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

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

By Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

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, when she was a classroom teacher herself. With 11 years of teaching experience and more than a decade of experience as an instructional coach, Angela oversees and contributes regularly to...
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    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.

  3. What an ingenius idea! Colleen, it doesn’t have to be ‘private.’ Quietly by your desk, before school starts, while the other students are busily working, pull a chair up beside the child. If you turned a problem into a dedicated student, I think your principal would love it!

    1. Thanks for chiming in, Joan. I agree this doesn’t have to be a truly private conversation or some formal, dedicated time. Most of our students get so little one-on-one time and individual positive attention that every interaction has the potential to mean a great deal to them.

  4. Angela, I am long overdue in thanking you for all you do to make teaching and learning better for everyone. Thank you for setting up the various Facebook groups and for all the free things you post. At the end of a long day, as I am scrolling through my social media contacts, I always make time to read something if it has your name on it. That’s how much I think of you!

    This one tops them all. I will try it right away, and I am sharing the link with my staff. It seems like such a small gesture to just say “thank you,” but know that there are teachers who are making life and learning better for students because of you.

    1. Wow, Jeanne, thank you so much for taking the time to share that. It truly means a lot to me. I am so, so particular about the content I post here because I know I have the trust of teachers like you and never want to take advantage of that.

      It can be a tricky balance sometimes but I try to always put teachers/readers first, and concentrate on creating posts with real value. I appreciate you letting me know that the ideas I share have been helpful not only for teachers, but are also making a real difference in the lives of kids. That is so, so rewarding! I feel really blessed to have this platform. 🙂

  5. Wow!! I will be doing this starting tomorrow. What a simple but wonderful thing for teacher and student. I think we sometimes forget that kids who act out are doing so for a reason. Thank you Angela for sharing this and everything else you share with us to help us be the best teachers we can be.

  6. I spend a lot of time talking to and getting to know students. This looks like another opportunity to make differences. Thanks!

    1. I’d recommend doing this whenever it fits best into your schedule. There may even be impromptu moments you can seize. If you have a minute of downtime or the child strikes up a conversation, go with it!

  7. I think this is a great strategy and I can see how many problems start with the lack of attention. However, what “investment” do the kids get who are behaving and doing the right thing? Are we not sending ANOTHER message to children that if you act up, you get the resources?

    1. Good point. My hope is that this strategy is imperceptible to the kids. It’s more of a way for the teacher to make sure s/he is not constantly reprimanding and correcting challenging students but also getting to know them as people.

      I’ve always found it’s much easier to get to know the kids who are rule followers, because most of our interactions are positive and it’s easy to get through an entire conversation without addressing their behavior. With certain other children, this is much harder, and I have to consciously balance the redirection with positive, friendly interactions. Setting a goal of 2 minutes per day is a good way to address that, I think.

    2. The kids who are behaving and doing the right thing most likely already have a support system at home. There is someone supporting them emotionally. The kids who misbehave don’t have that support. That is where we come in.

  8. I am a special needs teacher and have used this-not knowing that it was a researched strategy-with my students for years. I may not limit it to 10 days, but have been able to reach many of the ‘unreachable’ students! We do not go home with our students and seldom know what they go home to. It doesn’t take much time to listen and talk-it may be the only time they get to do that!!

  9. I am a 1st year intern special ed teacher at a lower SES high school with 75% of the students EL with behavior issues and/or ADHD. On my first day I could see that one of my freshman girls was hard and untrusting and would make me “earn” her respect. She is 14 with a pierced lip, 5’10”, too much make-up, and “rules” the roost. I didn’t know it but I was doing the 2×10. I could see she needed to warm up to me and I would find something daily to chat with her about for just 1-2 minutes… today she is my biggest helper, cheerleader, and is academically excelling! Each week I choose 1-2 of my students who I feel I don’t “know” too well and use the same strategy! It works wonders!

    1. Don’t you love when you hear a research-based strategy that you figured out intuitively as a teacher? What a great confirmation for you. I’m so glad you shared the outcome for this child. Exciting!

  10. I am having dental surgery today, BUT I have THREE Kindergarten boys that will NOT stop hitting, tripping each other…I am a 38 year veteran teacher. I have tried all the positive (and some negative) tricks and so far….nothing….I am so excited to try this with them tomorrow and for the next 10 days….of course, I will talk to them one at a time…..so very, very excited. I will definitely report back…….thanks for giving me a new tool to help these boys!

  11. I have always done this. I don’t think anyone really invented it, teachers just naturally do this with their students. At least the ones I work with. However, there are a few very hard cases where nothing works, or you think it is working, and it backfires. But most of the kids enjoy, as well as I do, the interaction.

