• Home
  • >>
  • Blog
  • >>
  • Diffusing Tense Situations in the Classroom with Pocket Phrases

Diffusing Tense Situations in the Classroom with Pocket Phrases

Teaching is full of unexpected situations, and it can be hard to respond to every one with the same calm and consistency. You can help yourself be ready for anything by developing and using Pocket Phrases. Listen in to find out what they are, how to use them, and why they might be the next best tool in your classroom management tool belt.

listen here:

What is a pocket phrase?

A pocket phrase is a phrase that you can metaphorically "pull out of your pocket" when you need it. For example, "I care about you too much to argue" is a line you can say every time a student tries to argue with you in the classroom. 

Why is it helpful?

A pocket phrase can make a big difference:

  • You have more confidence because you know what to say ahead of time.
  • You are more consistent because you are responding with the same line whenever the specific situation comes up.
  • Students eventually learn how you'll respond and are less likely to repeat that behavior because it's not working for them. 

pocket phrase examples in common situations

When a student wants to argue...

  • I'm not going to change my mind on this. 
  • This isn't worth arguing about.
  • This is not a discussion I am willing to have right now.

When you need to redirect students...

  • I would be happy to hear your story at recess.
  • I'll begin lining people up as soon as its quiet.
  • We are chasing a rabbit, let's get back on track.
  • What are you supposed to be doing right now?
  • (Name), change it.
  • Now is not the time. 

To help students take responsibilities for their actions...

  • We are problem solvers, not excuse makers.
  • (Here's the consequence) It's your choice.
  • You already know the answer to that question.
  • I already answered that question.
  • I give full credit to work that's turned in on time. 
  • You're not in trouble, let's talk about it.

When students are tattling...

  • Worry about yourself.
  • Who is the only person you are in charge of?

When you aren't sure how to respond to a student or parent..

  • Let me think about this.
  • Thank you for bringing this to my attention.
  • I'm so glad you contacted me about this. 
  • We all want what is best for the student.

To remind students to be kind...

  • You don't need to like everyone, but you need to respect everyone.
  • We choose kindness.

When something unexpected occurs and you need time to think...

  • See me after class.
  • I'm going to have to do something about that.

your turn

If we haven't addressed a common issue you face in your classroom, come up with your own pocket phrase! Consider using an "I" statement. The power behind this is we aren't asking the student to do anything, we are telling them what WE will do (something we are fully in control of!). If you come up with your own phrase, put it in the comments! 

Links Mentioned

Join us IN Your Smooth-Running Class

Are you looking for more help with classroom management? Do you like the idea of having a prepared plan for responding to behavior issues BEFORE they occur? Join us in Your Smooth-Running Class this summer! We'll help you design a classroom management plan that works and you'll be ready for a new school year. 

Find out more about Your Smooth-Running Class

Classroom management plan course from Teach 4 the Heart


The Herzog foundation believes that teachers are the heartbeat of schools and the role models to our future leaders. In June, they will host the Making A Leap: Teacher Symposium at Wheaton College, Illinois to explore questions, concerns, and myths around Christian education. During the two-day symposium teachers, administrators, and graduates looking to go into Christian education will explore topics like Reclaiming Faith and Freedom in the Classroom, launching your own Christian school, and more. If you are thinking about making the leap into Christian education, this two day event is for you! Find out more at teach4theheart.com/leap.

spread the word!

Did you find this post helpful? Clue in your fellow teachers by sharing the post directly (just copy the URL) or by clicking one of the buttons to automatically share on social media.

This article may contain affiliate links. This means that if you purchase a resource after clicking the link, Teach 4 the Heart may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for helping support Teach 4 the Heart in this way.

What to Read Next
{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}