I first learned about positive behavior narration as a classroom management strategy when my school moved to implement the PBIS system. The school was having some campus wide behavior problems, so a workshop covering the basics of PBIS was arranged. A teacher or two came up to the front to model positive narration, and it was… really odd.
As the “student” moved around the room the “teacher” made comments like: “I notice that Ashley has her pencil out on her desk. She’s ready to begin taking notes.” or “Thank you, Tim, for keeping your eyes on me while I give my instructions.”
After the workshop finished, we were all highly encouraged to give the positive narration thing a spin in our own rooms. I, for one, couldn’t see myself doing it. It just looked so awkward and impersonal to me.
Implementation of Positive Narration
Fast forward about 6 months and I was drowning in classroom management issues of my own. I was trying very hard to get into the mindset where I considered classroom management to be fun. I often repeated mantras to myself when I was awake in the middle of the night, stressing about the next day of school. “I enjoy finding creative solutions to classroom management.” Over and over I’d chant to keep my mind from spiraling into fear and dread.
Eventually, I remembered the positive narration thing, and I decided to give it a spin for myself. What do I have to lose?
I began to dip my toe into the water by using less mechanical phrases than the ones I had heard modeled. I focused on the key idea: bring the class’s focus to kids who are behaving correctly, rather than to those who aren’t. I started using my “teacher voice” to call out students who were following expectations rather than those who weren’t.
I make comments like, “Hey everybody! Check out Hamdi! He’s already got his pencil and his notebook out! Nice job Hamdi!” or “Everyone, try to be like Fatima. I love how she has her chair pushed in and she’s standing behind her desk. That’s how I know she’s ready to leave.” Sometimes I use positive narration in simple one to one dialogue as well. As I pass a kid a sticker, I quietly say, “This is for being on task all day today. Thank you.”
Shockingly, these comments really do turn heads. The rest of the class is often getting whiplash to check out what so-in-so is doing that’s getting them all this attention. That’s exactly what my students used to do when I called down bad kids, by the way.
As a bonus, I like to keep classroom expectations posted throughout the year. I actually have a Google slide presentation that I use to review these on a daily or weekly basis, depending on how often they’re needed. When students are fully aware of expectations, and getting praised for following them, I find that attention-seeking negative behaviors have reduced themselves to a minimum.
Conclusion: Why I Love It
Positive narration has become a constant go to for me. I love it two main reasons:
The first is that I get to remind the class of the expectations in a positive and friendly way. Rather than sounding angry, my cues are hidden under a blanket of praise.
Second, Kids who deserve positive attention are finally getting it. How many years did I hopelessly ignore the kids who followed my expectations, while kids who acted out continued to get the attention they so desperately craved? Now, those kids are having to follow the rules to get their reward!
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