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Your words matter - How to use positive language in the classroom

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How to use positive language in the classroom


The language we use in the classroom has a direct effect on the behaviour we see in our students. Positive language means positive behaviour - this simple behaviour management tool can be used to great effect everyday. 


Understanding the power of words.


This week we will explore:

  1. What we mean by positive language in the classroom
  2. Why is it important
  3. 3 tips to help you use language more positively 

Let’s dive in! 


What do we mean by positive language in the classroom? 

The words we use and the way we use them have a direct effect on the students in our care. Positive language is helpful and encouraging to the student, it lets them know what they can do and offers them choices or suggests different actions. Some examples of both positive and negative language are given below. 


Why is positive language so important?

When we use positive language in the classroom we allow our students the space they need to meet our expectations. When we use positive language we show our students that we have faith in them and their abilities and when we do this it gives them the confidence to work together with their classmates, to listen to and respect others and even encourages other students to do the same. In other words we can use positive language as a way of modelling the behaviour that we want to see from our students. 


3 ways to use more positive language in your classroom

Positive language will not be learned over night, it may take some practice but with time you will find this becomes a more natural way of speaking. 


  1. Be specific - Choose to narrate the good choices you see your students making on a day to day basis and be specific about it. Rather than giving out general praise such as “Great work!” explain to your students exactly what they did that impressed you, “Jennie, your latest assignment really shows that you put careful consideration into what your goals are for this year. Your thoughts were really clear.” This will let your students know exactly what they are doing well and therefore, what they should continue doing and build on.
  2. Find positives in all your students - Be observant, if you notice there is a child who is always receiving negative comments or having a hard time be sure to provide positive feedback to these students, no matter how small. “Omar, thank you for waiting your turn to speak. You are being very patient” By calling out your students’ successes as well as their weaknesses you show them which behaviours they should continue to work on.  
  3. Think about your tone - A warm, professional tone of voice is key. Use language that is age appropriate and try not to “spoil” your students with over the top praise. A tone that expresses appreciation for your students and their actions will drive home the idea they are doing well. Try to keep your positive language ratio high, negatively loaded words like “no” and “don’t” can make a child feel bad so turn statements around. Instead of “No running” try saying “We walk in the hallway” Instead of “Stop talking” try saying “We will begin once everyone is sitting quietly”.


For more examples of positive language Weareteachers has a helpful and free chart to download. 


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Written by Rebecca Sparling

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