Harry Wong
Dec 2017
Vol 14 No 4

Codetalking – Classroom Management by the Numbers

By Humorist John P. Wood

Remember that old story about the guys in prison who told the same jokes so many times that they had them all memorized? They numbered the jokes, and one guy would yell “17” and everyone would crack up. Then another guy would say “36” and everyone would crack up again. Then another guy would shout “22” and no one would laugh…some people just can’t tell a joke.

Well, that old story gave me an idea.

I say the same things to my students so many times on any given day that they know exactly what I am going to say before the first syllable is out of my mouth. So why even bother with the whole statement? Why not save my breath? So now I do. My new system started because of a bad case of laryngitis, but it worked out so well that I’m sticking with it. I simply created a code for the most common things I say in class to my students. Instead of saying, “Sit down,” now I just say “2.” Instead of saying, “Be quiet,” I say “10.”

It’s a pretty simple system and it really saves me lots of energy over an entire day. I have codes for “Stop it,” “Not in here,” “Keep your hands and feet to yourself,” “Don’t throw that,” “Don’t eat that,” “I can’t believe you ate that,” “Don’t lean in your chair,” “Put your feet down, “Watch your language,” “Take your hat off, “Wake up,” “Write this down, “Stop talking and start reading, “Do the worksheet,” “Raise your hand, and wait to be called on,” “Move over here,” “You’re late,” “Stop tapping,” “Leave him alone,” “Leave her alone,” “No, you can’t have a hall pass,” “Don’t interrupt,” and “No, I don’t know what that smell is.”

It took the kids a few days to learn the codes, and I had to keep them written on the board in front of the classroom for a week, but now they all have it down. They know the difference between a “30” and a “12.” And they know that three “42’s” in one class period and they are in big trouble.

I have noticed that some of these numbers go together. I find myself often saying “20-30-56” a lot. I have to be careful though. The last time I said “14-12-78-99” a student yelled “Hike!” and I had to “10” the whole class for about five minutes before they settled down again.

Everything was going fine until I started noticing that the kids were writing numbers like “89” and “92” on their folders and notebooks. Ginny Pinkel even started crying one day after someone yelled “78” at her and others started laughing. It seems they have a code of their own.

I don’t know what their numbers mean, but I know it’s trouble, and I may have to reconsider my system.

Yesterday, when I told Jeremy “2,” he looked at me and said “76” under his breath and the whole class started laughing. I got them all settled down, except for Derek, to whom I had to say “2” to the tenth power. Finally, Derek stopped laughing. He looked up at me and said “88.” Well, then the whole class lost it.

Everyone was rolling in the aisles, laughing and giggling, and Garrett was especially out of control so I told him “42.” He turned to me and shouted “94!” The class instantly fell silent. Poor Garrett. It’s true. Some people really can’t tell a joke.

By John Wood of



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This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 1st, 2011 and is filed under *ISSUES, John P. Wood, March 2011. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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