July 20, 2014

5 Ways to Make Your Students Smile

Guest blog post by Molly Phillips of Classroom Confections

This post was inspired by a t-shirt. That’s right! While wearing a ‘smile’ t-shirt at the Vegas airport, a security guard came up to me and said, “Thank you for making me smile. I saw your t-shirt. It brought a smile to my face. Sometimes you just forget. It was a great reminder.”

WOW! I was so taken back by his comment. I couldn’t help but think about the power of a smile. Being a teacher, it was second nature for me to start thinking about the classroom and how important it is to incorporate smiles into the school day. There are many ways to accomplish that, but here are 2 easy tips you can begin implementing at the beginning of the year, and 3 more tips to keep your students smiling all year!

2 Ways to Start Your School Year with Smiles
  1. Send your students a ‘welcome’ postcard. Sending a postcard in the mail before school starts may seem old school, but it will help build community and a caring classroom before the year even begins. You won’t see their smile, but I can assure you that there will be one. It will make them feel appreciated. A feeling of appreciation makes anyone smile. Plus, your students will be more likely to walk in on day one of school wearing a smiling face.
  2. Give a special treat on “Meet Your Teacher” Day.  I love giving my new students a little something special when I first meet them in person.  It can be a pencil, a note, or a baggie of sweet treats with a special message. I have always felt my upper elementary kids like receiving a treat. For example, a peppermint with a message, “You were MINT to be in my class!” When kids feel special, they smile.
3 More Ways to Make Your Students Smile
  1. Talk to Kids at Recess. Yes, this is usually a time when teachers can grab a refresher too by getting in some adult conversation, but it’s also a time where kids love being kids. Get into the habit of giving up a few minutes of your teacher chit-chat time at recess to interact with the kids. Some of the most smiley faces come at recess when kids want to do their chants for you, sing you songs, play their recorder, or perform cheers with a group of girls. It’s so easy to tell the kids to go run and play, but this will only take a few short minutes, and with it comes lots of smiles. 
  2. Invite a small group to eat for lunch. Yes, I know. We all want our 25 minute lunch break with our co-workers, but you don’t have to give up your lunch break all the time. It’s nice though to invite a few kids to lunch every now and then, especially those that may need a smile. Kids tend to open up more, tell funny stories, and laugh when they are in smaller groups. You get to see a side of them you might not otherwise see. It’s a bonding time, which is a great way to work through behavior problems or emotional issues with kids.  If you know from the start of school that a student may need a smile, this is a great time to start inviting a small group to lunch. Plus, if you get into the habit of doing this at the beginning of a new school year, you are more likely to continue it. It will take some effort on your part, but the rewards of the smiles will be worth it. 
  3. Use humor in the classroom. I think humor is one of the best ways to build community in the classroom, and of course, with humor comes lots of smiles.  Look for opportunities to tell appropriate jokes, tell funny stories, to share your fun side. For example, on the first day of school last year when I was about to tell the kids they could bring a water bottle to drink, I introduced it with, “What do Ninjas drink at school?”  The answer being, “WAAA-TAAAH!” Throw a Ninja kick in there and the boys will love you from day one. I then went on to say that they could bring water and a healthy snack each day. That joke might be a little over used today, but when I told it, it was unexpected and the kids got a good smile out of it, even a laugh.
In the hustle and bustle of the classroom, it is sometimes easy to forget the important role of smiling. There are many ways to bring smiles to the classroom, but the most important thing to remember is that smiles help build community in your classroom. Community carries over to better behavior and a child’s desire to want to please. Smiling is a win-win for everyone.
When the gentleman at the airport told me that I brought a smile to his face, do you know what I did? You guessed it! I smiled. I was happy to know that I personally brought him a moment of happiness.  It was so unexpected to hear someone actually tell me that. I couldn’t help but think that there is not only importance to be found in making people smile but also in thanking others for the smile. Often times we see the actual smile we bring to someone and then we move on. There was something special about hearing him acknowledge the smile. Because of that, I thought it might be nice to start the year off with the attitude of not only bringing smiles but also thanking people for the smiles they bring.

To help with that, I made some very simple ‘smile tickets’ that teachers can give to students and even co-workers. Click here to visit my TpT store and download the this freebie. You can just sign your name or even write a few words. People will appreciate you thanking them for the smile they brought you. Try it! Here is to wishing you a year full of smiles!

Molly Phillips has been an educator for twenty years in metro Atlanta, Georgia.  She now creates fun interactive lessons for the classroom and sells them on TeachersPayTeachers.  She writes on her blog Classroom Confections


  1. Isn't it crazy how the smallest things can have such a big impact?! Great post, Molly! Thank you for sharing!

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  3. Thanks for sharing such great tips and reminders. Your post brought a smile to my face. :) Anne

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