Use One Word to Correct Any Student Behavior

This time of year, you may  notice students becoming immune to the sound of your voice. Do you find art time gets swallowed up with long drawn out explanations and  lectures reviewing procedures, and they still don’t listen? No matter what age level you teach in the art room, this trap will get you every time. Harping on students doesn’t always fix the problem or help students correct the behavior or bad habit for next time. Plus, it’s exhausting. Yikes.

One-Word-to-Correct-Student-BehaviorI might suggest you learn the one word secret.

One word has a lot of power. One word can be just as effective as a long drawn out explanations.

It might look something like this: Instead of saying “Everyone remember the process we use to clean up the tables, we always use a rag, we don’t use paper towels, that is wasteful, and I’ve told you every single art time not to grab paper towels to wipe down the table, we use rags. The rags can be found in the bucket by the sink”  (At what point did you tune out? I bet your students do, too!)

Instead, try this.

When you see a student using a paper towel instead of rags (or any other example you can think of with common offenses in your art room)  Just simply look at the student and say “Rags” – Believe me, they will know what you mean. Students will soon get accustomed to the one word directions. They already KNOW what to do, they just forget or become careless. If you have already explicitly taught and reviewed your classroom management expectations in the past, they will know the meaning behind this one word.

This tactic can apply to any situation in the classroom and it doesn’t have to be classroom management. It can be during a lesson, or with a skill students frequently forget when working with a particular medium. I hope this idea will streamline your processes, save your voice, and most importantly allow students to have success in the art room.

How could you us this “one word” tactic in your classroom to simplify the way you give reminders?

What are other non-verbal ways you give directions to students?

Jessica Balsley is the Founder and President at AOE. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.


  • Art on my hands

    I feel that the stools are often unsafe for students especially when they don’t sit flat on their bottoms. My one word is actually a jester, I pat the side of my bottom to imply, sit safely.

    • Gestures work! Nice example :)

    • Marie Elcin

      “Chair” is mine! My chairs are too big for the kids, and they tend to sit on the edge of them so their feet can touch the floor. Except that means they can easily fall out, and their chairs are pushed out into my tight walking space.

  • snowday

    Hummmmm one word?? I use “Freeze” for my older elementary kids because it more fun to freeze like a statue. Most of them strike a pose which is pretty hilarious. Another one that works like “Art On My Hands” implies without words and that is when all the kids want to speak and talk say in K0-2!! Ya, you know they want to tell you anything but what you may be talking about. You could be talking about blue when they raise their hands to tell you that their tooth is loose on the bottom. Then the rest of the class also wants to say that no matter what so we do a “ME TOO” gesture: point to yourself and hold up two fingers. Whoa that saves a lot of loose tooth or its my birthday in 3 months comments off topic.

    • I like the idea of using non-verbal cues when kids get off topic. In our PLC meetings we would knock on the table when there were sidebar conversations or we got off topic. Seems silly, but it really works!

  • Amy

    I have pieces of paper that are neon pink and look like business cards, they say ” Please stop talking now” with a picture of a zipper. While I’m talking , if I find that students are having their own conversations, I just continue talking and place the card in front of them. It usually stops them in their tracks. It’s a great visual reminder.

    • Great! I also wore a laniard around my neck that had a few pics of a quiet mouth, body basics, and I would just flip to the card and hold it up during group time on the carpet. Worked well.


    You often hear in our school, “show me” for example “show me you are ready, show me the first thing we do” It’s not one word but it incites action and isn’t wordy! It also inspires accountability. Teachers who say “whose talking?” instead of “show me ready” will suffer the consequences of “he’s talking, it’s not me” and finger pointing chaos:)

  • Kellie Determan

    I heard one of our classroom teachers use this with amazing results and tried it myself, “Where are your manners?” It stopped everything, every behavior that was unacceptable, every action they knew they shouldn’t be doing. This is working in every grade, for now. :)

    • Kellie- I absolutely love this! Something all kids can relate to, and I can see how it would stop them in their tracks. Call them out on it! Manners are universal at home, at school and in the community! :)

  • I tried this yesterday, and it WORKS! Thank you, it is especially helpful this time of the year.

  • Rebecca

    These are all great! I do several things … light sounding bell … then I realized that I talk loud as trained in drama class a billion years ago … now that I have lowered my volume … so has the students … havent had to ask them to quite down! Guess I caused the trouble : (( : ))

  • Gavin Boyd

    I’m a college lecturer interested in Jungian psychology. I work with my shadow in order to improve both my teaching practice and student behaviour. I have converted my shadow dialogues into a series of animations which are available on my website Here is a dialogue with my inner rebellious teenager. Healing this part of my shadow had a positive impact in the classroom.

  • Marley D’souza

    I really liked this post where you have shared about educational information, This is very important that people should the importance of the education. Students also should know that how should they behave with other students and teachers.

    US Boarding schools