  12. This works well in any situation. I use this principle in ministry to at-risk teens. I haven’t seen the actually formula as you have described it here, but I have seen the principle of consistent positive communication over time work wonders with some kids. Some youth are actually surprised that an adult is talking to them respectfully and as if their ideas and opinions matter. There is no telling how we might could transform the world if we followed your advice here, not just in school, but everywhere, and not just with kids, but with everyone. Good article.

  13. I have taught this way for years (all of my students have extreme behavioral difficulties. This year, I began teaching students who need specialized academic instruction in a juvenile detention facility. All of my students will be incarcerated for long periods of time, most have been in the system for longer. I wasn’t supposed to share any personal information and for our own safety we are supposed to keep things very impersonal. I tried but didn’t feel as effective as I wanted to. The ONLY way to reach many at risk students is by making connections… It has to be authentic, they can smell a fraud a million miles away. You don’t know what some of your students have to deal with. There are so many young hurting hearts who need someone to just care.

  14. Hi!!
    My son is in Kindergarten…. he is not at-risk, but just turned 5 in June and academically he is fine, but maturity wise, he has a little farther to go. I would have liked to have held him another year but was unable to do so. I am to have a conference with his teacher soon, would it be appropriate to bring 2×10 up to her? I think this is something that would be beneficial to him and worth trying.
    Any feedback would be great!!

    1. Sure, I think you could mention it to her…just say you came across a strategy that you think would work well for your child and you thought you’d share it in case she found it helpful.

  15. Problem is a middle schooler doesn’t want to talk to the teacher for two minutes, they want to talk to their friends. To have the other students work on an activity while you talk to the at-risk student would be counterproductive…and they would feel singled out. I guess your suggestion is for elementary?

    1. I am a 15 year veteran middle school teacher. The statement that middle school students don’t want to talk to the teacher for two minutes is TOTALLY WRONG. If you are a teacher who cares about and respects your students, they most certainly do want ro talk to you. Especially the ones with disruptive behaviors, which for 90% of those kids the behaviors are cries for attention anyway.
      I have never seen this formula before, but I have used this “strategy” for many years. Instead of 2×10, I would call it being a good teacher who cares about your kids.
      Students know when a person is genuine. They know if you care about them or not. My guess is if the students don’t want to talk to you, you are not showing them you care.

  16. i have been this for years and it does work! As a building principal, I will encourage everyone to do this, the most successful teachers already do. By doing this you will gain instructional time not lose it! No matter the age, kids will always respond ipositively to positive time and attention. I also disagree with the comments that this is for elementary. I worked at the middle school level for 19 years and this works! You just have to know when to do it! Walking in the hallway, stopping in at lunch, after school before sports practice, if you want to make a difference, you will find a way! I will say, if you do this by just going through the motions and not being genuine, it won’t work. Kids know when an adult is being insincere., no matter how old they are.

  17. Ah yes, this does work, but it is only one piece of the puzzle! What about the relationships with each other? Why is very little time spent in schools helping them to relate to each other? Especially when it comes to inclusion and mainstreaming! Sometimes I think it is all about just listening to each other over all! There are so many pieces to this puzzle. If only it were just about the relationship between the teacher and students. As a specials teacher, I spend a lot of time talking to individual students and yes, I do think it is key to earn trust and understanding, but lets not forget the need to guide them to relate to each other and understand each other. There is so much going on in schools these days. Priorities are all about testing, goals. etc. While these are important, I believe more time needs to be spent on helping kids understand each other. We put all these different personalities together and just expect them to get along. I spend a lot of time having them “introduce,” each other in mini commercials and it does work, but then a lot of factors come and dichotomy gets distored again and again. It really is about listening, listening to each other, and putting yourself in to another’s shoes.

  18. I am a high school teacher and teach nearly 200 students throughout the day. As an extra credit point on some quizzes, I ask students to write and tell me what is going on in their lives. It has to be something interesting and something I don’t already know, good or bad. It is amazing what students will put down on paper in a non threatening situation. I hear about parents in jail, drug abuse, fear of coming out to the family, boyfriend/girlfriend problems, etc. I write back to EVERY student and follow up where needed. They all know I care about them first as people. It’s the old saying that kids don’t care what you know until they know that you care. I thought this might be helpful to middle/high school teachers who have a hard time finding the two minutes in the schedule.

  19. This strategy does work, but it is not a miracle. Students with more profound behaviors will improve, but this is not a panacea. Sometimes it takes the entire year and you can’t quit when the child slips up. Sometimes the behavior will get worse, to test if you really do care, before it gets better. Every child deserves to be cared about and respected. Those who act out most need it most.

