How A Simple Preview Can Improve Behavior And Motivation

During transitions, it’s common to focus on moving your students from one thing to the next as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Smart Classroom Management: How A Simple Preview Can Improve Behavior And MotivationBut in doing so, you pass up an opportunity to ensure that that next thing goes according to plan.

You pass up a key determiner of attentiveness.

You pass up a way to improve both behavior and motivation.

It’s a strategy that takes just a couple of minutes. But the difference can be monumental.

Like having a whole new class.

The way it works is that just before giving your signal to transition, you’re going to preview the next lesson or activity. You’re going to describe for your students exactly what to expect.

To be most effective, include these three details:

1. How long it will take.

After you put away your math materials, and for the next 30 minutes, we’re going to learn more about some of the people who found themselves caught up in the Civil War.”

2. What you will be doing.

I’m going to be telling you an amazing story about a thirteen-year-old boy that you’re not going to believe.”

3. What they will be doing.

After the story, you’re going to meet with your group to discuss how you felt about it and whether it changed your perspective on the war.”

As you can see, the strategy is really simple.

But very few teachers do it. Very few teachers keep their students informed about what’s coming next.

And why is this important?

Because when your students know what to expect, they’re able to relax, live in the moment, and focus on whatever you lay out before them.

It removes anxiety over the unknown. It provides an outline for them to follow and prompts a visualization of themselves doing it—and succeeding.

And when you use the preview to sell what it is you have to teach them (#2), it can also be highly motivational.

It’s such a wee little thing, but a short, two-minute preview can get your students through the dog-day afternoons.

It can help make your lessons something they look forward to.

When students don’t know what to expect, on the other hand, when you dive straightaway into your lessons, they become antsy and excitable. They look at the clock, sigh, and wonder how long you’re going to talk.

They start engaging in misbehavior.

It’s important to note that the preview is not part of your actual lesson, which comes after you transition.

It’s merely a means to prepare your students for success and right behavior. It gives them a motivational seed to take with them into the transition and beyond.

It comforts. It focuses. It builds anticipation.

It opens the door to a class that is ready to learn.

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17 Responses to How A Simple Preview Can Improve Behavior And Motivation

  1. Joan Blackley September 17, 2016 at 9:01 am #

    How do you handle a child who is diagnosed with ODD and ADD with no plan who has a temper tantrum when he doesn’t get his way. It can be anything that gets him upset. He isn’t and won’t be on medicine and he’ll never have a paraprofessional but is upsetting the whole class. I’ve left the room with the other children and he can stop but the minute I or any other teacher returns he starts back up.

    • Michael Linsin September 17, 2016 at 1:07 pm #

      Hi Joan,

      I would have to see you and the child in action in order to give accurate advice. I would also have many questions for you.


      • Dawn September 18, 2016 at 2:59 pm #

        Would love more info for the ODD and ADD too, just simple techniques that may be a start. We are looking into the Zones of Regulation.

  2. Cindy Goodloe September 17, 2016 at 9:05 am #

    Your preview technique reminds me of how MANY TIMES I have, (despite REALLY needing to go do something else!), continued to watch TV thru the ‘break from our sponsors’ just because the host happened to say, ‘and coming up we’ll hear how you can…’

  3. Art S Lieberman September 17, 2016 at 9:27 am #

    Excellent ideas. As I read through this, I thought — I’ve done this, but never thought about it. I see how important it is just from reading this short article. Thanks.

    • Michael Linsin September 17, 2016 at 1:04 pm #

      You’re welcome, Art.


  4. Sheldon Curry September 17, 2016 at 10:21 am #

    Ideas on how to do this when you are NOT the teacher prior to your class?

    When they come to you after a disaster classter with someone else?

    • Michael Linsin September 17, 2016 at 1:04 pm #

      Hi Sheldon,

      It still pays to preview what you have planned. As for how to handle a difficult class that comes from another teacher, I wrote about this in the book Classroom Management for Art, Music, and PE Teachers, but will be sure to cover it here on the website in the future.


  5. Julie September 17, 2016 at 1:19 pm #

    That is a simple and sensible reminder. I feel like I need this also when I attend professional development. It prepares me for my level of engagement and keeps me on task. 🙂

    Students often ask…..what are we doing next…..I will try this during the week. Thanks.

    • Michael Linsin September 17, 2016 at 2:31 pm #

      You’re welcome, Julie.


  6. F.Zohra September 19, 2016 at 9:35 am #

    Thanks a lot 😊

    • Michael Linsin September 19, 2016 at 11:22 am #

      You’re welcome, F.Zohra.


  7. Angelica September 23, 2016 at 12:10 am #

    This is a very nice reminder.
    Thanks Michael.

    • Michael Linsin September 23, 2016 at 8:14 am #

      You’re welcome, Angelica.


  8. Janet September 28, 2016 at 1:25 am #

    i think this method works well with elder students. They need to know as on the “right to information” what they will be thought. However it might land me on the ” No mam, we don’t want to do that” option which may not happen if you bring the surprise element and just let them enjoy the surprise. The simple preview will prepare them mentally to receive the next phase and that saves a lot of time.

  9. Joy September 28, 2016 at 6:41 am #

    Sometimes they’ll be a bit of chatting going on, coming from a region of the room, yet I can’t discern who is the talker. I don’t wish to implicate the wrong person. I try to watch for any evidence, but that is time consuming and sometimes frustrating. Any tips or suggestions?