Monthly Archives: July 2015

Five Things Teachers Say…But Shouldn’t…

The language we use is always important, but it is never more important than during the first weeks of school. Throughout my fifteen years, there have been certain phrases I have tried to eliminate from my vocabulary, replacing them with better versions communicating the same message. They might be helpful to you!


Don’t Say: “We’re taking a pretest.”

Better Option: “We’re taking a baseline.”

Students don’t understand that a pretest doesn’t count; they fear all tests. When we staying we just “need to see what they know,” they don’t feel any better. Students, conversely, have no idea what a baseline is, which means they aren’t scared of it. You can get the same results without the anxiety.

Don’t Say: “Let’s do this quietly.”

Better Option: “Let’s do this without talking.”

The word “quietly” covers a huge range. While sitting here typing this blog post, I can talk quietly, whistle quietly, sing quietly, and clap quietly. When teachers say “quietly,” we usually mean students should not be talking, so that’s what we should say. It clarifies our expectations.

Don’t Say: “On Friday, you’ll take a reading test.”

Better Option: “On Friday you’ll take a McGraw-Hill test.” (or whatever program you are using)

We want our students to grow into readers. We want them to love reading. This is harder for them to do when we plant the word “reading” right next to a word they despise. Name your reading program instead to preserve the joy of the word “reading” in students’ minds.

Don’t Say: “I need you to…”

Better Option: “You will…”

When we say, “I need you to walk to your seats,” we are leaving what should be a command up to interpretation. A student might think, “That’s nice, but I don’t need that too.” Saying “You will” leaves no doubt in the students’ minds.

Don’t Say: “Does anyone have any questions?”

Better Option: “Raise your hand if you’re not sure what to do next.”

The first question here leaves you open to a variety of off-topic trips, especially in an elementary classroom. “What’s for lunch?” “When is recess?” and “Can I go to the bathroom?” are all possible responses. If you want “any” question, that’s fine, but in the midst of a lesson you might want to be crystal-clear.

Good luck when you head back to school!


Back-to-School Teacher Checklist

All seasoned educators and even most new ones¬†understand the key to starting a successful new school year and managing a productive classroom: procedures and routines. However, in my own classroom, I have discovered that sometimes I have to consciously ask myself, “How exactly do I want this part of the day to work?” This question helps me develop the necessary procedures and routines. After all, if we don’t know exactly how a part of the day will work, how can we possibly communicate those expectations to students? We can’t…


Here are a plethora of questions to consider about your own classroom. Whether you set the routines, or you ask students to help you create them, it is important for students to know exactly what they should be doing each second of the day. The only wrong answer to any of these questions is to not have an answer.

  • How will student’s come in the door? Will you greet them?
  • What will they do first? Turn in homework? Hang up their backpack?
  • What will they do when they are unpacked? What about when they finish that?
  • How will students come to the front of the room? Is there a signal?
  • How will students travel back to their seats? Is there a different signal?
  • How will students line up? Is space tight enough to need a traffic pattern?
  • When can a student go to the bathroom? Anytime? As a class?
  • When can a student get a drink?
  • How will students walk in the hall? Can they talk?
  • How will students act in the bathroom? Can they talk?
  • How will students get books from the classroom library? A checkout system? The honor system?
  • Where will students read in the room? Who chooses?
  • What’s happening during a reading time? Is it silent? Can students share a book?
  • How will students put books back when they are done?
  • During a lesson, can the students get up? For a drink? For a Kleenex? Anytime?
  • Do the students have to raise their hands in a whole-group lesson? What about small-group?
  • Can students come up to your desk anytime? Just sometimes?
  • How should students handle emergencies? Bathroom? Blood?
  • During partner work, how are partners chosen? The students? Teacher? Combination?
  • During group work, how are the groups developed?
  • What if someone isn’t being kind? Too bossy? Not participating?
  • How will you handle an odd number?
  • When can a student sharpen a pencil?
  • Will you allow pens? In what classes?
  • How will students go to lunch? Recess?
  • How do the students enter the classroom after being gone? Where do they go? What do they get out?
  • At the end of the day, how will students get ready to go?
  • What should they put away first? Second? At the same time?
  • How will students be dismissed?
  • How will you handle a student not following one of your procedures?

Most student misbehavior results from students not knowing exactly what they should be doing at that moment during the day. Students must know the expectations if they are to follow them. I’m sure you can come up with more questions unique to your school. I encourage you to think through every moment of your day as you prepare for an amazing school year!