4 Simple Words With the Power to Change Your Students’ Attitudes

We’ve all been there – those days when you’re conferring with a student as you always do. You’ve shared a something they are doing great at and are about to tell them something they need to work on.

But when you do, you are met with resistance and a power struggle. Or an “okay”, but next time you meet with this student they haven’t taken to the new skill or haven’t started making the growth you had hoped.

More often than not, this is happening because of the little words and phrases that we use with our students that send unintended subtle signals.

The good news is, if you are intentional with your language, you CAN limit or even stop these unintended breakdown moments.

And today I’ve got an awesome little phrase for you to memorize and start using all the time.

It’s just one little sentence, but it can make all the difference!

I promise… Once you start using this phrase and see the difference in the reaction you get from your students, you will wonder how you ever managed to live without it!

Are you ready? It is… {Drumroll, please…}

“You are ready for…”

Okay, are you thinking “What?? Have you lost your mind, Allison? ‘You are ready for’ is really going to change the way my kids respond to me and make a difference in their learning?”

Even if it sounds just too simple, my answer is still an emphatic “YES!”


Hear me out: When we realize our students haven’t mastered something, have something to learn or need to figure out a new concept, we almost always phrase it as something they need to do or have to learn or are currently doing wrong.

When we phrase it like that, the underlying, however-subtle message is “It doesn’t matter what you’ve learned or done so far in my classroom. You need to figure this out. I’m disappointed you don’t know how to do this yet. You need to learn this.”

There’s also a subtle element of I’m-telling-you-what-to-do-in-your-life, and we all know no kid is a fan of that — and that some kids can really push back when they feel anything along those lines.

And then you have a power struggle on your hands and everyone’s day is going straight downhill. Even if the student doesn’t push back, there just isn’t empowerment and encouragement in the wording.

So how is “you are ready for” different? Well, its underlying connotation is that “You have achieved things and worked hard, so now you get to learn and do this new thing. Because you have already learned all the precursors, you are ready for this new thing.”

This wording has a sense of I-am-proud-of-you about it. It makes kids feel empowered and supported in trying something new and lends a sense of excitement about being big enough, grown up enough and knowledgeable enough to be able to tackle something they haven’t before.

This phrase will not trigger a power struggle or cause kids to fall into self-esteem traps. It will not cause them to push back and fight having to do this new thing.

However, it will cause them to feel excited about being grown up enough to take on something they are finally “ready for”!


At its core, “You are ready for” is all about being proud of everything you have achieved and knowing those achievements have given you the skills to be able to continue to grow and learn – which, of course, is the essence of the growth mindset philosophy.

It also strongly ties in with the growth mindset tenet that no one is ever done learning and that there is a lifetime of fun growth ahead of us.

As a full disclaimer, the particular phrase “you are ready for” isn’t something I made up myself. Over the years, I’ve heard it mentioned in passing at a couple different teacher trainings I’ve attended. The rhetoric and communications major in me, who is always analyzing wording and figuring out how to phrase things just right, loved it instantly.

Once I’d tried it a few times, I was completely hooked, and made it my mission to use this phrase in any appropriate situation both with my children at home and with my students in my classroom.


Here are some “wording makeovers” to show how you can take a standard way of talking to your students and re-phrase it with “you are ready for”.

You should participate more in classGuess what? You are ready to share your great ideas with the class
Your test shows you don’t know how to do triple-digit additionYou are ready to figure out triple digit addition
I really wish you’d stop leaving your pens all over in your deskYou are ready to be using your art box to keep all your pens in one place
You need to stop pushing kids in lineYou are ready to stay in your own space in line
You need to memorize the first grade sight words listYou are ready to memorize your first grade sight words
I notice that your lowercase r’s are really sloppyYou are ready to write your lowercase r’s like a grown-up second grader
You aren’t good at reading out loud; You should practiceWow – You are ready to learn how to read out loud

You know what? I know you are ready to use this phrase in your classroom! (See what I did there? Wink, wink)

Isn’t that better than me saying “You are wording things all wrong and really need to learn a new way to do this” – Doesn’t feel at all as encouraging or really make you want to take on the challenge, does it?


To help this engaging phrase stick with you, we’ve created a cute, free printable.

There are two versions – one smaller 3 x 3 inch version and one 8.5 x 11 inch version. Choose whichever one works best for you.

After you print it out, tack it up on your bulletin board, stick it up at your desk, hang it on the back wall of your classroom so you can see it as you are teaching, or use it however you’d like.

What situations can you think of where “you are ready for” would come in handy? Is there anything more you’d like to know about this topic? When you give it a try, I’d love to hear from you!

Warmth & encouragement,


I'm Allison Blair, and I’m so honored you are here. I am a teacher at heart who can never pass up an opportunity to share information with someone. Luckily, that teaching compulsion comes in handy — I am a first-grade teacher of over 15 years, a teaching/parenting blogger and (most importantly!) a mom of two little ones. I have especially strong passions for: • early literacy learning and classroom and home libraries • creating a love of learning and reading in children • behavior management and child development • building classroom communities and family closeness • using purposeful teacher and parent word choice with children You've already got the love. Now here's the background knowledge you need to support your child's academic and emotional growth and create a strong family connection. I'm here to ease your mind and help you confidently raise your children in the way you've always wished you could. Welcome!

Comments (2)

  • Sara

    I absolutely love this post and will start using this phrase immediately! Love your website too! I’m ready!!❤️

  • Meeta

    Hi Allison,

    I landed here after I saw someone use your planner. I love your advice about using “you are ready for”. I am always at a loss for words when i teach and, always wish that I had fewer “ums” in between my phrases.

    I am going to be checking out products at the TpT store! I would welcome any other links/ideas about “phrases to use for children”.


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