  20. Can’t wait to try this tomorrow! Have been teaching preschool for 24 years… This year has been a challenge with a couple of children. This past Friday I had a little boy try hitting and kicking me when we were cleaning up, because he didn’t want to help! This is not the first time he has acted out… Will spend 2×10 with him and hope this works!!! Thanks!!

  21. I really wished this worked for my student. I have spent so much time on this child. I gave him 2 minutes every hour. I’ve spent lunches, did a home visit. One day I gave him the entire day and my other students got nothing. This child doesn’t care – he demands 100% attention. When he doesn’t get it he will throw food, scream out, run around the room hitting other children, rolling on the floor throwing a temper tantrum, kicking, banging his chair on his desk, jumping up and down off his chair. It’s overwhelming and I’m at such a loss. I suffered a mini stroke because of this child. My other children are afraid of him – no one is learning. He’s 10 and knows right from wrong. I’m just lost and get zero help. I only get he needs to be loved. I’ve tried and it saddens me. What now?

    1. It sounds like you’ve given so much of yourself to this student, Theresa, and I commend you for that. I’m sure you are also pursuing additional testing for this child to try to get to the root of the problem and get him the support that you can’t offer. Be encouraged and don’t give up! You never know how you are making a difference for a child, even when the results aren’t obvious.

      1. I was a grade school teacher for over 20 year plus a single Mother with 8 children spanning 10 years. I tried this idea on my own children and most were responsive except one son who simply needed the Father who chose to be absent not the Mom who was omnipresent. He was horrible and this idea simply didn’t work – AT THE TIME. Now, years later, he has apologized profusely for his teenage behavior and we have a great relationship. Sometimes it just takes TIME. There were several students over my teaching career who also did not respond to my interest in them and pouring out of positive energy and love every day. I don’t regret for a moment the time and energy that was expended daily to let my thousands of “kids” know I was there for them and loved them and truly cared about them. I see many of them as I go different places and there is always a hug and I tell them that I will ALWAYS be interested in them and what they do with their lives. A teacher DOES affect eternity. You never know where your influence will be felt.

  22. It seems like such a logical thing but so many of us don’t take the time to get to know our students on a personal level. I got to know a student who has not accomplished a single thing in school for the past two years. Then I did a little research and taught myself a little about the topic that he is currently obsessed with. I have been able to relate to him on his level and we have gotten more work done in one month of school than in the previous two years combined.

    1. Absolutely, Jodee–getting to know our students is logical but the fact is that it’s not happening in many, many classrooms. Just because something is common sense doesn’t mean it’s commonly practiced. Our school systems just don’t support teachers in relationship building and it can easily get pushed the side.

  23. The reason you have been successful is you are connecting with your student from where they find their interests. So often (predominantly) we ask our students to join us where our interests or where our curricular need begins. When we take the time to innovate-think outside our “teacher” box, and ask how we can connect our curriculum to student interest, we bang our heads in frustration a whole lot less and accomplish so much more. An unintended consequence of teaching this way, besides gaining the respect of students who realize you actually care about them, is that we often learn something from our students about interesting topics we never even heard of previously. As long as teachers continue to be “students” of their field, they cannot help but meet with easier roads and and nicer weather on the journey they take with students through any learning experience.

  24. Hi Angela,
    It sounds really fantastic and I am yearning to try this strategy with few of my grade 5 students today.Thanks for sharing this wonderful strategy and I’m sure many are already benefited and many will be benefited in the future. May God bless you and help you succeed in all your endeavors. I will certainly update about the effects of using this strategy.
    Pavitha Paul

  25. I have been a school bus driver for 30 yrs. In the mornings we have about 8 – 10 min. before going into the school.I have done this for years with unruly children. Works wonders. Sometimes they uust need someone to let them talk and be listened to.

    1. Hi Deb,
      I am really surprised to know there exists good souls like you who dons the role of a mentor, teacher or a friend in spite of your heavy schedule. Keep doing this good work.God bless.you!

  26. as an early childhood educator, I do this all the time. I did not know it was a strategy to combat difficult behaviour. To me, talking to the children is a mutually rewarding and educational experience. I learn a bit about them and structure my program around that, they learn that they are important contributors to the group. When did teaching children go from being hands-on to hands-off? Yes, there are many more demands on teachers these days, but I just take a moment, when it fells like I have lost my way, to think back to why I am there, and talk with a child. They will always remind me.

  27. This is a good concept but it has been around since mankind. It is called people skills. Getting to know someone at a personal level that you need them to do something. How many people and how much time and money was wasted on this. Miraculous I say no. But technological society has gone away from just talking and seeing what makes some one tick. Just get to know some one will make their day and they in return will perform some you!

    1. Relationship building has been around since the beginning of time. This strategy just makes it more concrete and easier to manage for teachers who have a million other things vying for their focus and attention.

