Positive Spin


Do you ever give yourself a challenge? Last year I wrote about how I tried a “don’t say don’t challege.” It’s hard isn’t it? While I’m teaching my wheels are turning, my first instinct is to say “don’t talk” or “no, no, no.” But my wheels are turning to put on a positive spin. Believe it or not littles respond better to positive words. So the challenge is to turn everything you say positive, even when you are disciplining. Gah! It sounds easier than it looks.

A reader wrote in a few weeks ago asking about this. I told her I would write another post about it because I’m pretty sure every teacher is looking for “positive spin” ideas, and frankly we just can’t get sick of talking about challenging ourselves. Here’s what my dear reader wrote:

I’m a preschool ballet & creative movement educator who needs a hand. I was wondering if you could do a post on things to say to little ones to encourage good behavior. Sometimes I feel as though I’m saying ‘no, don’t touch that’ or ‘no running’, etc and feel a bit like a broken record. Often I use tried and true phrases with them that work well, but it’s always nice to try and hear fresh, new ones from other teachers.

Here are some ideas:

“Look what’s happening here!”
“I love the way…”
“Ellie! Join us, I know you are so good at this jump we are doing.”
“Instead of running, show me your chasse or skip.”
“I miss you way over there!”
“Good listeners are chosen to be leaders of the line.”
“I wonder if…”
“Instead let’s try…”
“I know you can…”
“I see you need some help…”
“Show me how you put that into your body.”
“What do you think might happen if we keep running in circles.”
“The more time we take discussing the directions, the less time we have to dance!”
“Thank you (name), Thank you (name) for sitting and waiting your turn.”
“Time to take a break.”
“You can’t possibly be listening, if you are talking”
“When I turn around, I wonder if you can all be frozen(or something else).”
“What can we do to make it more fun?”

I find asking them questions are really great too. It gets them thinking.

Other things I try:

Ignore: If it’s behavior that you see week after week, I gather that it’s more for attention then anything. Unless they are unsafe, I ignore the behavior. It takes a few classes for them to realize that you aren’t going to give them the attention that they are looking for. It’s really hard to do! Even harder than saying positive things for sure. I realize this only works in some situations and for certain teachers. It might not be for you, but you won’t know until you try it.

Whisper: A few weeks ago, no joke, I whispered for an entire half of a class. I couldn’t hear myself think, so instead of saying shhhhhh a thousand times, I just whispered. I sang in a whisper, I called names in a whisper. I don’t think this would work every week, but for shock factor it works! If it’s one of those days, try it! 🙂

What else? Do you have other sayings or tools you use for a positive spin? Me + the dear reader who wrote me would love to hear!


  1. These are great ideas, Maria! Sometimes if there is one student who is continually causing disruption, I single that student out and ask them to help me in some way; perhaps to show the next yoga pose or dance move to the rest of the class. That way they are getting some attention, as it seems they want, but in a positive manner!

    1. Author

      Thanks Elly for your comment! That’s a great idea, and I know can help some of the teachers here! Thank you! 🙂

  2. In my experience I have found that acknowledging effort to listen/change behaviour goes much further than acknowledge poor/incorrect/in appropriate behaviour. “I like how this group/this side of the room is using their space/skipping so high/etc” as well as phrases such as (when a child makes an effort to change behaviour) “That was a great choice!” or “I can see that you are working to make better choices!”. Great post Maria!

    1. Author

      You are absolutely right Jacqui! Acknowledging effort is so important. Thank you for reminding us of that!

    1. Author

      Isn’t it awesome! One of my littles wore it to class. I have never ever seen one like that before. Just darling!

  3. Great suggestions! Im going to try some of these phrases out for sure!

    Another one to add to the list that I use quite often before starting an exercise in my class (even the tween class): “I see 3 dancers who are ready… Ooh four dancers, 5! 6!,” etc. It has become kind of a game to them to see how fast our whole group can be ready.

    1. Author

      That’s a great idea Cait! I usually will say their name, but counting would put a fun spin on it too! Thank you for sharing the idea!

  4. Hi Maria- it’s Jessica Clayton from Denver! Hope you are well!
    I love this post!
    I like to use imaginative actions to control behaviors!
    You already know about my magic super glue where all the kids are glued to the wall before going across the floor. I always ask ‘Who’s glued?’ Before they get a turn.
    I’ve had a problem lately with kids keeping their hands to themselves. So I’ve created catch a Magic Fairy and put it in your pocket! (Sang in the style of catch a falling star) the fairy flies away and is lost if they start touching other people. I also have them put the fairy in their pocket and sit cross cross applesauce to avoid fingers getting stepped on or to keep them from touching the barres and mirrors. So far has worked great 🙂

    1. Author

      Jessica, I love the idea of Magic Fairy in your pocket! Genius! Thank you for sharing it! 🙂

  5. It certainly is easier to just think about being positive in the class in the midst of poor class behavior. Why is it so difficult to spit out the positive!!! Perhaps teachers could have some of these reminders in sight while they are teaching. Even the words “Positive Spins” might be helpful. Thank you for continuing to address this issue.

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