Many teachers and administrators are working hard to create a positive school climate and culture. They have focused their efforts on collecting data on their students’ experiences and analyzing how their systems encourage positive behavior choices.
Part of this work is encouraging the school staff to use more positive language. The more times throughout the day that educators use positive language, it increases the likelihood of students repeating positive choices.
→ Check out our Positive School Culture Guide
Shifting to using more positive language helps to set a positive tone for students. It supports keeping morale high and motivating students. Using positive language models for students how to speak with staff and their peers. As positive language is modeled, students will pick up on the language and use it more often.
Every negative statement is a negative emotion that an educator will also experience. The more educators use positive language, positive narration and positive reinforcement, the more positive the adult’s day is. Focus on highlighting the positive things happening in the school day as a way to encourage those habits to continue. This positive framing can keep momentum and energy high all around.
Positive language is not learned overnight and will take some practice from school staff and teachers. This can be supported by administrators who are firm in their expectations and are able to promote positive language in their leadership and guidance. Students and teachers learn from encouragement and support, and using positive language helps that.
In many ways positive language conveys a sense of high expectations and positively reinforces the idea that good behavior is important. Reinforcing positive language also affirms students and highlights their skills and behaviors that are aligned to the classroom goals. The words and tones we use have a direct impact on engagement.
3 Ways to Use Positive Language in Your School
When a behavior is exhibited, teachers should narrate the positive choices that are happening. This ensures that students consistently hear reinforcement for behaviors that are expected, which should increase the likelihood that they exhibit the behaviors again in the future.
Name the positive behavior choice and include details. If a student has entered the classroom and is walking in quietly, say to the student, “I noticed how you were walking in the classroom, quietly and with all of your materials. That tells me you are ready to actively learn today.” Being specific about what you observe goes a long way.
Find the Positives
As a teacher or administrator, be observant. If there are students who are often receiving negative reports or perhaps were having trouble during the week, be sure to call out or provide positive feedback for those students when they turn it around. For example, if a student was in the administrator’s office the day before but you see them meeting expectations in the hallway, say to them “I appreciate the way you are following the hallway instructions. You’re making good choices.”
Consider Your Tone
Tone goes a long way with students. Using language that is age appropriate and balances warmth and directives is key. Using a tone that expresses appreciation helps drive home the idea that the student is doing well. Avoid yelling but be confident. Do not overly coddle a student or use an extensive amount of flowery language.
Using positive language does require intentional efforts. It can be practiced when giving encouragement, delivering instructions or providing solutions for students.
One way to ensure that positivity is a focus in school is to be consistent with positive language. Hearing “no” and “don’t” can create negative emotions for students. Keep their positivity ratio high by stating what is expected positively. Here are some examples of positive language for everyday use:
|Statements||Statements using positive language|
|No running||We walk in the hallway so that everyone stays safe.|
|Stop talking!||Thank you for sharing your ideas. Let’s pause to listen and get additional instruction.|
|You left a mess on the table.||Please help tidy our space.|
|No profanity||Please use appropriate language to show respect to the conversation topic.|
|Let me know if you have questions.||I am available for questions and willing to help.|
What teachers and administrators say really matters! This practice could also be useful for parents and could be a way to connect with families throughout the year. Share some of the positive language with them and encourage them to use similar language at home. This practice not only reinforces positive language but it creates a constant reminder to students and creates opportunities to redirect them to different behaviors or outcomes.
Use the Kickboard platform to collect data on and celebrate the positive behaviors of students. Check out the Positive School Culture Inventory to learn more about ways to increase positivity.
As a teacher or administrator, you set the tone for the learning space. Positive language is important to creating an environment that is safe and open for learning. Think about using positive language to build relationships and influence behavior. Before you know it, your students will be doing the same!