  28. I have used that strategy for years. Didn’t know it was a teaching thing. I drive a school bus and have for 15 years and every child who had issues would sit up front for a week and we would discuss anything they wanted. As always a good morning and good afternoon addressing the child by name helps. I just always felt and feel that respect is a two way street I must give it to get it. So, this idea works with anyone who works with children in school.

  29. has anyone thought that this might actually work with adults as well!? I’ve come across many “outraged” adults in business and in daily life in general, as I’m sure we all have. This idea is a HUGE movement in today’s society that I believe should be spoken daily and out loud! This world is getting more out of hand and more sinister by the second. So, why not take the time to listen and talk for 2 minutes! I love this idea and think it could certainly be used in more cases than just the classroom.

  30. I have tried everything and nothing works with this 4 yr old. She is so disruptive that I can’t teach. The others are consumed by her. I will start this with her tomorrow. I have talked to her but not on a consistent basis.
    Thank you

  31. What do you recommend for an alternative campus, where the teachers do not actually make up the lesson plan, the main campus teachers send assignments to the alternative campus, and the main campus teachers keep up with the grades, assignments etc. There are 3 classrooms here elementary grades 4-6, then junior high 7 & 8th grade and finally high school 9-12, so you have all these students taking different classes having different teachers so you can’t teach in own smooth motion to like review the previous day’s lesson, especially when you don’t even control the assignments, how to you do classroom management in a situation like this, the student are already in trouble and troubled,

  32. I have a student this year that is struggling, and has struggled throughout most of his educational career. He has been to many schools, and his attendance has been less than spectacular at all of them. He has never been in one place long enough to get the help he needs. He was disengaged in academics, and a bit of a handful in the behavior department when he joined my class. He was a very troubled child, both in and out of the classroom. I made all of the appropriate referrals, but the most effective intervention was the 2×10 strategy.
    I hope you don’t mind I quoted you in my blog. I love this practice and it truly is miraculous.

    1. Wow, that is so cool to hear! Thanks for reporting back. Your post is wonderful—thanks for letting me know about it. I’ll be sure to shre it out on Twitter and Pinterest.

  33. I love this so much! As a sub, it’s hard to get control of that one student. The one who obviously is hard to control no matter who you are. The one who fears no discipline, cares for no reward, and refuses to do anything. I’ve really found the power of one-on-one connection. Sometimes I’ll have a student bring work to my desk and sit next to me, never phrased as a punishment, but just as, “Please bring your work here and we’ll look at it together.” Or I might take a few quiet minutes to discuss a major issue. “I noticed that you were out of your seat a lot this morning. That’s a problem for me. Can you talk to me about why finishing your work is a problem for you?” And then I end up hearing something about how much better he can concentrate if…and BAM! problem solved for the moment! I really think the power of caring and speaking one-on-one with students is miraculous.

  34. You also need to say to a difficult student, “I noticed that…” and then follow it up by anything. I noticed you like to wear blue. I noticed that you like…etc. Most kids who are difficult want to be noticed and if you tell a student that several times, they will know they have been noticed by you, their teacher, and generally will give you better behavior because you noticed them.

  35. I am excited about trying this! I have a question, how do you politely stop conversation? Anytime I spark a conversation with a child it usually leads to several others chiming in and wanting to talk also. How do I keep it to 2 minutes and not hurt other kids feelings? I know I have a few that I could really focus on that have problems but do you also make sure that you’re doing this with every child eventually?

  36. I have always done this. I get to know each of my students their interests, families, extra curricular activities. I talk with them all regularly and a few I talk to everyday, since the first week of school. I have 2 this year that are and have been behavior issues since Day 1. While yes a rapport with students usually works occasionally there are behaviors it does not correct/prevent.

  37. Wonderful and simple. I am a school counselor and educator for over 30 years, additionally I am a Nurtured Heart Approach advanced trainer that trains schools and parents on the power of relationship – this simple strategy is NHA at its core; believe in every child’s ability to be successful and use your relationship as a relentless pursuit of the positive to meet the child where they are. Kids at Hope does this too!

    Working on my PhD and looking at self-efficacy and teacher relationship – this may be the perfect, simple tool.

    Thanks for sharing!

  38. As a parent, reading this it downed on me that this may work at home as well. My 16 year old son is not really having behavior issues,but thought this method could bring us even closer together. I’m sure this thought has come to mind to other parents, and was wondering if other parents have tried this at home. I realize this site is for educators but many are parents as well. 2×10 in class and maybe 10×10 in the home. I would really appreciate you comments on this concept. Thank you.
    Mike Stottlemyre

  39. I am not a teacher myself, but as a student in high school, I had a teacher who used this method with me. I was not a “trouble-maker,” but I was “troubled.” Due to a physical disability, I missed school frequently. My Freshman year of high school, I missed the first two months of classes; by the time I came in, other students had already established friendships. In addition, I had many learning differences/disabilities, including (we found out later) mild autism.

