I teach a small group of diverse students with various needs. None of the children have formal diagnoses but some of the students are being supported with an Individual Education Plan to work towards specific behavioural goals.
I have recently tried a new key strategy that my Mom shared with me, over dinner, in the classroom; the “you” statements. This strategy has revolutionized the way I think about behaviour management and the needs, wants and feelings of young children in an integrated early learning classroom. I ask myself the following questions regarding the child. Why are they doing what they are doing? What is their motivation? What are they trying to tell me? The “you” statement acknowledges what they are doing or saying as positively as possible.
Just by changing how you speak to young children, their reaction and response could change as well. I thought what do I have to lose? Let’s give these “you” statements a try! It was very awkward at first to speak to the students in this way. I began using “you” statements all day in class, for everything, all the time. “You’re sitting on the carpet!”, “You’re a great listener!” I phrased everything I said to the students in a “you” statement. Not surprisingly, they began to catch on, but not in the way you might think. A student who was having particular challenges with following group expectations asked me: “why are you being so nice today Madame?”.
Everything I said was no longer a request or demand but an affirmation of how the child was feeling, what they were doing or what they were expected to do at school. Instead of saying: “I need you to line up now”, I tried: “You can line up with the class” as positively as possible, to the point where it sounded like I was giving praise. Instead of “put the toy away”, I tried “you can play with your car after”. Instead of “walking in the classroom”, I tried “you like to move quickly, you can run in the gym, you walk in the class”. It became such an effective way to gain a child’s attention and respect that I have continued using this type of language all of the time, in and out of the classroom. It works wonderfully with the collective as well. “You are sitting quietly”: can apply to one child or the whole group! Everyone wins!
Some of my students thought it strange that I was speaking in this way “Madame why are you talking like that?” Me: “You noticed I was talking differently! Would you like me to talk like this tomorrow?” Student: “Yes!”
French Immersion Senior Kindergarten Teacher (OCT)
Special Education Specialist, BSc, Graduate Diploma in Education
Ottawa-Carleton District School – Barrhaven Public School