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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

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 is a National Board Certified educator with 11 years of teaching experience and more than a decade of experience as an instructional coach. She started this website in 2003, and now serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Truth for Teachers...
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  1. 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.

  2. 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!!

  3. 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!

  4. 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!

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