Greeting Students at the Door - is it Worth the Extra Time?

Lately there has been lots of attention on teachers greeting students at the door - an amazing video of a teacher doing individual hand claps and dance moves with each student went viral.

Most teachers look at that and think, ``there's no way”, I’m not that creative and I definitely don’t have enough time for that!”

Let's talk about how it can be done with minimal effort on your part, and why it might be worth the extra few minutes per day.

A few studies have shown that greeting students at the door can be amazingly effective for creating a positive classroom environment and for increasing time for learning. Here is what the research says:

1. When the researchers observed classrooms in which teachers stood at the door and greeted the students, they saw an increase in engagement of 20%, compared to classrooms where the teacher remained in the classroom.

2. They also saw a 9% reduction in disruptive behaviors.

3. The researchers said that by greeting students it added more instructional time in the classroom. They did the math for you, and said that it will potentially add “an additional hour of engagement over the course of a five-hour instructional day,”

4. Finally, by spending a few moments welcoming students it will promote a sense of belonging, giving them social and emotional support that helps them feel invested in their learning.

But what is it about greeting students at the door that acts as some sort of magic?

We all know that transitions are the most challenging time for teachers and students alike. The first few minutes of class are usually pretty chaotic, as students transition from noisy active areas like the hallway or playground into the learning environment. Kids tend to bring the chaos of recess or passing period with them unless the teacher actively re-orients the students to learning.

Now, there is sort of a trick to the magic. The teachers in these studies ALL greeted their students in a particular way.

Here was the formula:

They said each student’s name and gave eye contact, then they used a nonverbal greeting like a handshake AND they gave some words of encouragement for the day and used what PBIS folks call “pre corrective statements,” basically friendly reminders of what to do at the start of class like, “Great to see you! Take a look at the board for our warm-up exercise.”

And you don’t need to be complicated about the nonverbal greeting - no need for unique dance moves. It could simply be a high five or a peace sign. Whatever works for you and your students.

I have seen some schools make an agreement with all the teachers that they will stand in the hallways to greet students before each class. It completely changes the school’s atmosphere, tamps down on misbehavior in corridors, and all the while improves learning in classrooms.

What I especially love about this is that greeting students at the door is a perfect blend of PBIS and Restorative Practices working together.

In PBIS we state clear expectations and have explicit structures that create predictability and safety. In Restorative Practices we increase belonging by building relationships. When teachers use strategies like greeting students at the door, they establish a positive classroom climate in a structured predictable way.