Monday, March 16, 2015

Student Praise

Student Praise2

“You learned that so quickly! You’re so smart!”
“Look at that drawing, is he the next Picasso or what?”
“You’re so brilliant, you got an A without even studying!”

Many good intentioned parents/teachers have said these things and see them as supportive and self esteem boosting messages.  Reading the book Mindset by Carol Dweck has completely changed my outlook on praise as both a parent and a teacher.

Book Cover

Read the praise messages again and listen closely to the underlying message that children hear.
  • If I don’t learn quickly, I’m not smart.
  • I shouldn’t try drawing anything hard or they’ll see I’m no Picasso.
  • I’d better quit studying or they won’t think I’m brilliant.
According to Dweck’s research, messages like these will quickly put our children/students into a fixed mindset.  “Parents (teachers) think they can hand children permanent confidence- like a gift- by praising their brains and talent.  It doesn’t work, and in fact has the opposite effect.  It makes children doubt themselves as soon as anything is hard or anything goes wrong.”

We need to make sure that our messages of praise aren’t saying “You have permanent traits and I’m judging them,” but rather, “You’re a developing person and I’m interested in your development.”

So what/how should we praise then?

Dweck offers these suggestions……

Praise as much as you would like for growth oriented process.
  • practice
  • study
  • effort
  • accepting a challenge
  • persistence
  • strategies
When we praise students for growth oriented process they begin to attribute their accomplishments to their own effort, something they have full control over!

So, how can we do this in our classrooms?  Here are a few of my favorites…….

“My Favorite No”

I love this idea from The Teaching Channel.  I often use this very informally in my room.  When someone gives an answer that is incorrect, but I can tell that a lot of thought went into it, they really put in a lot of effort or they were using a great strategy that just didn’t work out for them, I will tell them that it was my favorite no and to keep trying!  It’s a great way to let students know that while their answer was incorrect, the thought process they were using to arrive at the answer was on track!

Class Cheers

We love cheering for each other.  I use class cheers for things that we do great as a class, or for individual students to celebrate hard work and effort.  We love using them to celebrate students who take a risk, who try something and take a chance.  It’s a great way to build your classroom community and let students see that in your room you celebrate challenges and that even if the answer is wrong you can be proud of trying something new and taking a chance.  I introduce some basic class cheers at the beginning of the year.  It never fails though, each year my class will start making up cheers of their own that we add on.  This year we have “The Perfume Cheer,” they pretend to squirt 3 squirts of perfume and say “Oh La, La,” while shrugging their shoulders.  We have added several others too!
Click HERE to see a great blog post about class cheers and it includes a freebie to download.

Effort Awards

Effort Awards are something new that we just started in my room.  I use them to recognize students that worked extra hard.  Some days when we are learning a new concept in math, equivalent fractions for example, I can see that some of my kiddos (especially my “gifted” learners) are getting frustrated.  They aren’t getting it right away, because new learning takes time.  We talk a great deal about how learning something new means our brain needs to make new connections and it takes time for that to happen.  Anyways, I like to point out and recognize students who make it a point to not tune out or give up.  Students who continue to ask questions, discuss, and try to make connections with those new concepts.
Sometimes we use “Effort Awards,” to recognize students who met a goal in class.  Not, I got an A on my spelling test goals (that would be results based not process based), but the I practiced my words every night and improved my score from last week kind of goals.
Here are the “Effort Awards,” I give out in my classroom.  You can click on them to download them for FREE!

Effort Awards

I love that some of my kiddos are even pointing out their classmates’ hard work and effort now and telling me they think someone deserves and effort award because….!  It makes my teacher heart happy to see them recognize hard work and effort in others as well as themselves!

I would love to hear your thoughts and hear about how you use growth oriented praise in your classroom.  Comment below so we can all learn together and work to get our kiddos into a growth mindset!

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