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A Silent Way to Address Undesired Behaviors

Often times when we come across an undesired behavior, we tend to address it in a forward way. Sometimes we raise our voices in frustration, other times we repeat ourselves again and again although we realize it is having little or no effect on the behavior. Even though we don’t want to, sometimes we focus on the child in the room who is making the wrong choice rather than sending positive attention towards a student who is making the right choice.

Last year I worked with a teacher who used a strategy that I found revolutionary. The teacher addressed undesirable behaviors by complimenting positive behaviors in a silent way. This seems so simple, but somehow it is under-utilized. This teacher used a series of “silence signs.” The signs carried various messages to students such as words of encouragement for a particular behavior, or words of warning for others.

Below is a series of “silence signs” that are available for download. I created these as a generic version of the signs we used last year so they might apply to more situations. Of course you can feel free to re-create them using language that is specific to your circumstance.

Click here to download Silent Signs

How to Use “Silence Signs”

To use these signs, I suggest downloading, printing and stapling them together. If they are in a booklet, you will be more likely to remember to use them. The most obvious rule is to use them silently! Remember, these signs were developed to avoid using a loud voice in difficult situations. In the situation below, Student A is making a poor choice, while Student B is making a positive choice.

  1. Walk past Student A and over to Student B.
  2. Reward Student B’s positive behavior by showing that student a sign with a friendly message such as “Thank you for setting a great example.”
  3. If Student A’s behavior changes in a positive way, be sure to reward the behavior.
  4. If Student A’s undesirable behavior remains, use a sign with a message that lets the student know that you are asking them to make a change. This can offer a student a chance in a non-intimidating way.
Why Use “Silent Signs”
  • To practice de-escalation in the classroom
  • To show students that you are staying calm
  • To take your voice out of the equation
  • To help you make sure that you are giving fair warnings to a student
  • To show students that you value positive behaviors
  • To make sure to focus on giving thanks to those students who are making positive choices

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