Exit Directions – Michael Grinder & Associates

Graphics for Exit Directions

The ENVoY Classroom Management Programs are based on employing nonverbals. This results in compliance from influence instead of power. The most essential non-verbal is Exit Directions (see pages 28-31 of ENVoY).

When students look at directions that are displayed with graphics, their right brain is engaged and their memory is clearer (page 103 of ENVoY). The illustrations can be downloaded, sized and duplicated for your classroom usage.

  • Laminate them and they will be usable for several years.
  • Attach magnets to the back of them, and they can quickly and easily be placed on a white board.
  • You may want to keep a set of masters for future duplication.

They were developed under, and used by, an outstanding high school teacher — Adrian Bunn in Vancouver, Washington. The illustrator is Olga Gutsanova, a senior at the high school.


There are two sets of lips. The smaller one has the lips closed and indicates that working in pairs is OK; keep the voices down. The larger set of lips indicates that small groups of three or more students/will be working together. It is expected that the total volume in the room might be louder than the small lips indicate, but the expectation is to still keep their voices down.


One teacher cut a hole in the lamination and had a retractable tape measure behind the lips. The teacher would pull out the tape to indicate how loud the class was allowed to be while at work — this certainly helped the students know how far away a “six inch voice” could be heard. Another teacher actually attached a zipper to the lips so that the teacher could vary how open the mouth was allowed to be.


The eyes (held together by glasses) indicates that the students will be using their visual capacity. This would apply to reading, following written directions and seeing information on the board and screen.


This graphic signals the pupils to be attentive in an auditory—listening manner. This would apply to class discussions, small group processing, listening to presenters and audiotapes.

Pen and Pencil

These graphics convey to the students that writing will be part of the lesson.


There are two illustrations you can select. They often indicate who and when the computer(s) can be used. One teacher converts the ghost buster (i.e., red circle with a diagonal line through it) into a transparency and places it over the graphic of the computer to indicate that they are off limits.

Crayon, Glue, Scissors

These graphics are often used by primary students. The younger the learner, the more likely it is that they are not a fluid reader. Therefore, graphics are more important.


The graphic of the book warrants special commentary. If an assignment is given with page numbers, students will remember the assignment longer when the graphic/icon is employed. The best graphic/icon of a book is not the generic one attached here – instead, scan the cover of the actual book that the class is using. If possible, try to enlarge the cover with a 3″x5″ blank card in the center. Then, when the 8.5″x11″ cover is expanded to an 11″x14″, the 3″x5″ blank card is now a 5″x7″ space. In this space, the teacher can write the assignment (e.g., page number).

Other Props

The use of objects in the classrooms to non-verbally communicate the expectations of the teacher is endless.

Music Box

A teacher purchased a wind-up music box. Only on Monday would this box be wound.

When the teacher wants to signal the class that their attention is requested, she lifts the lid of the box that activates the music. As soon as the class is quiet, the lid is closed.

On Friday the lid is lifted and if there is still music left, the class receives an award.


The teacher sets up a small end table/nightstand in the front of the room and puts a lamp on it.

The sign next to it says, “When the light is on, I am home and available; when the light is off, I am unavailable.”

The In-Out Brain Box

A teacher created a box (e.g., 12″ high, 12″ deep and 18″ wide) with three openings on the top and three flaps on the front. The top openings symbolize how the information will be presented by the teacher – how the information will come into the students’ brains. The flap has a picture of eyes on it to symbolize that their eyes will be the channel though which the information will come. Another flap has ears to identify that their listening ability is called for. The third flap has a picture of hands communicating that they will be doing hands-on activities to learn the information. The front flaps have similar graphics except the “auditory” flap, in addition to the graphic of the ear, has a mouth on it because talking will be utilized.

At the start of every lesson, the teacher explains the process of how the information will enter their brain and the process of how the students will demonstrate their knowledge. Teachers that use this approach report that students have excellent understanding of their style and a tremendous self-honesty regarding whether the individual student will be in his/her comfort zone or will have to stretch. Educators who follow this, or similar, approaches can look to Dr. Robert Steinberg (Brown University) for his definition of intelligence:

“Intelligence is when a person knows his strength and utilizes it and knows his weakness and compensates.”


Any time students transition from one activity or phase of a lesson to another, be sure that they know exactly what is expected of them. Exit Directions is non-verbal indicator to students that the teacher is exiting the front of the classroom and expects the class to work independently.

Instead of answering the same questions over and over again, the teacher is able to use seatwork time helping those who need it. The more the teacher uses Exit Directions, the more self reliant students become. Any directions worth giving are worth writing and displaying.

Please send us your examples so we can share with other educators!

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