Check – A one word strategy!

Do you hate moaning? Do you hate hearing yourself doing the moaning?

At the beginning of each new year or class group, I ask my students the question, “How do we listen?”

Of course they come up with ears, and with a bit of acting and total surprise on my part (“How do you listen with your eyes? Not possible!)  we come up with the remaining eyes, mouth, hands and body. All these body parts need to be doing the right thing so that we can listen properly in the classroom. They also make sure that other people can listen so we are not disturbing them.

I explain to my students that my key word is “Check.” That means that if I say, “Georgie – check,” Georgie knows that some part of her body is doing the wrong thing while I am giving an explanation or instruction. Georgie then becomes responsible for her own behavior, working out for herself what she is doing wrong and what needs to be corrected. I have also noticed that when I tell Georgie, for example, to “Check,” the rest of the class automatically checks themselves too. Over time, less checking is needed as students automatically learn to listen and behave appropriately.

While I am talking, it is so much simpler to use this strategy, or to point to my “Check” poster, than to stop and moan with a, “Georgie – I told you not to fiddle in your pencil case while I am blah, blah, blah.” My teaching moment is not lost and Georgie is not humiliated in any way, nor does she feel that I am picking on her.


  • For children who need to move while listening, I allow them to tap on their laps or play with a bit of blu-tak. This is quiet movement and does not disturb anyone.
  • I currently allow only one student in particular to doodle while I am giving instructions. I am not so convinced he is listening to the instruction better, but he definitely contributes more to discussions when he is doodling…so something is working here. I plan to experiment more with this doodling/drawing in the future.

 How do I use this strategy at home?

If one of my own children are persisting with an annoying behaviour or an incorrect reaction to a situation, I will start by discussing why it is wrong and needs to change and get them to understand the relevance of changing this behaviour.

I will then get my child to choose his own appropriate cue word for me to use every time I notice that behaviour.  It works really well. Instead of me moaning, I just have to say, “Space,” for example. My child knows what I mean, doesn’t have to listen to me moaning or have to hear me moan about it in public spaces. More important, I don’t have to listen to me moan either…about the same thing…again and again…one word and it is over.

Have you tried this strategy before? Would you like to? Do you have another one that works?

This entry was posted in Discipline Strategies, Kids, Life, Parenting Tips, Teaching Ideas. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Check – A one word strategy!

  1. Linx says:

    Your idea is brilliant! My cue word at home is ‘zip’ and the child knows its a message to take responsiblity for his action! I look forward to your next blog!!

  2. TeacherMum says:

    “Zip” is a great one!

  3. Another Mum says:

    Key words or signs can be very powerful. I recently saw a dad showing his son,who was about to lose his temper during a tennis match, a ‘pyramid sign’ (hands almost in prayer position). This was their sign to remember self control and inner strength. The effect was remarkable.

    Thanks for your fantastic ideas – I use your updates as my ‘thought for the day/week’.

    • TeacherMum says:

      Interesting to use the sign…
      Wonder how just a sign would work in a classroom full of kids. I might have to try that one out.

  4. GERALD says:

    Brilliant – the old saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” can be updated by your one-word “code”.

    • TeacherMum says:

      You should see my classroom “glare.” My son says I am the only person he knows who can should without opening my mouth.

  5. Princess Frog says:

    Obviously it is time for me to stop moaning.

  6. Frugal in WV says:

    This is a great idea! I’m going to try this with my five year old, thanks. New follower from the cup of joe hop, have a great evening!

  7. Linda Lan says:

    Hi – am your newest follower via blog boost hop – nice to meet you – subbed in elem and middle schools and realized I only want to teach adults!!!!

    Love the features on your blog!

    Happy Friday-

  8. katepickle says:


    I really like that you’ve noted that it doesn’t single out or humiliate the child and that you give the responsibility back to the child to check their own behaviour. How often as adults do we need a quick reminder to also check our own behaviour, how furious would we be id someone started to lecture us on all our wrong doings…. Love this approach, going to discus it with my big kids. Thanks!

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