Praise has had a lot of bad press lately, but I believe it’s hugely important for 3 reasons;
Expectations: When we praise what we want to see we reinforce that behaviour and share our expectations with others if we do it loudly. Personally I really like to praise effort, positive learning attitudes and improvements. It shows the learners in my class I value them learning from their mistakes and working hard.
Relationships: It’s not a reason to give empty praise; that’s called sarcasm. However, if you recognise genuine positives and acknowledge them consistently better relationships will build in your classroom. If you share these positives with home, the impact is a relationship with school that doesn’t only happen for calendared events or when there is a problem.
Motivation: I know that intrinsic motivation is preferable, but I’m not going to assume that’s going to happen for all students so…Praise motivates people (not just students) if it’s genuine. People want to feel accepted and valued and building that feeling means that you can build challenge without breaking them emotionally.
Now that I’ve cleared that up I’d like to share some simple ways to use praise in your practice…
Use Praise to Share Knowledge: I love to share when things go well. If a student has a great idea, revelation or tactic tell everyone. It shares the good stuff and demonstrates what you like to see; positive feedback and reinforcement for the class.
Stickers: Stickers are popular but just sticking one in their book isn’t enough. You can use it as an opportunity to talk about what they’re doing well, make them write down why they got it or you can write this if you’re marking away from them. Again, reinforcing positives through feedback.
We have stickers with great humanities role models on with quotes reinforcing our values; that of hard work and the importance of education.
Certificates: Sometimes a sticker doesn’t cover how hard they’re working or the improvement they’ve made. That’s when you give them one of these; be specific about why you’re giving it, otherwise it’s literally worth the paper it’s written on;)
We tend to give them two, one to go home and one to stick in their book.
Call Home: Make that positive step and share something good with the people at home; you’ll feel good afterwards too. It might be weird at first while they are trying to figure why school is calling to be nice but they will come round. Reinforcing the positives at home and building relationships between school and home, double win.
Cards: It’s a lot quicker than a phonecall and some students prefer it due to the special act of handing over a card. As always remember to be specific about why you are so pleased.
There’s also the really obvious write it on their work or just tell them. I’ll assume you’ll manage those two without further guidance.
If someone has done well do they deserve to be acknowledged? Do you like to feel appreciated for your hard work? So, go be nice to someone, but do it for a reason;)
Barry Dunn – @SeahamRE