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Positive Teacher Language

What it is and how to use it in the classroom

Liza Baer

on 25 October 2013

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Transcript of Positive Teacher Language

Positive Teacher

Why Pay Attention To Teacher Language?

Language is powerful
Positive language can deflect negative situations, reinforce positive behavior, help build students’ self-esteem, establish a safe and respectful learning environment, and help students learn.
Unproductive language can escalate situations, belittle students, provoke power struggles, create a hostile environment, and interfere with student learning.
“How parents and teachers talk tells a child how they feel about him. Their statements affects his self-esteem and self-worth. To a large extent, their language determines his destiny.”
– Haim Ginott
What is Positive Teacher Language?
Consistently used for all students, in all situations.

Stated in a neutral and calm tone.

According to Janelle Berry-Blasingame, positive teacher language is:




What are some types of
direct language?
How should we use direct language?
Giving concise directions
Entails: Stating only information necessary for students to know to complete the task.
Replaces: Wordiness, tangents, rambling, lecturing, moralizing.
Using active listening
Entails: Nodding to show student you hear him/her, maintaining gaze on student speaker
Replaces: Parroting, repeating or paraphrasing students’ speech
Use direct language:
When giving directions.
When facilitating large and small group discussions.
When managing transitions.
What are some types of
descriptive language?
How should we use
descriptive language?
Describing the problem
Entails: Helping the student understand the situation.
Replaces: Ordering or accusing the student, using sarcastic remarks.
Describing the feelings you being conveyed by the student
Entails: Trying to put the student’s feelings into words.
Replaces: Discounting or ignoring students’ feelings.
Describing your feelings
Entails: Talking about how the student’s behavior makes you feel.
Replaces: Sarcasm, calling names, and belittling students.
Use descriptive language:
When addressing problems in the classroom.
When responding to student concerns.
When managing behavior.
What are some types of
specific language?
How should we use
specific language?
Giving specific feedback
Entails: Telling students exactly how they are meeting expectations and on what they need to improve.
Replaces: Generic praise, lectures, threats.
Giving choices
Entails: Presenting clear choices which students can select.
Replaces: Ordering or threatening students, predicting the future.
Giving information
Entails: Letting students know how their behavior fits into a larger context.
Replaces: Assigning blame, using insults, making accusations, comparing student to others.
Use specific language:
When responding to student work.
When holding student-teacher conferences.
When responding to a behavior problem.
What are some types of
non-judgmental language?
How should we use non-judgmental language?
Accepting feelings but rejecting behavior
Entails: Stating recognition of student feelings while also communicating that their behavior is unacceptable and must change.
Replaces: Discounting student feelings, ordering students.
Using a single sound or word to acknowledge feelings
Entails: Responding with “oh,” “ah,” “OK,” etc.
Replaces:Criticizing students, giving advice, making predictions.
Use non-judgmental language:
When listening to student concerns.
When managing behavior.
When mediating student conflicts.
Strategies for Using Positive Teacher Language
Assess teacher language use
Upon which response strategies do you rely?
Which strategies you use are positive and which are unproductive?
What are some situations in which you are more or less likely to use positive teacher language?
Target a specific area of teacher language
Too much at once will be overwhelming.
When you notice yourself using the target strategy regularly, choose a new area on which to focus.
Keep a teacher journal to track your progress
Unproductive Teacher Language
“Who said you could do that?”
“You’re being a ...”
“If you don’t do this, I’ll ...”
“Stop that right now!”
“I’ve told you a hundred times not to …”
“So-and-so would never do that.”
“What a great choice!”
“If you keep this up, you will never”
“If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s”
Generic Praise
“Nice job.”
Try It Out
Berry-Blasingame, J. (2012). Modeling and Language Shape a More Peaceful Playground. Origins: A Newsletter for Elementary Educators. Winter 2012.

Edmonds, K. & Blosky, B. (2011). Language and Mindset for Effective Redirection. Developmental Designs: A Middle-Level Newsletter. Winter 2011.

Faber, A., Mazlish, E., Nyberg, L., & Templeton, R. A. (1995). How To Talk So Kids Can Learn At Home and In School. New York, NY: Rawson Associates.

Grimes, A. (2010). Changing how we talk. Origins: A Newsletter for Elementary Educators. Fall 2010.
Sources Used in this Presentation
It’s time for math. The class has just taken a bathroom break and almost all students have their materials out and are ready to learn. As you are about to start the lesson, Steve walks up to you and says “I have to go the bathroom.” How do you respond?
Your students are working in small groups on a science project. One small group continues to raise their voices while working. Other students have complained about the noise level and you have already approached the group once to remind them of the required voice level. You approach them again. What do you say?
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