How A One-Second Strategy Can Motivate Your New Class

Smart Classroom Management: How A One-Sec How A One-Second Strategy Can Motivate Your New ClassFor years I’ve had a poster on my classroom door that reads “Learn Like A Champion Today.”

Each student taps it on their way in.

To an outsider it may appear to be a silly ritual. Cutesy, perhaps, but of no real consequence.

They would be wrong.

In fact, I believe it to be an important motivational tool.

Granted, by itself, the poster doesn’t mean much. It’s a homemade 12″ x 18″ rectangle of laminated construction paper.

But the act of tapping it, the decision to reach up and give it a rap, is where you’ll find its power.

It’s the meaning behind the action that makes it work.

Tapping the poster is a way of saying yes to you, your program, and the learning environment you’ve created. It’s a physical expression of their commitment before they even enter your classroom.

It also serves as a reminder that hard work, good behavior, and politeness are expected. But you can’t just slap it up on your door and expect it to have an effect.

You must first define its meaning.

You must walk your students outside your classroom during the first week of school and, while modeling how you want them to enter, explain that by tapping the poster they’re agreeing to three things:

1. To give their best.

2. To behave their best.

3. To have a positive attitude.

These aren’t rules, mind you. They’re a set of principles that define the learning culture you want to create. So when a student taps it, they’re in effect buying into that culture.

Further, tapping the poster flips an internal switch, signalling that it’s time for school and that negativity, laziness, immaturity, and the like must be left outside the door.

The result is that they enter your room ready to learn.

Again, it’s the meaning the poster represents that makes this so. It’s the promise and commitment that comes with the decision to tap it that elicits the Pavlovian-like response.

So what happens if they don’t tap it? What if they stroll by without so much as a glance at the poster?

Nothing at all.

Because it must be entirely their choice. If it isn’t, if you force your students to tap it or glare at them when they don’t, then it loses its power. It no longer possesses any meaning.

But here’s the thing: As long as your students enjoy being part of your class (The Classroom Management Secret), it will become a habit they enthusiastically take part in.

You may be thinking, Well, that’s fine and good for some teachers, but the students at my school are too jaded (or too old or too cool).

Poster of Play Like A Champion TodayI haven’t found this to be the case.

In fact, the more challenging the school, the more impactful the strategy.

The idea is a play on a poster the Notre Dame and University of Oklahoma football teams tap on their way out to the field.

And if 85 young men from every conceivable background can buy in, so can your class.

It’s important to note that the poster isn’t a panacea.

On its own, it can’t make or break your classroom. It’s merely a strategy that supports a happy and well-behaved learning environment.

It’s a strategy that helps ensure that each day begins on the right foot, that each day starts with a reminder that entering your classroom comes with responsibility.

That the next 60 minutes, or six hours, matters.

And so do they.

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25 Responses to How A One-Second Strategy Can Motivate Your New Class

  1. Mariam July 29, 2017 at 8:01 am #

    Love it. I’m definitely going to this poster on my door. Thank you.

    • Michael Linsin July 30, 2017 at 10:19 am #

      You’re welcome, Mariam.


    • Harry August 2, 2017 at 5:52 am #

      I have one of these!

      Always had it on the inside of my classroom…

      Def putting it above the entrance now- thanks! (and…DUH!)


      One Tribe

  2. Shelly July 29, 2017 at 10:44 am #

    Such a great way for students to start their day with us! Love it! This ties in with the Growth Mindset focus I want for the entire year. Thanks so much!!

    • Michael Linsin July 30, 2017 at 10:19 am #

      You’re welcome, Shelly.


  3. Diane Littlehale July 29, 2017 at 10:52 am #

    Any thoughts for this concept when you don’t have your own classroom? I go to them, and they are either sitting at their desks, or already on the rug area.

    • Tana July 29, 2017 at 2:17 pm #

      Maybe tell each student that you work with about the “poster” or piece of paper that you always have with you, and tell them about the tapping. Put the paper in the front of a binder or somewhere they will see it easily each time you visit them and maybe they will remember to tap it each time you see them? Just some thoughts!

  4. Becky Smiley July 29, 2017 at 10:58 am #

    This is a great idea! Thanks!

    • Michael Linsin July 30, 2017 at 10:20 am #

      My pleasure, Becky.


      • SHARON LANDRY August 4, 2017 at 4:03 pm #

        Becky Smiley and I work at the same school, she is art, I am PE. Would this technique still be as beneficial if we both use the tap, and if so, should we have different quotes or have the same saying?

        Thanks you
        Sharon Landry

        • Michael Linsin August 5, 2017 at 1:33 pm #

          Hi Sharon,

          I think it would still be beneficial and also okay to use the same quote–especially if you have similar approaches to classroom management.


  5. Eleanor Maduako July 29, 2017 at 11:58 am #

    Great idea! I will add it to the many feathers on my cap. Thanks.

    • Michael Linsin July 30, 2017 at 10:22 am #

      You’re welcome, Eleanor.