    My American History/Current Events teacher made it a point to get to know me; not just the surface me, but the *real* me. Even if it was only a few minutes a day, she asked about, and *listened* when I told her about how my learning differences affected me, and my learning style. She *listened* when I told her I couldn’t focus on class, because I was worried about an up-coming medical test/procedure, or had a friend in the hospital who wasn’t doing well. Up until that year, school had always been a place where I had to hide who I really was, and the things I was dealing with. She changed that. Once I knew I had an ally in school, it made it a much easier place for me to be.

  40. Tracey its sounds like your are a very sensitive person and your teacher was able to “see” this. I believe that most of our students who are living in very difficult circumstances do not want to show vulnerability. People that are in contact with them might assume this is an “I don’t care” or “don’t bother me attitude” and be put off and afraid to make the step towards getting to know them.

    I always assume that anger, disinterest, and all negative behavior is not a normal attitude that students want to maintain 24/7. I don’t believe any student “plans” when they come to school to be obnoxious. It’s always because something else is going on, maybe at home, or bullying in school, or having to pretend they understand what is being taught in class when the never do.

    I always try to connect and most times it works. When it doesn’t I assume it’s because I have not put in enough time. I work in a Title 1 school and I have 240 students that I teach. Sometimes I cannot do it all.

  41. Yes, now I have the name of the strategy I’ve been using for years! Im a sixth grade ELL teacher and I have as much fun eating lunch with the kids and making even connections with ones who are not in my classes.

  42. Great share, Angela! Thank you!

    To take the 2 x 10 to the next level, follow up with a call home and report your positive interaction. Another easy win that will pay dividends 10 fold down the line.

    If we are too busy to find 2 minutes during the day to spend with a child in need, and too busy to find 30 seconds to leave a positive voicemail for guardians, then I submit we are too busy to NOT implement these easy wins. What is possibly on our plates demanding a higher priority than servicing our kids and families? Teaching can be as pleasant–or as challenging–as we make it.

    Thank you again, Angela, for the share!

  43. Great share, Angela! Thank you!

    To take the 2 x 10 to the next level, follow up with a call home and report your positive interaction. Another easy win that will pay dividends 10 fold down the line.

    If we are too busy to find 2 minutes during the day to spend with a child in need, and too busy to find 30 seconds to leave a positive voicemail for guardians, then I submit we are too busy to NOT implement these easy wins. What is possibly on our plates demanding a higher priority than servicing our kids and families? Teaching can be as pleasant–or as challenging–as we make it.

    Thank you again, Angela, for the share!

  44. This is such a great idea and if you think about it common sense. All of us want to feel valued and this does. My problem is I work with non verbal students, but I think I will try this probably using pictures, drawings or stories.

  45. I would say you get it!!! After 35 yrs of working in K-12 all levels, working with inner city gang bangers, rural isolates, teachers, principals, admin and doing extensive research I too have the same conclusions. Relationship, relationship, relationships driven by the message that you will take take for people who are important. So good to read your 2×10! I have told my student teachers for years if you don’t have the ability to make the time for your students there is a major problem:)Thank YOU!

  46. Thanks my wife and will try it, we’re both teachers in Mexico, it could be the answer to so many situations in school, we really appreciate this article.

  47. I like this, especially at the beginning of the year, before management becomes a concern. Every child and teacher can benefit from some personal attention and idea sharing. Works well in a group, too. Respect, Honesty, Caring…..sounds like the Pillars of character.

  48. This shows me that too often we label and medicate instead of giving some much needed attention. What would happen to marriages in USA if they were given the attention needed also. Some people need to wake up and realize LIFE ISN’T ABOUT YOU ALL THE TIME!! This is not to say everyone should throw away their meds and disregard dr.’s orders, but I think we need to be more attentive as a human race and love a little more.

  49. I actually tried to contact the creator of this idea – originally shared in an unpublished paper and presentation. He shared that he can’t even recall how he came up with it, but like Angela, the concrete application to the absolute understanding that everyone seeks relationship, everyone wants to connect and belong – and be SEEN – provides the power of our relationship to transform how a child perceives him/herself – and can build self-efficacy and ultimately inner wealth. Janet’s comment speaks to the fact that we do give attention – but it is negative attention. Often the children who need our focus, get it under lectures, warnings: relationship – but not in the right direction. So many great, creative ways that teachers use to do this- the intention of this idea is to help us use a different lens on our more challenging children. To help them – and us – view their intensity or complacency as a strength that needs direction. To know them better. If not us – then who? And most significantly, if we are reading this and engaging then yes, we get it. So we must be the voice of this greatness, the wisdom to help others who want to dismiss an angry, disengaged child. Help them see the potential of every child – as the adult who does. Great dialogue. Check out Howard Glasser’s Nurtured Heart Approach – it is this voice.

