The Micro Moment and the Stop the World Moment

I had a ball teaching the Match Teacher Residents with Scott McCue-founder of Boston Prep.

We did a Siskel and Ebert gig where I shared KIPP’s work with performance character and Scott modeled Boston Prep’s ethics curriculum.  My session was built  on the work of others especially Dave Levin and the KIPP NYC crew.

Character Strengths Gratitude Thank you Character Strengths Grit Mountain Character Strengths Optimism Sun   Character Strengths Zest Exclamation PointCharacter Strengths Curiosity Magnifying GlassCharacter Strengths Self Control MarshmallowCharacter Strengths Social Intelligence Hearts


As is often the case, teaching forces me to clarify and often truly learn for the first time what I am teaching.  Scott and I spent hours trying to nail down two key moves used by every teacher we know who is obsessed with character development. We called these moves the Micro-Moment and the Stop the World Moment.

The Micro-Moment (with nods to Daniel Kahneman and Doug Lemov) is a character focused variation of what Lemov calls precise praise.  The key principles of the micro-moment are:

•Positive Ratio: Aim to catch positive behavior often (2-3x a class)
•Describe behavior: Avoid the sermon and the sugar.  Instead give a quick one sentence description of the desired behavior.
•Connect the behavior to its impact
•What you praise is what you get: Does every kids’ strength get genuinely recognized?
•Avoid passive aggressiveness and sarcasm.  Be genuine.
The teachable micro-moment looks and sounds like:

Grit: “Jovan has tried three different strategies on #11 and is still going.”

Curiosity: “ I know Kayla is listening to her partner because she asked him two great questions.”

Self control-School Work: “Kris has his pencils and his readings and has done all of his homework thoroughly.”

Self-Control: “That beeping noise on the street really is distracting, I love how Shana and Johnelle are tracking and participating.”

Social Intelligence: “ Group C figured out how to assign parts with no drama.”

The Stop the World Moment is a 2-3 minute speech/sermon delivered to an entire class or group of students to address a uniquely positive or negative behavior.
–This move requires heightened attention so should be used very rarely. Signal you are at 8 on the intensity scale without raising your voice.
–The impact of the behavior you are addressing is beyond school rules.  This is about being a good person.  A Stop the World Moment refers to the school consequences as an aside and instead zeroes in on how a certain behavior if repeated will become a habit of character.  This might sound like:  if you continue to gossip about people they may want to hang out but they won’t want to be your friends because they can’t trust you.  
-Anytime a stop the world moment addresses negative behavior you are sending the message: I know you are a better person than your action and that’s why this is such an important conversation.
–Private is Private.  You don’t address a private individual behavior (a child who isn’t completing homework or who is sleeping with this move) with this move.
–The Stop the World Moment clarifies a question of character.  Is it right or wrong to laugh at someone when they make a mistake? 
–You don’t use this move when you are mad.  This is a strategic decision.
–Buy time if you need it.  The most effective stop the world moments can be planned in the moments when you ask the student who made the poor choice to reflect silently on what happened.
I am going to find some video of this because a script doesn’t convey the necessary tone and body language.
A few more thoughts about these tools for developing character
What you praise is what you get. One of the reasons we love the character strengths work from Seligman is that it forces us to praise a variety of strengths and not just the ones traditionally upheld as virtues of compliance.  While self-control deserves praise so does social intelligence.  The character framework we use helps us, as teachers notice and celebrate these more effectively.
The ratio of micro-moments to stop the world moments in a teacher or leader’s work should be in the neighborhood of 8,000,000 : 1.
Some stop the world moments are almost routine in the cyclical life of a school.  I encouraged the prospective teachers to script and practice these.  Kids hear from any teacher and any school that they shouldn’t laugh or mock one and other.  However many (most?) kids see mocking ignored or meekly addressed.  One of the ways we assure kids that life in our school will be different is the stop the world moment that happens the first time a student laughs at another student.  This sends the signal that this place is different; this teacher is going to make it safe.

One Response to “The Micro Moment and the Stop the World Moment”

  1. teachingbattleground Says:

    Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

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