A Simple Trick That Makes Modeling Unforgettable

Smart Classroom Management: A Simple Trick That Makes Modeling UnforgettableHere at Smart Classroom Management we’ve written a lot about how to make modeling more effective.

We’ve covered the importance of being highly detailed.

We’ve covered common mistakes and pitfalls.

We’ve covered silent modeling, student modeling, and a strategy called “the power of one.”

We continue to revisit this topic because it’s one of the secrets to extraordinary teaching.

By becoming an expert in this one area, you can transform your students from lackadaisical to purpose-driven almost overnight.

It’s that powerful.

Which brings us to a strategy you can use whenever you’re modeling anything with multiple steps.

It’s a trick of sorts that has a unique way of getting students to remember exactly what you expect.

The way it works is that somewhere in the midst of your modeling exercise—regardless of what it is—you’re going to add an insignificant detail.

That’s right. You’re going to add a step that has no purpose whatsoever.

For example, let’s say you’re teaching an art lesson and you’re modeling how you want your students to pick up materials from a side table.

Instead of including only those steps that are needed, you’re going to add a step along the way. I recommend something silly like a dance move or animal movement.

It can even be something verbal (“I love doing me some art!”) or a combination of both.

Funny works well, but it isn’t mandatory. Any additional step that has nothing to do with the lesson or routine will make it more memorable.

The reason the strategy works is because it causes students to pay closer attention to you. It draws them into a visualization of the steps you want them to take.

With modeling, visualization is everything. If your students are able to see themselves completing the steps successfully, then that’s what they’ll do—no matter how challenging the task.

It also binds the other steps together into a seamless routine, further embedding a memory map they can call upon whenever they need it.

For years I had a poster just inside my classroom door that read “Work Like A Champion Today.” It served as a daily reminder to every student of their purpose when they entered the class each morning.

But it was also more than that.

It was the midway point of a routine that took them from a line on the playground more than fifty yards away to a moment eight minutes later when they were at their desks and working on the first assignment of the day.

I had a small round target just below the inscription that each student would tap on their way in.

It was a touchstone for them that would immediately shift their focus from life outside of the classroom to the expectations and responsibilities within.

And I taught it that way.

I taught them that when they tapped the poster, they were making a commitment to give their focused best—no matter how good or how poorly they were feeling that day. Tapping the poster was part of a tradition I wanted them to associate with excellence.

This doesn’t mean that adding a step must always, or even ever, have such lofty aspirations. It can be used simply for the novelty of it.

It can be used simply as a small and simple way to get your students to sit up a little higher, smile a little broader, and engage a little deeper.

So next time you find yourself modeling how you want your students to turn in work or transition from math to science, add an Irish jig or an old school “sprinkler” or a line from a favorite book.

Catasterous!” cried the BFG. “Upgoing bubbles is a catasterous disastrophe.”

It will make your modeling more effective and your classroom more fun.

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14 Responses to A Simple Trick That Makes Modeling Unforgettable

  1. Laura November 1, 2015 at 6:15 am #

    Wow! Never would have thought of this silly idea. Love it!

  2. Cheri Edwards November 1, 2015 at 8:30 pm #

    Any suggestions for when parents say the misbehaviors happens at home too, and they don’t “know what to do.

    • Michael Linsin November 2, 2015 at 7:55 am #

      Hi Cheri,

      Making parenting suggestions is never a good idea. I’ve written about this in the past. Please refer to the Handling Parents category of the archive.


  3. Shoshi November 3, 2015 at 6:50 pm #

    This was one of the best postings I’ve read in a while! Love the silly/extra step and LOVE the touchstone piece with the poster. My classes, however, are after school from 4-6 and it is difficult for the kids to focus for another 2 hours. They do have a short break in the middle and we are doing various learning pieces but the poster may just be a good transition.
    Thank You!!!

    • Michael Linsin November 4, 2015 at 7:56 am #

      You’re welcome, Shoshi. I’m glad you like the article.


  4. Michelle Ross November 7, 2015 at 6:19 pm #

    I enjoyed your article; especially your poster/touchstone idea.

    • Michael Linsin November 7, 2015 at 7:04 pm #

      Thanks Michelle! I’m glad you like the article.


  5. Jeanine November 9, 2015 at 1:49 pm #

    Hi there.
    Today 11/9, I modeled for my class the proper way to enter the classroom in the morning. I actually pretend I was one of the students and used their book bag and all. I modeled exactly how I wanted them to enter the classroom. Then I modeled “how NOT” to enter the classroom so that they could see the difference. Then I had them all line up outside the classroom and enter the proper way. WOW! what a difference. I told them that I was proud of the improvement and that I now expect them to enter the classroom every morning that way. They know what is expected.
    Thank you so much for the advice.
    Jeanine Greeley

    • Michael Linsin November 9, 2015 at 5:11 pm #

      You’re welcome, Jeanine. Great to hear! Be sure and hold them to it.


  6. Raven February 13, 2016 at 11:10 am #

    Do you have any videos? I know this sounds silly, but I am the biggest visual learner out there. Thanks!

    • Michael Linsin February 13, 2016 at 11:30 am #

      Hi Raven,

      I don’t have any videos, but I’m considering it.


  7. Carrie August 9, 2016 at 8:10 pm #

    Great post – I have been working hard on modeling to help students better understand and find the idea of a fun little extra step a great way to engage students in modeling.
    One question I have is: when you have an individual/small group/class model to show their understanding, would you allow them to do the fun extra little step? Or would you, while debriefing key points of what you modeled, ask students to identify the “trick” and show the routine without the trick? I wouldn’t mind them keeping a purposeful extra step like the tapping the poster routine (going to steal that for my own room this year!) but I’m thinking you don’t want them doing a jig all year …

    • Michael Linsin August 10, 2016 at 8:13 am #

      Hi Carrie,

      You definitely want to give them a chance to do the simple trick during initial learning. But once they’ve proven they’ve got it, then you can definitely get rid of the jig.


      • Carrie August 10, 2016 at 3:27 pm #

        Thank you for the prompt reply, Michael! I will be trying this out this year for sure. 🙂