  50. The whole 2×10 cornerstone concept is all good information, but what if you are working in the alternative education building where students are already troubled in their lives and are below average students academically. You are not allowed to talk to the students, teachers who engage on conversation are pulled from the classroom, the camera video is reviewed with them and they are asked why they were talking to the student. The students and guardians are greeted at morning check in and after that no talking

    1. I’m really sad to hear that teachers are not allowed to talk to the students in this setting. Is it an internal suspension room or something? I have never heard of a situation like this–I’ve spent years volunteering in juvenile detention facilities where even the detention officers are not prohibited from talking with the kids and do try to build relationships. If you can provide more information about how the students are taught at your school (you can’t teach without talking, right?) I will certainly try to offer you advice. You can also email me: angelawatson@live.com. Thank you for caring for these students and trying to make a difference for them in a what sounds like an extremely difficult learning environment.

  51. I love the strategy as it aligns with my own philosophies (each child is precious and special, focused attention is very powerful in meeting the emotional needs, children learn best when they feel loved, safe, and valuable, etc.) It is effective with many children who act out due to emotional needs, family life, past experiences,…
    However, it doesn’t work with all children. Some children with special needs cannot control their behavior even though they would like to. My dilemma is when I have a special needs student who requires a teacher ratio of 5-to-1 in my class of 22 students. I can either give her the attention she needs and neglect the other 22 or work with the 22 and she falls apart. It is often impossible to teach the rest of the class when her needs are not being met. We simply have to have better teacher to pupil ratios especially for special needs students.

    1. I agree about the teacher-student ratio issue. Maybe you can spend the 2 minutes when walking the students to lunch, during bathroom trips, at dismissal, etc. I know that it’s really hard when you have a very demanding class.

  52. I believe most teachers do the talking and connection naturally. I just have to mention a lovely experience I had in my last year of teaching. I was taken out of 28 years of elementary and put into art for underachieving junior/senior high. I was quite scared but soon was blown away totally by their talent. I swear I did nothing but sing praises all day long. I showed every who was no longer tired of listening to me brag. I framed and had pictures put up on the walls. I never seemed to have a problem and attendance was high. It finally dawned on me that they came because they knew how proud of them I was and some had never heard anyone tell them how great they were. I had a fantastic year and wished I had moved up a few years earlier.

  53. I’m just seeing this tradegy today but I have used it with my second grade students. I took over for another teacher almost at the end of the school year and had one student who was super hyper. At first I was afraid I wasn’t able to teach these little babies because of their short attention span n busy bodies since I’m use to teaching older students… The first day of classes I told myself that he was going to be my problem and that I have to work hard with them. A few days later I told them that if they need to ask a question or go to the restroom they must raise their hands… It took a while to get them use to it but they got it. I would ignore them if they talk out of turn, they would realize that they should raise their hands and wait their turn. Now with this little boy he got that too but everyday I would call him by my desk and we would talk. He is super smart and mein he always have something to talk about. Even if he isn’t sure of an answer he would still give one knowing its wrong. Coming to the end of the term I had to leave the class and had some older students assisting me. When I came back, he waa the first one I asked about. You know when they see visitors they use that to their advantage. The response was, Miss he sat in his chair and did his work, when he was finished he got a book from the library and sat and read. I was happy for him. Many days he would come to my desk and jump in my lap and hug me. I learned that all these children need, especially the ones that tend to give trouble or not doing their work, is just a little love and attention. Mein at the end of the school year i saw a big difference in those students. Fellow coworkers congratulated me in having classroom management and changing the behaviour of those students. I could leave my class unattended and you wouldn’t believe that a teacher is not in the class… So teachers out there, just show your babies a lil love and attention and you have the best school year and the best set of kids throughout your school…. So this tradegy really work.. Try it!!!

  54. I work with at risk high schoolers i n an alternative school and always spent time talking to the tougher kids and often have less trouble with them than some of my peers. I am looking forward to consciously trying this strategy in the upcoming year, as I just pre viewed my class lists and there are quite a few names in there that are gonna take some work to get through to.

  55. I love this idea! Come to think of it, last year several students did it themselves – they excused themselves from classes and instead of going to the boys’ room came to me – just for a couple of minutes, just to talk a bit. And the teachers said they noticed some improvement in their attitude!

