Campus Life » Common Language

Common Language

At Virginia Chance School, many people ask us, "What's Your Secret?" How do you make it so magical? How do you instill internal motivation?
We know what it is, and this is our first time sharing. Welcome to our Common Language.
Room to room, veteran teacher to student teacher, must have this language in their toolbox before entering our doors to interact with your child. It is what creates our culture, it's what makes the program cohesive and whole-child-focused. The locus of control is made internal, through external prompts of our common language along the child's life at Virginia Chance School. 
Take these prompts and transition time language and put them to use at home:

Group/Circle Time Distractions (talking and active bodies):

  • Check yourself for whole body listening. Show what that looks like so I know you are ready.
  • My words are on so your words are off.
  • What does whole body listening look like? Show me.
  • What does it look like to be a respectful audience?
  • Have the “speaker” pause…” One moment friend…”some are walking on your words, so we will wait for words to be turned off, so you can continue.”
  • What do you notice...and what can we do to show we are ready for our learning time/group sharing/group discussion?
  • What can you do to get back to the green zone?
  • Let’s do a body scan to make sure we are ready to have “whole body” listening.
  • Offer a brain break before a listening/learning time by doing some short stand up movements followed by deep breathing or a few yoga poses.
  • Use the teacher “drive-by” whisper intervention/redirection with a student.
  • Show me you are ready to be an audience to our speaker (teacher or a student).
  • Find a spot that will help you be successful.
  • Who can share our group time agreements? Are we ready? Let's try together and see what we think.

“Playing”/Being Distracted during a learning time:

  • What would be expected now? Show me.
  • I see you are struggling to follow our plan right now, how can I help you? OR Would you like to try on your own to get ready for our learning time? What will you need to do to be ready? Thank you for showing me how to be ready.
  • You are choosing an unexpected behavior for our learning time; show me an expected behavior for group time.
  • Would you like to complete this task now or during our choice/play time?
  • Your body is showing me that you're not quite settled for our learning time. Take a moment and rejoin us when you're ready.  
  • I see this spot is distracting, find a spot that will help you be successful.
  • That is not a choice right now. When would be a good time for that? 
  • What should we be doing right now? 
  • Look around and see what is expected at this time.
  • What is the group plan for this time of day?
  • Our day offers us many opportunities for choices, but right now we are following our group plan.

Transitions in the classroom:

  • We play songs for transitions and model and practice a lot as we set up classroom routines.
  • How will we know when the transition is over?
  • This transition is taking up many minutes. Where will we make up this time?
  • Who can share with us the expected behaviors as we transition to math time?
  • How can you help?
  • What is your job right now?
  • We will wait until everyone is ready for our next activity.
  • What are our expected behaviors during this time?
  • Call and response, deep breaths
  • What do we all need to do to be ready for literacy?
  • If you can hear me...touch your nose, etc. (song)

Transitions while moving throughout the building:

  • How can we make sure we are not disrupting other classrooms or spaces?
  • Stop your body. Check and see what you need to do to move forward.
  • What does it sound like and look like as we move through the building? Why?
  • Show me how we walk through the building.
  • Check your body and your words. 
  • When we are here, we use our walking feet. 
  • Be a social detective.
  • What zone should we be in while moving through the building?
  • How are your actions impacting others?

Being Stuck - Emotionally (big feelings, blaming others), Physically (big body, unsafe) Mentally (rock brain, fixed mindset):

  • Would you like to go to the peace corner to help you move on with your day?
  • Sometimes a timer can help us move on. Let’s give that a try. 
  • Let’s name the problem and focus on solutions.
  • What are some strategies you can use right now?
  • Can you name your feeling? How can I help you?
  • I see you are feeling____________. What do you need right now?
  • I see you are struggling with this task; would you like some help?
  • You are sharing that you can’t do this task, how can you flip your thinking or words to a growth mindset? I am here to support you.
  • How can I help you?
  • Let’s look at some solutions together.
  • I see you are struggling, I am here for you.
  • That is unsafe. Let’s pause and think about your next step. 
  • Instead you can say “I can try.”
  • You can do hard things. I believe in you. 
  • I’ll wait until you are ready to solve this problem with me (or peers).
  • Find a spot where you can catch your breath and calm your body.Then I’ll know you're ready to name the problem and come up with a solution. 
  • It's time to move on with your day. What can you do to help yourself move forward? 
  • This is a safe place to make mistakes.

Lack of Investment in naming the problem and seeking solutions:

  • “I don't know” is not a solution. I will wait for you to share the problem so we can create some solutions together to help you move on with your day. 
  • When you're ready we will talk and problem solve this situation.
  • Take some time in the peace corner and join us when you feel ready to move on with your day. 
  • Your voice matters. Help us name the problem so we can find a solution that works for all. 
  • What is your role?
  • What can you control in this situation?
  • Let’s stay solution focused.
  • What would help you move on with your day?
  • What do you need right now?
  • What can you do to help yourself?
  • This area is closed until you are ready to help us solve this problem.

Rude words, sarcasm, lack of eye contact, running away from the situation:

  • What you are doing is called rude. Rude is disrespectful and an unexpected behavior. Let me know when you are ready to problem-solve respectfully. 
  • Running away is not safe. We will sit here until you're ready.
  • Your friend is trying to speak to you. Put your eyes on your friend to show you are ready to listen.
  • We will wait for a minute and then it will be time to problem solve.   
  • I feel____________when you___________.
  • That is not a choice right now. It is a choice during ___________. Right now we are all doing _____________.
  • I will wait for your eyes so I know you are hearing my words. 
  • Turning away when I am talking to you is called rude, That is not okay in our classroom.
  • When you're ready to listen with respect, we will try again.


  • Mistakes are opportunities for learning. 
  • Always separate a child from behaviors - focus on behaviors that need adjusting
  • Yelling is never an option in our building
  • Punitive measures is shaming - our goal is NOT to make a child feel bad to be “good”
  • Consequences should be known ahead of time for a child; one should never feel surprised; consequences can also be decided with a child’s input
  • Model a respectful tone and voice, always!
  • Allow a child to have voice in offering solutions; this messages that one has influence over his or her choices; it is not our job to be the only problem solver
  • Use and practice our common language every day and in all interactions
  • Avoid using words such as “good” or “bad”- instead use expected or unexpected, negotiable or non-negotiable, respectful or disrespectful, etc.
  • Keep feedback specific - avoid “good job”; focus on effort- “I notice…
  • Try to respond to the hidden feeling instead of just the behavior