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The Power of “Yes” in the Classroom

April 13, 2022 by Suzanne Kelley




I have found that many teachers are constantly seeking ways to improve their community, classroom management, engagement strategies, and relationships with kids. One strategy I have found to be remarkably powerful is using the word “yes” in my classroom. Now I know some of you might be thinking I have gone crazy, but the truth is, you can say “yes” to just about anything and still get the results you want. Have you had the opportunity to realize the power of YES in the classroom?

Reasons “Yes” Has Power

💙 Think about the negative energy that goes into the word “no.”  Now think of all the positive energy that could be happening when you use the word “yes.” Words can be powerful stuff!

💙 Since using “yes” as often as I can, I could see the culture of my classroom change in a very positive way. Often, children ask me questions because I want them to feel like they can approach me. I am not the teacher that makes a child sit in their seat and raise their hand forever to wait on me. I encourage them to ask their peers before me, but it never bothers me when they need something from me.

💙 It is entirely teacher choice and style. In my classroom, it works. We have a very relaxed but structured and comfortable atmosphere.   There are times when I do not allow any student to get out of their seat, but most of the time, if a student needs to get up, they are allowed.

💙 Some of our kids might hear “no” at home. “No” may trigger some kids’ fight or flight responses. No matter which strategy you use, getting kids to do what you need them to do rarely requires the word “no” or the battle that may come with it. Think about offering choices. You will be amazed at how students will respond when given a choice. (Just make both options a desirable outcome for you and it is a Win-Win situation.)

Examples of the Power of “Yes” in the Classroom

Below are some examples of when you can use “YES” in your classroom.   

  • May I use the restroom? Yes. In 5,10,15 minutes.
  • Will you help me with this activity? Yes. After you read the directions and ask a partner for help. (I rarely get asked again.)

  • Will you help me solve this problem? Yes. Read me the problem. Usually, the student says “ohhhhh” and walks away to complete the problem.
  • Will you help me read this word? Yes. As soon as you ask your partner first.
  • May I have a band-aid? Yes. You know where they are. Help yourself to one.

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More Examples

  • I am sick. May I go to the nurse? Yes. Go to the restroom, get a drink of water, and let me know if you need help filling out your nurse card.
  • May I talk to ______ about ______?  Yes. Please wait until we are finished with ________, and you may.
  • May I help you with _________? Yes. (Why not!? As long as it is not a student asking to help with every little thing.)

  • Will you help me solve a problem with __________? Yes. (If a student has a relationship conflict in the class and asks me to help them, I will 100% make it a priority to help them work out a conflict.)

“Yes” in the Classroom is a Simple Strategy

💙 These examples are common questions you may get on a routine basis in your classrooms. Some of our students need to hear “yes” once in a while. We could say “no” to many of these questions. We could say, “What are you going to do to solve this problem?”  But instead, say “yes,” and follow up with a statement that still allows you to have control of the situation.

Let them know that you are always available for help while allowing your students time to solve problems on their own. I have found that this simple strategy has established an increased level of respect with all my students.

💙 There are times when we do have to say “no.”  Some of the examples I used above might require saying “no.”  But when you allow your students to hear the word “yes” more often, you will see the many benefits of this tactic.

💙 Interested in some more teaching advice from over 40,000 teachers? Say YES and join our Fearless First Grade Teacher Facebook Group TODAY! Or, you can become a founding member of our Kinder or Second Grade groups.

WRITTEN BY – SUZANNE KELLEY

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