Awesome Teachers Try To Keep The 5-To-1 Ratio

You may have heard of this ratio before: 5 good interactions for every bad one. This ratio is most commonly references romantic relationships, but this research is also applicable for any two people looking to build trust. Additionally, this is a free and fairly easy way to increase your effectiveness as a teacher (score!).

What It Does For You

How To Do It

  • If this hasn’t been a norm for you, this can be hard to start up. Begin by thinking a head of time some easy compliments to throw out: Thanks for listening, great job getting in line, I like how you’re talking with your partner, I like how you printed that on the line, etc.
  • Then slowly add some more specific compliments to students. Especially your students who are going to act up.
  • Consider adding an alarm to remind you to say something positive, or add little notes in your teaching materials.
  • Use this rule as a whole class and with individual students. If there is a student who needs lots of directions, make sure to plan in some positive feedback too.
  • Sometimes, on a rough day, you have to start at zero. Look for the most basic things to brag about. For example: “You all are really turning it around. I can see you want to be on task today.” “I appreciate that you have stopped yelling.” “I think you are a good kid.” These will help get things going to a new foot.
  • Do not make up fake compliments or inflate compliments. If you don’t actually love something, don’t say you love it. What do you actually think, do you appreciate it, is it helping you trust them again, are they showing improvement? You may have to fake that you aren’t feeling extremely irritated (don’t worry, if their behavior improves, so will your mood). But this is not a lie to the kids, this is a strategy to get things back on track. Saying that you “love” everything or that everything is “awesome” is not genuine. And that decreases trust.

Wrapping It Up

This teaching strategy has a lot of overlap with using positive praise. This post is different because the 5-to-1 ratio encompasses a larger scope. While focusing on praising behaviors you want to see more of is powerful and considered a positive interaction, the 5-to-1 doesn’t have to include just behavior specific praise. It includes saying hello in the morning, asking a student how their weekend was, writing a note to a student who has been out sick, or writing a nice note on a piece of work that was done well. These are all considered a positive interaction and will help students be better learners, make your classroom environment more welcoming, and decrease the amount of reprimands you will have to give.

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