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Vol 21 No 4

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Effective Teaching
by Harry & Rosemary Wong
Special to the Gazette
December 2012/January 2013

Structure Will Motivate Students

Cheryl Halvorsen

How Do I Get Them to Stop?

These are our two most frequently asked questions:



How do I get this student to stop doing . . . ?

How do I motivate the students?

Our answer to question one is always the same.  We can help you, but we would like more information about you and your classroom so that we can better frame an answer.

We ask the person, “Please send us your classroom management plan with the procedures that spell out what it is you want your students to DO.”

In over 25 years of asking, we have never received
a single classroom management plan in response to our request.

We ask to see a plan that shows if the classroom is structured for success:

  •  The students are greeted when they enter the classroom
  •  There is a posted agenda with a bellwork assignment
  •  There is a procedure for
    •  entering the classroom
    •  quieting the class
    •  asking for help
    •  collecting/returning student work
    •  listening to/responding to questions
    •  working cooperatively
    •  transitioning into groups
    •  keeping a student notebook/folder
    •  finding directions for each assignment
    •  leaving at the end of the period or day
We ask to see a plan that shows if the lessons are structured for success:
  •  There is a set of lesson objectives
  •  There are assessments for learning progress
  •  There are plans for remediation of the lesson
  •  There are plans for expansion of the lesson

Instead of asking how to get students to stop doing something, ask what it is you want the students to start to DO.  You can do this by creating a classroom management plan that will minimize organizational and behavior problems and maximize student engaged learning time.

To see how a teacher organized her classroom, read pages 213–218,
“A Plan in Place,” in The First Days of School or
click here to read “A Successful First Day Is No Secret,”
a previous Teachers.Net article.

Getting Students to DO

We realize that what may be happening in the classroom can be frustrating, but the question is not, “What do I do to get them to stop doing . . . ?” or “What do I do with this kid?”  The problem may be You!  You’ve gotten into a vicious cycle of Teaching and Disciplining, Teaching and Disciplining, Teaching and Disciplining.  You have become full of stress and the students are reacting.  No teaching takes place, no learning follows, and everyone’s self-respect is diminished.

You do not want to “Do something to a kid” any more than you would like it if someone did something to you.  It’s not what a teacher does to a student; it’s what a teacher does to create a plan.  Jacob Kounin, the “father” of classroom management, in his research of 1970 found that it is the behavior of the teacher, or what a teacher does, not what the student does, that creates a successful classroom.

We can help you create an organized classroom management plan.  Many are found in the articles we’ve written since 2000 featuring effective teachers who know how to get students to do what they want students to do and learn what they want them to learn.

As far back as September 2000, we wrote “The Problem Is Not Discipline” for Teachers.Net.

As recent as August 2010, we wrote about first-year teacher Amanda Brooks, “Effective From the Start,” who explained why she had no discipline problems and “simply taught and enjoyed her students.”

Plans are used to tell someone what to do.  Pilots have flight plans; wedding coordinators have wedding plans; contractors have building plans; and effective teachers have classroom management plans and lesson plans.  A classroom management plan is used to organize the classroom environment for work.  A lesson plan is used to organize the lesson for learning and achievement.  When there is no classroom management plan, no organization, and no structure, problems will happen in the classroom—but it is not the student’s fault.

The #1 problem in a classroom is not discipline;
it is the lack of students knowing what to do.
It is the lack of having a plan.

Motivating Students to Learn

Our answer to question two is always the same.  We ask the person, “Please send us a sample lesson plan that shows what it is you want your students to ‘be motivated to’ learn.”

In over 25 years of asking, we have never received
a single lesson plan in response to our request.

Teaching is not “Cover, Test, Grade” repeated with “Cover, Test, Grade.”  It’s no wonder students are not motivated.

As the research of John Hattie has shown, simply tell the students the lesson’s objectives before the lesson begins and you can increase student achievement by 27 percent.

In addition, by providing a formative assessment tool, such as a rubric or scoring guide, to help students see what is needed to make progress, you can see student achievement increase by 37 percent.

