Here are some ways of improving praise so that it creates the kind of positive changes you want to see in your challenging students…
Effective Praise Enhancer # 1: Make it SPECIFIC.
Let’s make a concerted effort to stop using wishy-washy praise comments like “well done”, “excellent” and “very good”. It’s not that I’ve got anything against the words themselves, and I’m not saying they shouldn’t be used but when they are handed out like candy in the classroom in a weak attempt to create a ‘positive environment’ I fully believe they are a complete waste of time.
The problem is that these comments are too vague and are often said without real consideration. Real praise – the kind that actually makes a difference – comes from genuinely noticing when a student puts effort into something or has managed to complete something they wouldn’t normally manage to do. Giving thoughtful, specific recognition demonstrates that you are taking real notice in what they are doing – a throw away “well done” doesn’t.
If you want to improve the behaviour of students using praise the comments you use must be in FULL recognition of what they’ve done right. By that, I mean praise needs to be SPECIFIC.
You need to tell them exactly what they did and exactly why it was good. Like this…
“Jonny! Stand back and look at what you’ve done… this is a fantastic portrait! What really sets this apart is the way you’ve made that eye come to life by showing the light reflecting here. That really makes it look realistic. And the texture you’ve got on the hair is superb.”
“Jonny, you’ve sat quietly for the last 10 minutes and got on with your work. That’s great because I’ve been able to go and help other students and I haven’t needed to speak at you or remind you to get on. Well done you’ve shown you can work independently!”
In both cases, by giving SPECIFIC praise, the teacher is telling the student WHAT they’ve done and WHY they should be pleased with themselves.
Effective Praise Enhancer # 2: Praise effort rather than achievement
By focusing on effort rather than achievement we can praise a student even if they fail – and that’s very important. Waiting for a child to complete a task before praising them means missing out on untold opportunities to encourage them along the way.
If a friend was dieting you wouldn’t wait until they had reached their target weight before making positive comments, would you? You’d help them along the way with encouragement, because acknowledging their effort helps them stick in and persevere and, importantly, can help them overcome or avoid frustration.
Here are a couple of ways you can praise EFFORT to encourage students in their efforts…
“Jonny, you are working really, really well on this. What you’ve done so far is spot-on. Just keep going using the same technique and you’ll have it done in no time.”
“You’ve tried so hard on this Jonny; it’s great to see you putting so much effort in – you’ve really shown tremendous determination and that’s an important strength to develop.”
Effective Praise Enhancer # 3: Be aware that praise is often more effective on a 1:1 basis
I know I’ve already mentioned this but it’s worth repeating. Some students (a surprisingly large proportion) don’t like receiving praise in front of other people. For whatever reason – some just can’t accept compliments very well so you have more chance of your praise being well-received if you give it out of earshot of the rest of the students. Catch them on the way out of the door or call them over to a quiet corner of the room. Praise is much more sincere when it’s a private affair.
I hope you enjoy using these strategies with your students. I took them directly from my new book ‘Classroom Management Success in 7 Days or Less.’
If you’d like a simple, easy-to-follow system for gaining more control in your classroom in the shortest possible time (for just £2.99), head on over to Amazon right now and get your copy. Just do a search for ‘Classroom Management Success in 7 Days or Less’, or search for me by name, ‘Rob Plevin’.