Communicating Competently with Students

You're a teacher. You're in front of an "audience" all day.

You know that being an effective communicator is a must-have skill. It’s a skill that helps you convey meaning, clarify questions, and helps you deliver appropriate correction and praise. Being intentional about Communicating Competently is an effective Tier I strategy that goes a long way to creating a nurturing yet rigorous classroom where students feel safe to take risks. 

On the other hand, at any stage of the process, communication can break down, leading to a head-on collision of thoughts, words, and feelings. 

It’s our job to create an environment every student wants to be a part of, yet still feels respectfully challenged. When done well, it goes a long way to build the positive relationships we want to see, and avoid those head-on collisions –  and that benefits everyone!

The key is to think, “How would I want an adult to interact with MY child?”

Delivering Effective Praise

  • Encourage feedback (two-way communication)
  • Use contingency
  • Base the praise on something they did to earn it (by their EFFORT, their PROCESS, use of a STRATEGY, etc.)
  • Group-based contingency (one student earns for entire class) has an effect size of  +.81
  • Be specific and be sincere (they’ll smell an imposter a mile away)
  • Smile!

Delivering Effective Correction

  • Be brief (they “get it” after a minute or so – no need for long lectures)
  • Take a non-threatening stance/posture (quiet, calm voice)
  • Use proximity: on student’s level, your eyes at or below student’s
  • Don’t seek to humiliate; correct behavior as privately as possible
  • Use empathy statements and show optimism and encouragement for the next time

Handling Non-Compliance


The 6 Step Teaching Interaction with P.R.O.M.P.T.

1. Start with an EMPATHY STATEMENT

I understand that it can be boring sometimes. Believe me, I have to sit in meetings… BUT…


Right now you are talking out loud and distracting other students.


Instead of talking out loud, I need you to start working quietly on the assigned work.

4. Provide a RATIONALE for appropriate behavior

When you work quietly on your work, you and the other students can get your work done, which means you don’t have to take it home and you’ll get a better grade in the class.


Here’s the deal. I’m going to give you 1 minute to think about the choice you want to make. You can either start working on the assigned work, take a brief break and then start working, or you can keep distracting other students and I’m going to take some of your time after class.


In my eyes, you definitely made the right choice. It’s okay to take a brief break once in awhile and then get back to work and not distract others. Thanks.  


The more times we need to use P.R.O.M.P.T. the more we need to take the time for the “3 Rs” – Reconnect, Repair, and Restore. A follow-up process should be implemented by scheduling time to reconnect with the student to repair any hard feelings (but not let them think their non-compliance was acceptable!). It shows we all make mistakes and you are willing to move on!


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