When students see a goal (objectives) and progress is made (rubric), they are intrinsically motivated to learn.

Before each lesson, ask yourself these questions:


Can you explain to your class what it is that you want them to learn?
Can you assess for learning and progress?

In the May 2012 column
read how a school created a common lesson plan format so the teachers
knew what to teach and the students knew what to learn,
in “Where Going to School Means Success.”
Look for and download the “Lesson Plan Template.”

Students Learn When There Is Trust

Trust is a great motivator.  When there is trust, students will motivate themselves.  This type of motivation is referred to as intrinsic motivation and is the most effective type of motivation to develop in a classroom and in life.

The opposite of intrinsic motivation is extrinsic motivation, where someone else motivates a person to something.  The motivation is dependent on the actions of others.  For instance, a student’s only reason for going to school is to get something from the “Treasure Box” every day.  She is only happy when she can come home and show her parent what she got—not what she learned.

Effective teachers have a classroom that is structured and organized and CONSISTENT in how the classroom is run.

Trust comes from the safeness of consistency.
The most effective classrooms are those where there is trust.

A classroom that is consistent is predictable, reliable, dependable, and stable.  In a classroom that is consistent, the students do not ask, “What are we going to do today?”  The class atmosphere is calm and focused, because they know what to do.

A classroom that is consistent and predictable can run itself—even in the absence of the teacher.  We shared this example in October 2011.

Each day the most important gift we can give our students is to be consistent and predictable. Many of our students come from homes where chaos and unpredictability may be the norm.

Research shows that providing our students an environment that is safe, predictable, and nurturing will increase their achievement.

In a poll, parents were asked what they wanted from a school.  The #1 request was for a safe school.

Safety is not created by chance.  It is created with a framework where situations or events are anticipated and then actions are created that produce predictable outcomes.  The same framework is created in a classroom with an organized classroom management plan.

We regret that the answer to how to motivate students in not as easy as pushing a help button.  Yet, the answer is known and can be easily implemented.  To do this

Develop a plan and work the plan.

Trust Begins At the Classroom Door

Each day or each class period, greet the students at the door.  Even have a student at the door with you as you greet each student.  The research of Alan Allday at the University of Kentucky shows that if students are greeted at the door, it will increase student engagement by 33 percent.

Darrell Cluck Jimmy Lara

Students young and old like to be acknowledged.  Darrell Cluck, on the left, is a middle school teacher in Monroe, Louisiana.  He greets his students each period as they enter the classroom.  In Jimmy Lara’s classroom in Espanola, New Mexico, a student stands with Jimmy to welcome the students at the start of the day.

Welcoming students each day sends a message that they matter.  When students feel that they matter, their levels of motivation and achievement are more likely to rise.

Schoolwide Consistency Motivates

Tammy MeyerTammy Meyer, a teacher at Sisseton Middle School in South Dakota, teaches in a school with schoolwide consistency.  That is, all the teachers teach common procedures so the students trust the school’s consistent environment and as a result, behavior problems have drastically dropped and academic achievement has markedly improved.

A preservice teacher made his first official classroom observation in Tammy’s classroom.  Tammy welcomed him and encouraged him to monitor students, watch the day’s activities, and help with the lab activities that each class was participating in that day.

The following day, Tammy greeted him and asked, “So, what do you think of this whole business of becoming a teacher?”  She was not prepared for his response.  He calmly replied, “There isn’t the stress involved with teaching like I thought there would be.”  Tammy asked him what he was expecting to see in the classroom.  “I expected there to be more conflict, argument, and chaos.  It’s what I remember when I went to middle school and I expected to see it here.  There just weren’t any of those things in your classroom.”

Tammy shared with him that she teaches classroom procedures the first week of the school year. She tells the students everything they need to know, right down to the dreaded—what to do if you think you’ll be sick in the middle of class.  Nothing is left to chance.  She has a plan and a procedure for everything that happens in their classroom.

Tammy says, “The students know exactly what to do when they walk into my classroom.  There is no chaos, because they KNOW the procedures.  There is consistency.

