Talking with Students is a Superpower

As teachers, we always want our learners to feel confident in the classroom. I sometimes struggle with this when I have to show my students where they need to improve their skills. This week, I’ll share a couple of simple positive language tricks for talking with students that have made a world of difference in helping me encourage children’s self-esteem and confidence.

The first teaching tip is the use of the word “AND” instead of the word “BUT.” Pick any sentence where you would need to use the word “BUT.” For example:

“You were quiet, BUT you did not complete your work.”

Now, replace the word “BUT” with “AND.”

“You were quiet, AND you did not complete your work.”

Somehow, when we use the word “BUT,” we decrease or even negate the value of the good thing that the child did. When we use the word “AND,” we acknowledge the good behavior, in this case being quiet, while merely stating an observation that the work is not complete.

Another positive language trick that is very useful is to add the word “YET” at the end of an “I CAN’T…” statement. Consider:

“I can’t understand this lesson.”
“I can’t understand this lesson YET.”

Encouraging students to use the word “yet” boosts their confidence and increases their belief in their abilities.

I’ve found these simple tricks useful to me in many ways both in school and at home. Try them out and see how they work for you.

Some food for thought:

  • What language tips or ideas do you use when talking with students?
  • How can positive communication tools help you earn trust with your students?

Language can be a real game-changer in the classroom. Explore the course Language Acquisition to learn more language development and how you can help build your students’ communication skills.


About the Author
Ellen Paxton is a respected expert in education and best known as the Chief Learning Officer of Professional Learning Board. As a two-time National Board Certified Teacher, Ellen has successfully published and customized online professional development courses and Learning Management Systems for 20 years to help teachers meet their state continuing education renewal credit requirements. Through, and Ellen has established solutions and maintained partnerships with several accredited universities, higher education institutions, teachers’ unions and state Departments of Education while setting strategic direction that makes a difference and overseeing implementation of popular online PD.