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!


About mrwhitehb

I teach 4th grade and am the chair of the Young Hoosier Book Award Committee for grades 4-6.

Posted on July 31, 2015, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Angela Swails

    The words we choose are so important; they can make or break a child’s day. Thanks for sharing these wise suggestions.

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