Monday, September 13, 2010

30 Second Interventions

Sometimes students need respectful reminders to get back on task, begin a task, or a reminder of a school rule. The last thing you want to do is to get into a confrontation with a student. Friendly reminders may save you from a confrontation with a student, saving you and the student a potentially embarrassing situation.

Joel Shimoji, in his book Restitution Field Guide (based on the work of Diane Gossen), calls the respectful reminders "30 second interventions." They are "fast and polite reminders designed to respectfully get people back on track." Shimoji also notes that the way you communicate your message is important. Ten percent of the message is conveyed through words; 35% is conveyed through tone of voice; and 55% is from body language. That means 90% of your message is non-verbal.

Shimoji says if students need friendly reminders, the following things can help:

A. 30 second intervention (Assistance)
1. "When will you be ready to start?"
2. "Do you need some help?"
3. "Can I help you get started?"

B. 30 second intervention (Directive)
1. "What should you be doing now?"
2. "What's your job?"
3. "Is what you're doing helping or hurting?"

I usually use the assistance intervention sentences. I like to do a "hit and run." That means walk over to the table and gently say, "Can I help you get started?" and then walk away. If the student needs help they will ask, but if they don't need help I continue walking and they get the message that it is time to start.

If the student does not get back on task after a couple of friendly reminders then a further discussion can take place. This discussion can include saying something like, "If you can figure out a plan that can make this work for you and me, then..."

30 second interventions are respectful ways to get students back on task. It is also important to watch your tone and the body language because it makes up 90% of your message. It has allowed me to have far less confrontations with students.


  1. Great stuff. I find an authentic "thank you" when they answer goes a long way to establishing that tone of voice too.

  2. I think Joel is thinking of amending it from 30 sec interventions to 3 sec interventions :-D (just because they are so effective!)

  3. Indeed, it only takes usually 3 seconds. Joel should be on twitter. He has a lot to share.