You’ve memorized your sequence, cued the music, and prepped your meticulously clever craft. Class begins smoothly, but soon whispers turn into talking, talking becomes shouting, and before you know it, the entire class is running around. You’re the yoga teacher—you’re supposed to model composure, but you just want to explode with frustration!
All children want to succeed and feel proud about their choices. But when they display challenging behavior, they are often signaling that they have not quite bought into why they need to follow your directions. Ultimately, it is up to the teacher to build your students’ motivations to cultivate a calm yoga environment. Here are a few teacher tricks that use positive reinforcement to encourage your students to make choices that will turn your class’s chaos into calm!
Be kid-friendly specific. When delivering directions, invite your students to do an action in a way that mimics an animal or a figure. Giving silly—yet manageable—directions keeps them on their toes and motivates them to listen to exactly what you are saying. For example, instead of directing kids to “come to their mats,” invite them to, “Quietly tip toe like a ballerina to your mat” or “Silently take giant steps like a T-Rex to the door.” Just be sure to be extremely specific with your expectations. As any teacher knows, leaving room for interpretation can invite chaos!
Praise with purpose. After every direction, scan the space and mention the children by name who have met your expectation. Be specific! You want the other kids to hear what their peer is doing to earn such acclaim. Don’t just say, “Good job, Jamar!” Instead, say, “Yes, Jamar! You are walking so safely to your mat so that we can get started!” You’ll be amazed how swiftly the rest of the students will straighten up, motivated to hear their names called, too. Be sure to routinely shout out every student, so that they know they will always have a chance to shine.
Fire their imaginations. Tap into your student’s imaginations to give them an extra special reason to follow your directions, especially when they might feel tempted not to. For example, during the final relaxation period, tell your students that if they’re quiet and still, little woodland creatures, who are easily frightened by movement, might emerge to visit each mat. Then, place small animal figurines by the feet of the quietest children. Those who are sneaking looks will quickly calm their bodies so that they can be recognized, too.
Connect with parents. Kids love any opportunity to shine for their parents. Make sure you share positive moments with them—and let the rest of the class know about it. Audibly tell a student that you are excited to share their achievement with their parent. “Can’t wait to tell your dad how focused and respectful you were during relaxation time.” Everybody else will feel motivated to follow your directions so that you boast to their parents as well.
Reset the class with OM. We’ve all been there, when a fun and silly game turns just a little too fun and silly. How can you reset the energy and redirect the class? Bring everybody back together with a yoga-style attention getting signal: a solid and powerful “OM”. Put your hands together in prayer position, sit on your mat, and loudly enunciate, “OHMMM.” Make eye contact with your students to invite them to join you. End your “OM” and quietly deliver the next direction to set a new, calm tone for class.
By intentionally drawing attention to your students’ positive choices, you can clarify behavior boundaries without ever negatively redirecting a student. Focusing on reinforcing motivation builds kids up and sets them back on track to succeed in class. Preparing yourself with a few teacher tricks in your back pocket when behavior gets tough can help you feel confident to reset chaos into calm!
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