  56. This works with adults also, in nursing homes! People who turn anger on others are hurting on the inside and can no longer hold it in. We need to be compassionate and find out why they are hurting. Too many times we are in a rush and just want to fix the immediate problem and not look for root cause. It’s easy to assign blame or a diagnosis, it’s harder to invest yourself in another person’s world.

  57. I teach in an ED school. Developing relationships with your students is a must. However, most ED students cannot have a normal relationship. Everyday is different. Some days they are happy and able to cope. Other days they are cursing you out and their misery is all your fault. This the norm…it does not usually change. There is a big difference between ED & BD. The majority of students in a typical classroom are BD. If you have a student that does not respond to intervention please have them re-evaluated by the school psychologist. ED students have real disabilities and developing a relationship with them will not cure them.

    1. Linda, thanks for drawing attention to the fact that some students do need to evaluated or re-evaluated, and that the results of relationship-building can be inconsistent with students who have socio-emotional issues (and all students, actually.) I think the important thing is to not give up, and to keep doing whatever it takes to support your students and show them you care.

  58. I’m not a teacher but I AM a grandmother to 4 little ones in the same family who are very close in age. Visiting them (out of state) often includes being dog-piled and hugged by all four at once–a challenge at my age! Last time I visited (2 months ago) I took each one individually on a different day to go out and do something they enjoy–just a brief one on one. One wanted to go and catch polliwogs and then get an ice cream cone! One wanted to get ice cream and then go to a special store. One wanted to be read to and snuggled all by herself. Those moments were so special to all of us and I immediately noticed the difference for the rest of my visit. They willingly gave each other room to talk without interrupting as much, and they took turns better when we played games!

  59. I tried this with a student who was being defiant in my classroom. It has been very successful. He is overall a happier person and we have a real connection. Just a look with a grin usually takes care of the problem now. Thank you.

  60. Love the idea! I have been trying this strategy with a student that has behavior issues. He loves to share out and this gives him that individual attention time. I struggle with finding the right time to talk with him one-on-one. I want to try to continue this strategy and see how his behavior can improve.

  61. This strategy has worked well for my student in mind. I feel that I have been able to connect with him on a daily basis. He has even started to approach to me to share things with me.

  62. I’ve found the strategy to be effective with motivating my target student to put more effort into his work and control his impulsive behaviors. However, I feel that he now has the tendency to share “everything” that comes to his mind with me. His comments occur randomly throughout the day and have become disruptive to the class day. I would appreciate any suggestions!

    1. I suppose this is a better problem to have than the misbehavior! Hah! I think you should be honest with him: tell him you have to stay focused on teaching, but if he can remember to tell you at X time in the day when you’re able to speak one on one with him, you’d love to listen. Expect to give this reminder a few times–you might even want to create a hand signal for it–and he’ll get the idea quickly.

  63. I recently tried this with a student. The first week was a success! The second week didn’t go as well. My student started acting more or giving me facial expressions that wasn’t very polite. I wasn’t sure if she then felt that she was more comfortable with me with all our own discussions that she felt she could express herself more than before. Have you experienced a student testing the boundaries once you have started the 2×10 strategy? Of course I am going to continue but I just wasn’t expecting a roadblock right away. Thanks!

    1. I think you made an accurate assessment–she feels like she can be herself with you now. Tell her how you feel: “I love talking with you, and it kind of hurts my feelings when you make that face, because it makes me feel like you don’t want to talk with me.” Keep the dialogue open and stay judgment-free. She’ll come around! You are awesome for taking the time to help create this bond.

  64. The first time I used this strategy, the student I asked to speak to kept asking me if he was in trouble. I kept assuring him that he was not, that I just wanted to talk to him and get to know him better. He couldn’t believe that I just wanted to talk to him, to take interest in him. I’ve only used this for the last three days, so I have not seen an improvement yet, but I’m hoping that with continued use, his behavior will improve.

  65. As a specials area teacher and not seeing the same students every day, it was a little more challenging to find a natural time to have a conversation with the same student. This particular student was difficult to have a conversation with as she would typically answer with “Yes, No, I don’t know responses” so I had to be creative with how I structured the conversation (Would you rather, multiple choice, etc.) I feel as though it was effective overall and I plan to continue to check in with this student as it was evident to me that she enjoyed our conversations.

  66. I have to tell you that this works on adults also. I managed a great team in a production environment. Being a woman in a traditionally male environment is hard enough but my team had been treated poorly by other managers and they trusted no one, not even each other.
    I began starting each day and ending each day with a 2 to 3 minute check in with each team member. It has taken a long time to gain the trust I needed to advance a more positive environment but it is finally working!