  6. GG July 29, 2017 at 3:11 pm #

    I love this suggestion as well as all the others. I saw somewhere a teacher had a special handshake he did with every student as they walked in the door. If they were to then tap an inspirational poster, I feel like that would be a really cool way to enter! I am sorry to bother you. I understand if you don’t have time to answer. I do want to do personal coaching at some point I am just waiting until I can actually try all these suggestions in my own class.

    I have a question about consequences. I know consequences are not the main point and just need to be consistent. I will be teaching one period on my own for the first time and it is an advanced 6th grade class. I have asked you before if time out was appropriate and you said yes, however, the class work is mostly on computers so I feel like it would be more work for me in the end. I was thinking a better second consequence might be taking a point off a behavior grade. I was not sure you were allowed to take points off for behavior, but I know a teacher at my school that has done it for a long time. I know these advanced students will not want a point taken off! I just kind of wish I could think of another second consequence that didn’t affect their grade. I know you like time out but do you have an idea for a different one? I like the letter home a lot for the 3rd.

    Another question I have had. Our school has Student Intervention Reports that you can fill out for infractions but I believe they are supposed to be for more major infractions, and they have referrals for very serious infractions. My problem with the SIRs is that after knowing now that consequences should start over the next day, the SIRs go in 5 levels. The first SIR you fill out and send to office is treated like a warning, by the second one you would have had to had a talk with the student as well as have called a parent. The 3rd one is sent to behavioral specialist and by the 5th they receive a referral. The SIRs are for the same repeated offence (where yours is for any rule broken) and if the student doesn’t receive one for let’s say another month, you are supposed to start over. What do you think about me using these? Would you suggest using a SIR for certain things as cursing, being blatantly disrespectful to myself or their peers, pushing someone etc, inappropriate talk?

    • Michael Linsin July 30, 2017 at 10:25 am #

      Hi CG,

      I’m sorry, I don’t have the time or space here to address your questions. You may want to consider personal coaching.


  7. Michael Mesa July 29, 2017 at 4:28 pm #

    These are wonderful inspirational reminders and ideas for teachers. I love reading these articles, Mr. Linsin. Thank you!

    • Michael Linsin July 30, 2017 at 10:25 am #

      I’m so glad to hear it, Michael!


  8. James July 30, 2017 at 4:34 am #

    Last term a rather bright sixth grader asked me who we are meant to beat when we “learn like a champion” because a champion is someone who wins over all the competitors. I wiggled around the question with a remark like “we’re competing against ourselves — to be our very best — better than before.”

    While that seemed to answer the question, it still bothers me that the analogy from sports, where competition is fundamental, is hard to adapt to learning which isn’t a zero-sum game with winners and losers — there are only winners of varying degrees.

    If there’s a better answer / analogy, I’d love to hear it because I’m sure the question will come up again.

    • Michael Linsin July 30, 2017 at 10:26 am #

      Hi James.

      This is why you must define its meaning for your students.


  9. Kim July 30, 2017 at 9:02 am #

    In response to James’ question: I recently saw a sign that said something to the effect-
    In All Things, Honor.
    If I remember correctly it was a motto of one of our armed forces.
    I liked this because it encompasses all aspects of life. I teach Spanish to grades 6-8 at middle school and I think the physical taping of a poster is a great idea.

  10. Laine July 30, 2017 at 12:12 pm #

    For middle schoolers, do you think a good idea for delivering consequences would be to designate certain post it note colors for first second and third, and if they break a rule just go over, put a post it on their table and tell them what they did wrong. The post it colors would be taped on the wall next to my consequences. Would that be a good visual reminder for them? Or do you think it would less disrupt the class to just deliver consequence from the board and keep going? Your website is a life-saver. Thank you.

  11. Kimberly July 31, 2017 at 4:07 am #

    Your one minute strategy is consistent with starting each day with a fresh start/clean slate. I’m excited to try it with my third grade class this year.

  12. Susan McMullen July 31, 2017 at 11:17 am #

    I really like this idea of them tapping the sign . I am a pre-k-6 library teacher. What do the other 26 kids on line in the hall do while this is happening? Do I teach this habit of tapping in the library, explicitly, as a lesson, on say the next week when I see that class again.

  13. Kat August 4, 2017 at 8:26 am #

    I need advice. This year my school is requiring every teacher to use the exact same behavior management system. It is a 10 point clip chart where students start the day at 0 and earn a point for good behavior in ten different areas: each subject plus recess, lunch, specials, line behavior, and being “on time and ready”. This goes against everything I believe about behavior management, so I’m struggling with this. My team decided the students will keep track of their points individually instead of on one big clip chart display, but there is no way around the rest of the system. I am required to give points in those ten areas.

  14. Matt August 14, 2017 at 7:55 am #

    I like the idea of setting the tone and motivating them when they come in the room. I’m going to use it for my 7th graders, but change the phrase to make it more broad…”I will leave today a better person than when I arrived”. They could be “better” through learning something new, helping a fellow classmate, earning respect by being kind and respectful, etc.