Through the Optimist’s Lens

TECHNIQUE # 58:  Positive Framing

NewYearPositive Framing introduces the final chapter of the text¹, Building Character and Trust.  The overwhelming tone of the strategies presented in this teacher’s manual are promote positive language and optimistic strategies toward productive learning environments and academic relationships.  This sections includes lots of specific examples and teacher-speak language.  The promotion of positive, forward thinking interactions and phraseology requires mindful, consistent practice.  “People are motivated by the positive far more than by the negative.  Seeking success and happiness will spur stronger action than seeking to to avoid punishment.”, (p. 426)¹.  Time and time again, teachers and classrooms that make a deliberate effort to move forward, with positive instruction and redirection are the most productive classrooms.  Harping, accusatory adults foster mistrust; aversion to adults whoangry-teacher-pointing address students faults in a defamatory, public manner garner suspicion and avoidance in the scholars they attempt to regulate and control.  In a world where there are, indeed, consequences for poor behavior, there is also a place for communities that inspire autonomous redirection and optimistic venues to adapt and learn.


Positive Framing reads: ‘Guide students to do better work while motivating and inspiring them by using a positive tone to deliver constructive feedback.’  Constructive criticism?  Perhaps.  Here are some of the finer examples of how to employ Positive Framing in the classroom:

635946939424314525-218159995_Start-Living-In-The-NowLive In the Now:  Avoid narrating the things that can no longer be addressed; skip the urge to bring yesterday’s misdirection to the attention of the class, again.  Corrective interaction should pertain to the moment’s activity.

  • “Class, show me you can track me, silently.  Let’s try it from this corner of the room.
  • “David, show me your best!”
  • “LMS Tigers, We’re tackling problems #3 and #4, Do that now.”
  • “I appreciate your enthusiasm to get to Math class, but, we walk in quietly.  Let’s see you go back and do it the right way.”

Assume the Best:  Initially, when addressing off task behavior, avoid language that confusedindicates the student/s as being , selfish, deliberate, disrespectful, or lazy.   Attempt to avoid implications of ill intention.    Instead, direct students toward focusing their energy on doing the task right instead of leading them into a defensive stance.  Build trust by acting like you assume they want to do the right thing.   Here are a couple of solid examples that might show your faith and bolster a students decision to self-correct.

  • Use the word FORGOT.  “Just a moment, some of us seem to have forgotten how to line up quietly”,  “In case we forget, let’s remind ourselves that individual work doesn’t require turning and talking.”
  • Use the word CONFUSED.  I really do like this one too.  It quickly gives the student/s a tiny window of opportunity to self-correct while saving face, to demonstrate that, yes, they do understand the instruction being given.    “Some people appear to be confused about the directions, to clarify, this is what we’re doing now.  Track me.”

Allow Plausible Anonymity:  If a few students find themselves in a position to be off-task,anonymity instead of enumerated particular names, let them know they have the opportunity to make a “good-faith effort” toward self correction; unless of course the “laggards are deliberately flouting your authority.”   Without using names try these on for size:

  • “Wait a minute 5th graders, I hear calling out.  Let’s see you quiet and ready to go”
  • “Some of you didn’t manage to follow directions the whole way, let’s try that again”
  • “100% effort requires everyone in the room to follow through”

indexNarrate the Positive and Build Momentum:  Always putting a positive spin on classroom directives does mean that should avoid making specific corrections.  Avoid too much “circum-narration”, praising a ring around those students who are in compliance in order to target the guilty party.  This devalues your authority and let’s others believe that mediocre compliance is praiseworthy; don’t confuse what is expected with doing “great”.   It’s ok to let alleged perpetrators of off-taskery know that the normality of on-task behavior is what every one else is doing.

  • “I still need three people, Tracking.  Thank you for fixing that David.  Now we can get started”, instead of (“Thank you for not wasting our time David or Lucas, Mike and David, are the three of you moving towards a detention?”
  • “I see many pencils moving!  pause.  Those ideas are rolling out.  staged whisper, movie to off task pencil.  Roberto, can’t wait to read your ideas.
  • “Show me your best problem solving, Susan keep your notebook open.  Think about how much we’ll accomplish today!”

surechamp-healthycompetition-featured-jan2016Challenge:  Some schools of methodology are very much against competition, but I believe, in healthy doses, a challenge is just the right boost some students need and, more often than not, want.  Here are some examples:

  • Against other groups in the class or other homerooms
  • Against an impersonal foe: the clock, their age, “That was acceptable 7th grade work, let’s see if we can kick it up to an 8th grade notch!”
  • “Let’s see if you guys have what it takes”
  • “Let’s see if we can write for 8min straight (a new record), without stopping, Ready?!”

2v3361eTalk Expectations and Aspirations:  This is truly a ‘moveable feast’ for excellence, self-esteem and character-building.  Asking students to perceive the work they do in the classroom in a new context for application; invoking the broader goals in their academic careers and life.

  • When asking for revisions: “Write as though you’re in college already”
  • “Really use the words of a scientist, (or historian, mathematician, poet, etc.)
  • Tell them you’d like them to speak to each other as if they were Congressmen, politicians, or U.S Ambassadors.
  • Whatever grade they are in ask them to look as sharp as the next grade ahead.
  • “We’re going to read this play as we would auditioning for a Broadway part!”
  • “I want you to listen to each other as if you were a Supreme Court Justice.  Expert ears!
  • “Let’s graph these inequalities like MIT graduates!”




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