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October 23, 2008

"You get what you get and you don't get upset!"

I didn't realize what a tremendous effect such a simple phrase could have on my classroom!  Another pre-k teacher taught me this phrase over the summer, and I started using it this year with my students.  I explained it to them one rainy day before passing out materials for a bean bag toss: "Not everybody is going to get the same color beanbag, and you might not get the color that you want.  But that's okay, because 'You get what you get and you don't get upset!'"  We said it together, and I explained what "upset" meant. We talked about what you could do instead of getting upset (repeat the phrase, hope for a different color next time), and then I passed out the beanbags.  The effect was fabulous -- some students started to protest their color, but I reminded them of the phrase and they (sometimes begrudgingly) accepted it.  


Since that rainy day, we've continued to use the phrase with amazing success.  Last week, when we took a walk to the fire station, we had the opportunity to try on the firemen and women's reflective vests.  I was worried that my students would get upset about which vest they wore, but we repeated the phrase before distributing the vests, "You get what you get and you don't get upset!" I was proud to see that every single student was happy with the vest they got. Again its efficacy was tested during this week's center time.  Stephen started to get upset because Makiera had the doll he wanted.  He started to cry, then yelled “You get what you get and you don’t get upset!” and took another doll.  Repeating the phrase aloud (albeit a little too loud…we’re still working on that!), helped Stephen remember what he was supposed to do and prompted him to regulate his own behavior. 


These anecdotes illustrate the ultimate purpose of catch phrases such as this one – they are explicit, memorable explanations that teach students how to approach social situations and regulate their own behavior.  Students move from an adult reminding them of the phrase, to reminding themselves of the phrase, to eventually internalizing the message of the phrase and demonstrating the appropriate behavior naturally.     


Do you have any other catch phrases that help students in your classroom?  If so, please share them in the “comments” section so that we can all benefit!    


Hi Jennifer: I like to use the following phrase whenever students don't get a turn, "That's o.k., tomorrow's another day". For example, if I am choosing students to hold props during a song or to help me do something and those who don't get picked start groaning or saying "I didn't get a turn!" loudly I always reply with "That's o.k., tomorrow's another day!". I usually know it's working when out of the blue one day they start saying it spontaneously to each other :)


My Pre-K teacher, Ms. Sally, uses the phrase "There's no wrong way. There's only your way." when children are pointing at other's and saying "She's doing that wrong!" of "He doesn't know how to do that." She is also a big fan of the Pringles can with wiggly eyes glued all over it. When a child says "I can't." She holds up the can and the class says "EYE can!" We've even had one little guy pick up the can and bring it to the computer lab, where he knew he was beginning the level of a program that frustrated him!

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