This weekend I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of PreK educators at Orange County’s PACE Conference. I was there to talk about the “Five Essential Routines to Boost Engagement in the PreK Classroom”…thrilling I know. (I apologize to the group for the very lame title, as I realized that I was next door to a speaker who’s title was “Messy Art” – how could I compete?) I digress.

One of the essential routines focused on how to redirect students who are choosing to not follow the directions. I, of course, told the group that we can’t hold kids accountable for behaviors that we haven’t explicitly taught. (How to explicitly teach behaviors was another “essential routine”)

The one thought that got a lot of heads nodding in agreement is this: When you tell a child or group of kids to ‘stop doing this’ or ‘we don’t do that’, you have to replace it with something else.

For example, if I say, “Guys and gals, we are not going to shout out the answers right when they come to our heads, we are going to wait until I drop my hand which will be your signal that you’ll all answer together. Let’s practice that now.”

Another example? “Ladies and gentlemen, we are not going to run from the door to the carpet, instead what I want you to do is tell yourself ‘slow down’ as you hit the doorway and then walk as quietly as you can from the doorway to your spot on the rug. Let’s practice that now.”

This is even appropriate for high schoolers. “Folks we are not going to be spending five minutes finding our homework and talking with friends when we come into the classroom. Instead, I am going to set a one minute timer on the overhead and in that one minute you will find your seat, pull our your homework, pull out your notebook and a writing utensil and be ready to go. Let’s practice that now.”

Notice how they end with “Let’s practice that now.”? Practice makes perfect and permanent. Enough said.