Motivation to Respect Her

Amy AmayaLois Austin teaches in Rochester, New York, and uses a “Respect Me” procedure to easily quiet the class.

With student Amy Amaya demonstrating, Lois explains that the class is to come to attention and be quiet when they see the teacher or a student raise their right hand high in the air.  While the hand is in the air the person states clearly in a gentle but firm tone, “Respect me.”

Amy AmayaAfter stating, “Respect me,” the person lowers the raised hand and places it over the heart.

By the end of two weeks, when a hand touches a heart in Lois’s classroom, the class is silent.

The class now reminds their classmates of the procedure.  When someone is so engaged and doesn’t see or hear the procedure, rest assured there will be a student who chimes in, “Respect her!”

Lois said that she was recently in a grocery store and ran into a student she had last year.  A tear ran down her face as she saw him put his hand high in the air and lower it over his heart.  What a gesture of respect!

The Smile That Motivates

We recently spoke to a group of 900 teachers in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Verizon was one of the sponsors of the meeting and Curtis Robinson, representing Verizon, delivered greetings from the company and shared this story.

To the teachers here, I remember sitting in a little desk while being in the third grade.  I had a teacher by the name of Mrs. Halvorsen who would come by my desk from time to time.  When she would come, she would have a piece of paper in her hand.  She would hand it to me, my graded paper, with a little red ink that was sometimes an “A,” as this was the only class I did well in—spelling.  She also provided a nice “scratch-n-sniff” sticker that I would quickly scratch.

But what I remember most from Mrs. Halvorsen, was when I would look into her eyes and she would simply smile at me.  When she smiled at me, I really felt that she believed in me.

I have not had the opportunity to go back and thank Mrs. Halvorsen, but if she were in this room, I would say to her what I’m saying to you . . . thank you.

It was that smile, a smile that MOTIVATED me for where and who I am today.  Thank you for all that you do . . . thank you.

The Power of a Smile

So, to all the teachers who ask, “How do I motivate my students?  A smile is all it takes.  A smile is the key that unlocks the heart of learning.  A smile sets the stage for a caring classroom and kindles the desire to learn.  A smile is free and easy to give.

But, it must delivered by a nurturing teacher
in a consistent, predictable, familiar, stable classroom.

A smile is the beginning of a relationship—a bond.  Students, like Curtis Robinson, will recall the many teachers in his life, but those teachers who knew how to teach the subject matter, who organized the classroom so that each day would be a safe, learning community, who demonstrated respect for both the students and the learning process, and who understood and accepted students as the diverse individuals they all were, are the teachers that etched a smile that Curtis will forever carry in his heart.

These teachers are the teachers who are the difference in the lives of students.  They accomplish their mission smile by smile, one day at a time, one student at a time.

Gift your students a smile they will carry with them the rest of their lives.



For a printable version of this article click here.

About Effective Teaching...

Harry and Rosemary Wong have been writing columns for Teachers.Net for over 13 years and the columns all have a distinctive style. They write about effective teachers, administrators, schools, and school districts featuring techniques that are immediately replicable and at no cost. More importantly, they work to enhance student learning. An archive of past articles can be found at the end of every column, with an abstract of all articles at the end of the most recent June column.

For over 30 years, helping teachers become effective has been the passion of the Wongs. Writing for Teachers.Net is just one of the many ways they reach out to educators with their ideas on how effective teachers improve student learning.

About Harry & Rosemary Wong...

Harry and Rosemary WongHarry and Rosemary Wong are teachers.  Harry is a native of San Francisco and taught middle school and high school science.  Rosemary is a native of New Orleans and taught K-8, including working as the school media coordinator and student activity director.

Harry Wong has been awarded the Horace Mann Outstanding Educator Award, the National Teachers Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award, the Science Teacher Achievement Recognition Award, the Outstanding Biology Teacher Award, and the Valley Forge Teacher's Medal.  He was selected as one of the most admired people in education by the readers of Instructor magazine.  Rosemary was chosen as one of California's first mentor teachers and has been awarded the Silicon Valley Distinguished Woman of the Year Award.  She was also honored as a Distinguished Alumnus from her alma maters, Southeastern Louisiana University and Louisiana State University.

