December 7, 2011

What Did You Do?

Student A took a toy from Student B. "Why did you do that?" curiously asked the teacher, as if Student A will have a profound and insightful explanation for his actions.

Does this situation sound familiar? When I hear adults (or catch myself) asking children why, I laugh a little to myself.  Usually, student A will not have a response because the honest answer is "Because I felt like it." That answer is not acceptable to most adults. Truthfully, most children do not know the reasons behind their behavior. I found asking why leaves the adult baffled, frustrated or speechless, while the child gets away without responding.

When a child misbehaves, my favorite question to ask is, "What did you do?" This question holds children accountable for their actions. Children may not understand the reasons behind their actions, but they are aware of what they did. Some students need time to find the words and courage to say what they did, however during that time they are developing character, as well as a conscience. Following a child's response, the adult can create a conversation for what is acceptable, enforce an appropriate consequence and/or suggest accurate apologies. As always, give the students who are properly behaving the rewards and acknowledgments they deserve. So, next time a child misbehaves, ask, "What did you do?" I would like to know how it works out for you!

Thank you, Dr. Lou Tenaglia! He taught me this method. He is a phenomenal classroom management teacher and coach. Check out his blog,