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Effective Praise

One of the most integral parts of any classroom management program is the use of effective praise. Children know when you are being sincere and when you are just placating them. You want to get into the habit of using praise with your students that motivates them to continue to exhibit positive behavior and productive work effort.

Effective Praise…
• provides information
• specifies commendable aspects of the task
• attributes success to effort and ability
• implies that similar successes can be expected in the future
• encourages student appreciation for their effort
• is expressed sincerely, showing spontaneity, variety and other non-verbal signs of recognition

Let’s take the previous information just a step further. When you give effective praise…
⇒ Identify a specific accomplishment:
“Sizzling was an excellent choice of adjective that you used to describe the sun.”
⇒ Give a particular student attention:
“Jason, I really like the way you got right to work on your journaling, you must have some interesting things to share today.”
⇒ Focus the student on their positive behavior:
“You should be proud of the way you are sitting quietly and following directions.”
⇒ Help the student to understand the value of his or her accomplishments:
“Your explanation of how you answered that word problem helped your classmates to see a new way that they might want to use to try to solve a similar problem.”
⇒ Be constructive in your praise.
“I like how Monique is waiting so patiently for her turn to drink.”
⇒ Help the student appreciate their own progress:
“I am so impressed how you leave such clear spaces between your words, you don’t even need to use your finger to remind you anymore!”
⇒ Recognize old and new accomplishments:
“First you learned to count to ten and now you can add numbers that are more then ten.”
⇒ Credit the student’s effort to succeed:
“I see that you are working hard to improve your spelling, you spelled more words correctly this week then you did last week.”
⇒ Show the student you focused on their work because you could see that they were enjoying their learning process.
“I admire how you added some amazing details to your illustration. You looked like you were really enjoying what you were doing.”

Encourage your students to strive for improvement, NOT perfection, in personal as well as academic areas. Recognize effort and accomplishments, even the small ones. Emphasize strengths and minimize weaknesses. Teach students to learn from their mistakes, and to understand that mistakes are not failures. Promote motivation from within and let students know that you have faith in their abilities. Finally, have faith in yourself to work on your own self-improvements and praise your own accomplishments small and large.

Please note that the information in this blog was modified from “Teacher Praise: A Functional Analysis” by JE Brophy. A similar article you might be interested in reading is "Effective Praise" by Leah Davies, M.Ed.

"In elementary school, many a true word is spoken in guess." Harry Youngman


Heba Brohi

Hi Jennifer,
Just a quick question: If a student has more than one infraction on a day, do they accumulate sad sticks? I'm guessing that this would be a visual reminder to them about their choices throughout the day.

Heba Brohi


Heba- You are exactly right. Students do accumulate sad sticks throughout the day.
At the end of each day, I mark in students behavior calendar about their behavior. That is in their homework folder that goes home each day and is there to inform the parents of their child's behavior for the day. It also gives students a reminder about what they need to work on in reference to their behavior.

First thing the NEXT morning is when I give stickers to students who chose to follow the rules the previous day and I remove the sad sticks from the students who received them. I like to do this in the morning of the next day as opposed to the last part of the day the sticks were given because it allows me to set the focus for positive behavior FIRST thing in the morning and it gives us all an opportunity to review the rules.

When I take the sticks out, I remind the student of the rule they broke, and how today is a fresh start and they can CHOOSE to have better behavior today. It is good to begin each day on a positive note: You could say "Erin received a stick for not keeping her hands to herself yesterday, but I did notice that she did a much better job of that the last part of the day yesterday so I know she will do a great job again today!"

Hoping you have a peaceful year!- Jennifer

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