Rigor is creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels,
each student is supported so he or she can learn at high levels,
and each student demonstrates learning at high levels (Blackburn, 2008).

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Effective Praise: What does it look like?

Last week, I talked about the importance of positive language for students.  But what does effective praise look like?  First, praise should be personally meaningful to the student; it should be tied to something the student cares about. Next, it’s important to be respectful of the individual. Some students do not like to be singled out in front of their peers. If you know that, find another way to praise them: a note, an individual comment, or even a look. As Suzanne Okey explains, “some students will appear not to respond positively to praise, then it’s necessary to figure out way to deliver praise in a meaningful way to the student; give them a way to save face. In Chinese culture, saving face and losing face are huge concepts; it’s big in our culture, too.”

Third, praise must be authentic, or you devalue the student. If you praise Shanta when she doesn’t deserve it, she’ll know it, and so will everyone else. If you think you can’t find anything positive to say about David, you’re not looking hard enough. Suzanne continues, “Take a correct thought, and validate that, then restate it, so he/she hears it correctly. That’s what we do with students all the time; find the kernel that we can validate, then extend it; students find that very encouraging; and it creates risk-takers.”

Praise also should be immediate or reasonably soon after the action being praised. If you wait two days to tell Jeremy that you are proud of him for raising his hand instead of yelling out in class, it loses its effect. Fifth, praise should be specific. Suzanne also points out, “‘Good job’ isn’t specific. Some of our students don’t know what they did that was good. They have to know what they did right; sometimes they have to know how what they did was different from what they have done before.” Finally, praise should encourage the student to build on success. You want to help the student continue to move forward, and praise can be one tool to help accomplish that goal. 

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