“Alright class, please put your homework on the corner of your desk. Then open your Social Studies book to page 145, and start reading the chapter while I walk around and check homework.”

Ms. Juareza arrives at Francesca’s desk and frowns. “Fran, where is your homework, and the book you need for class?”

“Well, Ms. Juarez, I must’ve left my homework on my desk at home,” Francesca says earnestly. “You know, I did my social studies homework first, because I like it best, but I had so much to do, I guess I just put my other homework on top of it. Somehow, I must’ve left it when I picked up all the other stuff.”

“Where is you paper and book?” Ms. Juarez asks.

“I guess all of that stuff is still on my desk. If I call my Grandfather, he could bring it to me… but not in time for class. May I please bring in the homework tomorrow, and borrow some paper and a book from you? I’ll pay for the paper and leave my shoe on your desk so I’ll remember to give your book back.”

Ms. Juarez smiles slightly, as she says, “You may borrow a book, but leave your shoe on. And you may take some paper if you give me back the same number of sheets tomorrow.”

This vignette illustrates how both the teacher and student use requesting skills. Each person makes requests of the other in a way that will not offend or make the other defensive, and will meet both parties’ need. It is necessary for all students to develop artful requesting skills, in order to facilitate effective interactions on the playground, in class, and at home.

Here are some strategies for helping students develop their ability to make requests of others.

Helpful Hints

  • Improving students’ requesting skills may include teaching them different phrases that are appropriate for making requests, and helping them improve the delivery of these phrases, e.g., using a pace and manner that reflects a request rather than a demand. Have students practice in your class, making requests of peers, of school personnel, etc.  
  • Offer guidance that helps students improve their code switching abilities, i.e., show them how to adjust their language according to the audience with whom they are interacting. For example, have students ask for something from both their teacher and a friend. Compare the different ways they speak and act. Provide students with specific examples of appropriate ways to ask for things in your classroom (e.g., raising your hand, submitting a written request, having a private meeting, etc).  
  • Create contracts with students to reinforce appropriate request making. Specify expected behavior (e.g., asking friend to share supplies in an appropriate way, asking teacher for help in an appropriate way, etc.), and identify what kinds of reinforcement the student will receive when the contract is met (e.g., being class messenger for the day, getting 10 minutes of free reading time, etc.)