  67. I like this article. As a school counselor this is what I do every day with most people. I know the word “miracle” is used for this strategy but it’s no secret or miracle that all people need, crave, and thrive with attention. As a counselor I know that if I am genuinely interested in hearing someone and being present with them that I will have very little issue with them moving forward. I’m glad others are spreading the word about positive communication (which is mostly listening). It works!

  68. I am a first year teacher at middle school in special education. I started the year with 18 special Ed students in one class period on my own. Wow! Unknowingly, I used this technique hoping to let the students get some energy out. There are two students who really just needed that extra attention so they weren’t acting out during class discussions to get that attention. Off topic comments decreased. Silly stories slowly went away. Getting out of seats to get Kleenex or germ x, just for the sake of moving, stopped. I discovered one of them really loves keeping track of dates. He got a special job to change the date on the board everyday.

  69. Hi Angela,
    I implemented the 2×10 strategy and it made a huge difference in my student’s behavior. The only thing is that our 10 days was over last week and I noticed that the student has begun acting up again. Do you begin again? This student needs a lot of attention.

    1. Dear Eloisa,
      Yes, if your student needs this attention then I would continue with another 10 days, then I would test a 2 day break. Only you can know what your student needs. Is the student being needy? spoiled? has to be the center of attention, or is there a real need there? A student who receives little to no attention at home may be using your attention to fill that void. After the 2nd round of 10 days, if you see the student still requiring more attention, I would suggest bringing in a peer to help wean the student off of your 100% feedback. Then add an additional peer, helping the student to build strong relationships with his/her peers will help relieve the extra time with you and strengthen peer to peer relations. Best of Luck. M. Wilkerson

      1. I would also suggest you think about letting the child’s parents know about the strategy and how it is helping, and see if they are interested in participating in something similar at home. Some parents may need help in knowing how to do it (continuous focus, eye contact, reflective listening, non-directive,…) but might be willing to try regardless.

  70. I have begun a pilot study using the 2X10 strategy with student teachers to determine how the strategy changes their approach to working with the children in their field placements. Please contact me! I would love to talk with you about it!

  71. Only problem I see with this strategy is that sometimes the most well behaved and brightest student in your class may actually be the one in need of an ally/friend/chat the very most. This was me growing up. 🙂 otherwise sounds like pretty solid advice!

  72. My husband started going out with other ladies and showed me cold love, on several occasions he threatens to divorce me if I dare question him about his affair with other women, I was totally devastated and confused until a friend told me about a spiritualist named Dr Mack who help people with their relationship and marriage problem by the powers of love spells, at first I doubted if such thing ever exists but decided to give it a try, when I contact him and told him my problem, he helped me cast a love spell and after 24hours my husband came back to me and started apologizing and ever since, he has stopped going out with ladies and he is with me for good and for real. Contact Dr Mack for relationship help or marriage problem at E-mail:dr.mac@yahoo. com…….
    Victoria King, USA

  73. Using this strategy is effective for all students but especially for those ‘problem’ students we all seen to have. I deal primarily with students in grades 9 to 11 but directly speaking to them rarely works. They have become so suspicious of authority they can just shut down. Instead I use sideways talk. I do something while I’m talking to them or I ask them to help me with something. While we are busy, I start the conversation and THEN they will talk. Some take longer but with patience all will open up. Unfortunately sometimes I wish they wouldn’t because their lives are horrendous and I feel so helpless not being able to help them. I like to think that just having me listen and knowing I care can help in some small measure.

  74. Would this technique also help students who are using misbehavior to gain attention from peers and the teacher?

  75. i had to try this…as i read i imagine one of our most challenging student. He’s smart and full of energy, sensitive yet seem to always ready to hit or kick he’s friend. Thank you for the article!

  76. I will definitely try this strategy. I will be teaching 13 kinders in a before- and after-school program. Two kinders are difficult to deal with so I will use 2×10 strategy and hope that my life will be a little easier with them.

  77. Hi Angela. I will definitely try the 2×10 strategy with my students. I work at a special unit for students with ages between 12 and 15 with behaviour problems. Since we have a counsellor, I am not sure how to approach them without making them feel like “More counselling”. Great article by the way.

  78. Thanks for sharing. I teach developmental English at a community college. I’m definitely trying this with my at risk students. Thanks again.

  79. Relationships are so key and we hear this all the time, but I love how this offers a tangible and concrete strategy for building them! Thank you for sharing.

  80. I will use this 2×10 strategy daily. Teachers go off the priors behavior of students when we actually need to set time for students that just need to talk. Creating that positive behavior and space for the student.

  81. Thanks for this article, it was very helpful to me. I think this strategy is easy to follow, of course it would be a challenge with non-verbal students or with those students that don’t want to talk to you or don’t like you. But, we just have to try and take the opportunity to do it.

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