Harry and Rosemary have been awarded the Upton Sinclair Award and were nominated for the Brock International Prize in Education. They have built and sustain a school in the jungles of Cambodia.

The Wongs are the most sought after speakers in education today, booked two years into the future. Their presentations are practical, offering a common sense, user-friendly, and no-cost approach to managing a classroom for high-level student success. Over a million teachers worldwide have heard their message. In spite of their heavily booked schedule, Harry and Rosemary have agreed to write this monthly column so that more people can hear their message.

How They Develop Effective Teachers...

Harry and Rosemary Wong are committed to developing effective teachers, one teacher at a time.
To do this, they have formed their own publishing company, of which Rosemary is the CEO.

THE Classroom Management Book is what everyone has been waiting for. It is an exhaustive extension of Unit C on classroom management in The First Days of School.


  • Turn chaos into student achievement
  • Reduce behavior issues; increase learning
  • Step-by-step plans to a well-managed classroom
  • 50 procedures in detail
  • 40 QR codes with additional resources
  • 320 pages in full color
  • Complete first days of school plans
  • Suitable for all grades, all subjects, all teachers
  • Costs no money to implement

How to Be an Effective and Successful Teacheris an audio CD set that was recorded live before 800 teachers in St. Louis.  Listen as they walk you through classrooms that hum with learning and share how you can replicate the same success in your classroom.  In 2 hours and 40 minutes, Harry and Rosemary can transform you into a very effective and successful teacher at no cost!

This presentation has transformed the lives and teaching success of hundreds of thousands of teachers.
Learn how to


  • Begin the school year with a plan
  • Start class immediately
  • Have a well-organized and structured classroom
  • Reduce discipline problems
  • Have students who are engaged and working
  • Teach procedures and responsibility
  • Maximize classroom instructional time
  • Use lesson objectives so students know what they are to learn
  • Use rubrics to assess for student learning
  • Deal with at-risk students
  • Improve student learning and achievement


The Wongs have written The First Days of School, the best-selling book ever in education. Over 3.8 million copies have been sold. It is used in 120 countries, 2,114 colleges, and most every new teacher induction program. The fourth edition has been translated into five foreign languages and includes:

  1. An additional chapter on procedures
  2. A new chapter on assessment with rubrics.
  3. A new chapter on Professional Learning Teams
  4. A new chapter for administrators on implementation 
  5. Additional information in Going Beyond Folders
  6. A new DVD, Using THE FIRST DAYS OF SCHOOL, presented by Chelonnda Seroyer
TET The Wongs have also produced the DVD series, The Effective Teacher, winner of the Telly Award for the best educational video of the past twenty years and awarded the 1st place Gold Award in the International Film and Video Festival.

They also have a successful eLearning course, Classroom Management with Harry and Rosemary Wong.  The course can be taken in private at the learner's convenience.  The outcome of the course is a 2 inch binder with a personalized Classroom Management Action Plan.

This Action Plan is similar to the organized and structured plan used by all effective teachers.  Details for the classroom management course can be seen at

You can hear Harry Wong LIVE on a set of CDs, called
How to Improve Student Achievement
, recorded at one
of his many presentations.  He invites you to steal from him the secrets of effective teaching for all grade levels.
Never Cease to Learn has the power to transform your
attitude and your life.  In this DVD, Harry shares his journey on the road to success and tells listeners how to become the educators they were meant to be.

When the books, video series, CD, DVD, and eLearning course are used together, they form the most effective professional development training tool for producing effective teachers. Staff developers and administrators who would like to know how to implement the aforementioned book, video series, and CD are encouraged to consult the book, New Teacher Induction:  How to Train, Support, and Retain New Teachers.  Information about these products can be found by visiting the publisher's website at

Helping you produce effective teachers is our passion.

Harry & Rosemary Wong Columns on Teachers.Net...
Related Resources & Discussions on Teachers.Net...

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