Learn More

40 Hour Workweek

Classroom Management, Teaching Tips & Tricks   |   Oct 6, 2014

The 2×10 strategy: a miraculous solution for behavior issues?

By Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

The 2×10 strategy: a miraculous solution for behavior issues?

By Angela Watson

I’ve been blogging since 2003, and I don’t think I’ve ever used the term “miraculous” in relation to behavior management (or anything in education, for that matter).

But this is a technique that might be as close as it gets. If you have a student for whom no other solutions seem to work, read on.

The  2×10 strategy is simple: spend 2 minutes per day for 10 days in a row talking with an at-risk student about anything she or he wants to talk about.

There’s no mystery to the reasoning here, of course–the strategy builds a rapport and relationship between teacher and student, and lets the child see that you genuinely care about him or her as a person.

The miracle is in how it turns that abstract, overwhelming, where-do-I-start concept of relationship building into something easily manageable with an immediate payoff for everyone involved.

And the miracle is in how well it seems to be working in real classrooms, at all grade levels, across the country.

I heard about this strategy through a teacher in a Facebook group. A group member who wishes to remain anonymous shared this story:

One of my kindergarten girls has been pretty disruptive. During rest time today, I called her over to just talk and we spent more than the two minutes. I learned that her dad has been in jail lately. I learned she loves tarantulas and spiders. I learned she likes it when her mom lets her practice writing her name. Of course then I let her write her name using sticky notes and highlighters and she positively loved it. I learned she thinks her handwriting looks bad so I encouraged her that she will get better with practice. She wanted to know how to spell my name then said, “How do you spell ‘you are beautiful’?” I let her take the sticky notes with her name and put them in her backpack. She danced to her backpack and wanted to keep one of the notes stuck on her shirt. She came back over and said she wanted to stay and learn more. Silly girl, I am the one who was learning!

This experience touched my heart today. I am confident that this small investment of time and others in the future will yield major changes in this little girl’s classroom behavior. It is not easy to find the time. I had high priority things I could/should have been working on but I wouldn’t trade today’s experience for anything.

An update from the same teacher a few days later:

Her behavior was different — better — today! She had a gleam in her eyes. I am a believer now. The way I teach has changed forever.

Of course, other group members read this and wanted to try it out. Here’s another story:

I am not sure who posted the other day about 2×10, where you just chat with a student for 2 minutes for 10 days, but THANK YOU! I tried it yesterday and today with one of my first grade boys, who has already been written up twice for hitting since the beginning of the school year. For the rest of the day and today he was much for attentive in class. Today he chose to read right next to my table during read-to-self.

I also tried it today with a girl who is repeating first grade, is on meds for ADHD, and possibly will be diagnosed with ODD. Since the beginning of the year, she has needed constant reminders to stay on task. After the chat, she needed very few reminders to stay on task. Yes, I had assessing paperwork I could have been doing instead of talking, but I learned so much more from my 2 minute chat with my students. Thank you again, for reminding me what teaching is all about … making connections and building relationships.

So where did this strategy originate? Some people say it’s just what good teachers do. But I did some digging around online and found an article from ASCD based on the research of Raymond Wlodkowski. He reported “an 85-percent improvement in that one student’s behavior. In addition, he found that the behavior of all the other students in the class improved.” I was especially impressed by this anecdote:

Martha Allen, an adjunct professor at Dominican University’s Teacher Credential Program in San Rafael, California, asked her student teachers to use the Two-by-Ten Strategy with their toughest student. The results? Almost everyone reported a marked improvement in the behavior and attitude of their one targeted student, and often of the whole class. Many teachers using the Two-by-Ten Strategy for the first time have had a similar corroborating experience: Their worst student became an ally in the class when they forged a strong personal connection with that student.

Pretty impressive, right? I absolutely LOVE the idea of the 2×10 strategy. Considering how much time many of us spend addressing classroom disruptions and disciplining students, a 2 minute a day investment seems like a no-brainer.

Additionally, I love that this strategy helps teachers focus on the good in their most challenging students so we can avoid falling into the trap of viewing a disruptive kid as a problem instead of a person. It’s much easier to muster up the enthusiasm and patience you need for working with challenging kids if you have genuine empathy for them and get to spend time enjoying their company rather than always correcting them.

Bottom line: As much as teachers would like to have one-on-one convos with every student every day about anything the student wants to talk about…time restraints make that hard. The 2 x 10 is an easy structure to make sure it gets prioritized.

If you try this strategy out with one of your students, will you report back and let us know in the comment section how it went? I’d love to hear about your experiences.


UPDATE OCTOBER 12th:  Thank you all for the tremendous response to this post. I’m happy to hear so many of you are already doing this, and I’ve written a follow-up post to address questions about the 2×10 strategy. I’ve shared advice on what to do if:

  • the student doesn’t want to talk to you
  • you don’t have time for individual conversations
  • you don’t know how to get the conversation started
  • you’re unsure of what to ask students
  • students give you one-word answers

I’ve also specifically addressed middle and high school teachers.  I’m looking forward to continuing the conversations!

Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Angela created the first version of this site in 2003 to share practical ideas with fellow educators. Now with 11 years of teaching experience and more than a decade of experience as an instructional coach, Angela is the Editor-in-Chief of...
Browse Articles by Angela


    1. That’s how I feel, too, Jennifer! I was so excited to see more evidence from real teachers that focusing on relationships CAN work, even with really challenging kids.

  1. I love this idea and recess is the PERFECT time to do it. My only problem is I want to do it with a bunch of kids and haven’t been focusing it on one particular kid (maybe because I don’t have one major issue kid but a bunch of “medium issue” kids if that make sense?). I am going to try to focus this on one or two kids, give it ten days, and then maybe move on to other kids. We’ll see how it goes but man this strategy is EASY. There is no paperwork, it’s very informal, and did I mention EASY?

    1. The EASY part is what gets me, too, Rebecca. We can talk all day long about how teachers need to build relationships with students, but the 2×10 strategy makes that abstract idea very concrete and achievable. For teachers who feel overwhelmed by their students’ needs, this is a great way to start and see some positive effects right away.

      1. It’s great because it is so simple and intuitively right. Sometimes we just need to be reminded that a little kindness goes a long way.

        1. Merri!! If this is Merri who I know from Camp Hayward, hi and, fancy meeting you here!! Couldn’t agree more!! Carolyn.

    2. I spend the first 3 months of every new school year building relationships with ALL of my students. If I have students with more serious behavioral issues, I address them first. I have a draw hat that determines who will spend a recess having “tea with my teacher.” Of course, it’s not hot tea, I have a list of 3 drinks they choose from. I rig the draw until I’ve addressed my most needy students. During this 10 minutes, I learn more about each student than I could any other way. Once everyone has had tea with me a few times, I start having tea parties with groups of 3. I carefully choose who will be in each party, bringing children together with whom they would rarely interact. I always notice a surge of empathy in the classroom once tea parties begin. Yes, it takes up one of my recesses every day, and requires a bit of planning each day, but is so worth it!! I rarely have reoccurring behavioral issues, if I implement this program every year. Cheers ????

      1. I love your idea of “tea with teacher.” I work best when I have a set routine, and this would be great to build a routine of taking time to connect with students. I’m sure they also love getting to choose a special drink.
        Everyone needs a break to chat, kids too!

      2. What a wonderful way to do this! I’ll be using the “tea with the teacher” strategy for sure. Thank you for taking your time to share!!!

      3. I really love this idea! I am hoping that I will be able to have this “tea with teacher” with my students. I am a new teacher and I am having a hard time dealing with my students. This website is very helpful. Thanks a lot!

      4. Wow! Morning tea with students to build relationships…what a novel & lovely idea. Fancy that! Fancy hats?!

  2. I would love to try this!! Hmmm…when can I talk to someone privately? AND, I wonder if my principal would like this?

    1. I didn’t know it had a name, but I do this with my students all the time…especially the ones who are frustrated or come in looking down. I will just pull up a chair beside them and we talk. I may start by asking them how their day is going. Then I offer something that happened during my day…Because I do this so often, the kids are used to me being in their space and sharing jokes and stories. I have the computer lab, so sometimes when I feel the talk isn’t working, I’ll ask them to open a software they haven’t seen yet and ask them if I can show them something really cool. A lot of times, it’s the beginning of a lesson soon to come and then it makes the student feel like they have the inside scoop. (a connection is made). I teach High School.

        1. If you have to ask those kind of questions maybe your not ready to take this important task on. Not everyone has that natural inner peace to just let it be an acceptable fun learning tool for both you and the child. I’m sure it’s ok to put a child in time out or detention for as many times as it takes, this tool just gives you a better result..and I say this with the utmost respect and tone.

    2. Your principal would have a problem with you connecting..making a relationship with a student..while I understand the need for caution with teAchers & students I believe we have “thrown the bay out with the bathwater” ..gone overboard..

    1. Maybe you can comment on students’ journal writing or some other piece of work in which they showed a bit of their personality and interests. If they mention they like a sports team, ask them what they thought of a play that was made in a recent game. If they mention something about drawing, ask if they have any art they can show you. Look for any small piece of information the child shares willingly and build from there.

      I think you can also get started with shy kids by talking about yourself. Let the kids see a little bit about who you are as a person, and look for things you have in common. “Hey, have you heard of that new book/movie/video game/ ___? I checked it out last night and it was so cool, I really liked how ___. Have you read/watched/played anything good lately?”

      1. I’ve often commented on little drawings (or even different fonts) kids have made on their papers (or that I’ve seen on pages they’d never turn in). I love to compare their work with famous artists… I’ll say, “Ooh! That totally reminds me of “X.” Let me show you what I mean!” Then I’ll Google whatever I’m thinking of on my phone (they get SO excited when it’s “THAT” important!) and show them. Even that small investment of interest can pay huge dividends. It’s all about relationships!

      1. I am Th ISS (In School Suspension) teacher at a high school. I do this regularly with my “repeat offenders” that I see quite frequently. My kids aren’t bad kids, they just make some bad choices. It breaks my heart when some of them tell me they like coming to my room because I’m the only one who listens to them. I wish teachers didn’t have to worry about all of the paperwork and so much testing so they could focus on teaching and interacting more with their students.

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion? Feel free to contribute!