Teaching practices—1: Teacher greetings
What if you could get your students to engage from the beginning of class?
Most teachers want to get their classes off to a good start. There is a surprisingly easy technique to promote this outcome. It’s not only simple, but research supports it’s benefits: Greet students positively as they arrive for class.
Many teachers at the secondary level wisely use a do-now activity at the beginning of their class sessions. They post a quick-and-easy task on the board or projector at the beginning of each class session and expect students to begin work on it as soon as they enter the classroom. Not only do the do-now tasks prompt the students about the day’s lesson, but the also buy the teacher time to complete administrative tasks (e.g., record attendance) while the students are engaged in a warm-up for the day’s acivities. If a teacher greeting as students enter the classroom is helpful with student behavior, that would be a positive outcome, no?
Does providing greetings at the door improve students’ behavior?
Allday and colleagues (2007; 2011) examined the effects of teachers providing positive greetings for their students as the students arrived for class.
[Teachers] greeted the target student at the door by using the student’s name along with a positive statement (e.g., “I like your new shoes,” “I am glad you are here today”). No specific scripts were given because of the need for this interaction to be perceived by students as sincere and consistent with the setting. Following the doorway greeting, teachers were instructed to continue their normal routine. (Allday et al., 2007, p. 318)
The researchers measured student’s on-task behavior during the first 10 minutes of each class session. First they assessed attending to task before the greetings began. Then they assessed attention when the students’ teachers provided greetings. Here’s what happened.
Now, as someone who’s examined many behavior analyses of interventions, I won’t argue that this is overwhelming evidence of the benefits of teachers’ greetings. The data path for Jon, for eample, may reflect just a continuous curve; intervention may not have had an effect…but data analysis is a topic for another series of posts. Generally, these results are certainly encouraging.
My willingness to advocate teacher greetings is strengthened by the second study by Allday and his colleagues (2011). In the second study, they used essentially the same intervention, but they assessed it using a different outcome measure. Instead of percent of time on task, they examined how long it took students to get to work. Here are those results.
Here’s another reason to think that positively greeting students as they arrive for class is a good idea: There are loads of anecdotes about the benefits. Just check YouTube or similar for “teacher greetings.” (Also see my earlier post on this topic.)
And we haven’t even begun to talk about softer benefits such as changes in classroom climate and teacher-student relations. Although the observed benefits are proibably enough, take time to consider how students feel about their classrooms when teachers greet them positively.
And, even better, consider that advocates for strong schools such as Randy Sprick recommend these practices as a part of their efforts to help educators create schools that are welcoming places that advance students’ learning and development. Randy used to have a video demonstrating the practice, but I didn’t find it in time to link to it in this post. Maybe we can smoke him out, get him to tell us where to look!
If teachers hope to promote orderly starts to their class sessions, they can enhance chances of success by greeting students positively as they arrive at the classroom door. It’s likely to increase how quickly students get to work and how much of the first few minutes they devote to work.
Allday, R. A., Bush, M., Ticknor, N., & Walker, L. (2011). Using teacher greetings to increase speed to task engagement. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 44, 393-396.
Allday, R., & Pakurar, K. (2007). Effects of teacher greetings on student on-task behavior. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 40, 317-320.
Sprick, R. (n.d.). Safe & civil schools. https://ancorapublishing.com/
Editorial note: This is one in a series of posts on https://www.SpecialEducationToday.com/ that describe teaching tactics that have evidenciary bases. Please support the series.