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Catching Students Being Good with Effective Praise
Catching Students Being Good with Effective Praise
February 12 by Courtney Dealy, Manager, Boys Town National Training

A healthy, positive relationship between educators and students plays a crucial role in shaping responsible, successful and confident individuals. Employing praise effectively within this relationship is key to reinforcing positive behavior.

The first step is to listen to students and get to know their interests, strengths and areas for growth. Then use praise to bolster a student's good conduct by actively recognizing moments of excellence.

Every day, students exhibit commendable behaviors that educators might overlook—such as completing tasks independently, asking permission before acting or staying on task. Unfortunately, it's common for adults to unintentionally disregard positive behavior while reacting promptly to negative actions. This tendency leads to a disproportionate focus on the latter, which can lead to fractured student/adult relationships and a toxic learning environment.

Therefore, it's essential to cultivate a habit of acknowledging students' positive behaviors. Whether it's a teenager diligently completing homework or young children playing harmoniously, taking a moment to offer specific praise like "Thank you for your effort in completing your homework," or "I appreciate how well you're playing together," can make a significant impact. Specific praise increases the likelihood that students will replicate the desired behavior.

Opportunities for Approval

It's important to recognize students when they follow instructions or display other behaviors that are typically difficult for them. Educators can effectively reinforce positive behavior by setting aside intentional periods throughout the day to observe and acknowledge students practicing positive behavior. Consistent, specific and immediate praise is a powerful tool to convey approval. Expressions like frequent hugs, smiles, or verbal affirmations such as "I'm proud of you," or "Great job!" contribute to fostering a positive learning environment. Behavioral specificity lets students know what they did well so they can do the positive behavior again,

Other Ways to Praise

Additionally, tangible rewards can further reinforce positive behavior. Special treats, an item from the prize box or activities like spending time with a trusted teacher or adult can serve as incentives. While verbal praise and nonverbal gestures can be relied upon as the primary means of recognition, occasional tangible rewards help demonstrate appreciation.

Striving for a ratio of four praise statements or actions for every one correction of negative behavior encourages a positive atmosphere. As educators consistently recognize and celebrate students' good conduct, a noticeable shift towards more positive behaviors should occur over time.

Effective Praise

Effective Praise is more powerful than general praise, which is usually a simple comment such as “Fantastic!” or “Great!”.

Effective praise involves three fundamental steps:

  1. Showing approval: Expressing satisfaction through words and actions, such as giving a thumbs-up, reinforces the positive behavior and boosts the student's self-esteem.
  2. Describing the positive: Clearly articulating what the student did well helps them understand the desired behavior and encourages its repetition.
  3. Giving a reason: Connecting the behavior to its naturally occurring consequences or outcomes helps students comprehend the significance of their actions and motivates them to continue exhibiting positive behavior.

Incorporating these steps into praise enhances its effectiveness and fosters a supportive learning environment. Additionally, exceptional behavior may warrant a fourth step—rewarding the student with privileges or acknowledgments, whether tangible or intangible, to further reinforce positive behavior.

If you have additional questions, please ask one of our experts!

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