the year teaching simple (and what I used to think were understood) lessons on being nice, supportive of your fellow students, helping others, and building a team. It makes a MASSIVE difference in the way kids behave, how they interact with each other and me, and the quality of work that I receive from them throughout the year.

    • Michael Linsin April 25, 2015 at 7:34 pm #

      Awesome! Great to hear, JD. Thanks for sharing.

      Michael

  2. Alli April 25, 2015 at 9:44 pm #

    How would you approach this topic with older kids, say middle school? I have noticed many have either never been taught these lessons or are not required to use them.

    • Michael Linsin April 26, 2015 at 6:38 am #

      Hi Alli,

      I would approach it the exact same way. I’ve already heard from several high school teachers who successfully teach politeness every year.

      Michael

  3. Chuck May 1, 2015 at 7:53 am #

    Maybe you can help me with this bit. This past week or two I’ve been feeling cranky and grouchy. I get enough sleep, but Spring always wears me out (allergies are a factor, and wiggly kids are another). I want to be pleasant but it is very hard to be sometimes.

    What do you do to clear your grouchiness and bring back the calm and pleasant smiling, and relationship building interest in your students back into the foreground?

    • Michael Linsin May 1, 2015 at 7:16 pm #

      Hi Chuck,

      It’s a good question, but I think it needs a more thorough answer than I can give here. I’ll put it on the list of future topics and try to get to it soon.

      Michael

  4. Jarri nitiseno May 3, 2015 at 11:57 pm #

    Hi Michael Linsin, Thank you very much for your article. I like this great article. This article can help me to teach my students in our class.

    • Michael Linsin May 4, 2015 at 6:11 am #

      You’re welcome, Jarri!

      Michael

  5. Heather Cusick May 5, 2015 at 8:43 pm #

    I really found this article beneficial. I Think that this is an area that can be overlooked. I have seen a need to focus manners both in my class and school wide. I think if students had better practice using manners it would greatly help improve the environment of the classroom.

  6. Celeste September 1, 2016 at 7:08 am #

    Hi Michael, I was just curious if you’ve written any blog posts or books specifically for brand new teachers. From my experience so far, it appears to me that teachers “eat their young” (a saying I’ve heard in the nursing field a lot), and it can be very frightening to a teacher that’s new to the profession (given generic statements instead of practical advice, horror stories about difficult kids, etc.). Reading your advice has been monumentally helpful to me when getting prepared for the school year.
    Thanks for everything you do!

    • Michael Linsin September 1, 2016 at 7:50 am #

      It’s my pleasure, Celeste! No, I haven’t, but it’s something I’m considering and planning on giving a lot of thought to. I’m just not sure if the advice would be a lot different from what you can find here on the site. My best advice is always to become an expert in classroom management because then everything else falls into place. However, there may be specific steps for new teachers in particular to make the first few years easier. I appreciate your suggestion and will think hard about whether it’s a good candidate for a future book or e-guide.

      Michael

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