11 Ways to Give Praise and Influence Students

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Praise is one of the best ways to influence students, but…..

it can be a double-edged sword if you are not careful. Everyone loves to be praised, but there is a difference between well-earned praise and empty praise.

Well-earned praise can help a student grow. Empty praise because you think it will encourage the student can backfire. If you praise them all the time, they might think you are lacking in value judgement, and that everything makes you happy – no matter how small or great the effort.

Excessive praise can also create jealousy in the classroom, especially if you make a big deal about praising someone who is clearly not as able as another student.

Excessive praise can also distort a student’s sense of their own worth, value and accomplishments. If you are an art teacher, for example, excessive praise might make them think they are the next Rembrandt or Picasso, when they can barely draw. If you are a music teacher, they might think they are the next American Idol when they have a voice like an out-of-tune frog croaking.

So, how do you give meaningful praise that will influence students? Here are eleven suggestions:

1. Praise effort and accomplishment rather than ability

A student many not be the best at math, but praise their efforts to improve. This will make them want to do even better.

2. Praise at the right time

Praise the effort or good behavior with a quiet word at that moment, or a note on their test. Don’t save all your positive comments for end of term or year.

3. Don’t be too public in your praise

Write down positive comments, or ask to see the student at a time when others are not so likely to overhear.

4. Use public praise as a tool to motivate

Little class competitions that anyone can win means students will feel motivated to try. Examples might include the most interesting word in the dictionary – call five people at random and choose one. Praise for good behavior also helps give students an example to aspire to.

5. Don’t be too excessive in your praise

If everything is “awesome,” it will soon become less so. Don’t praise a 60% on a test compared with an 80%.

6. Link it to future accomplishment

“Well done, I knew you could do it,” can then be followed up with, “I can’t wait to see more of your work.”

7. Show in an age-appropriate way

Student love stars and stickers. Even older students will like the surprise of a yellow smiley face sticker in their book. Just don’t overdo it.

8. Be sincere

Only praise when you feel it is deserved.

9. Practice praising

Having said to be sincere, some teachers do need to practice praise more. It might not come naturally, especially if you had hypercritical parents or teachers when you were growing up. If your mom or dad rarely said, “Well done,” practice it in your verbal and written communications to your students.

10. Make it worth paying attention

Single out students who are very helpful to others or really go out of their way.

11. Change your notice boards regularly with the best items from their schoolwork

Every student loves to see their work up on the board as good enough to show others. Rotate the board and the assignments so those good at art, music, writing and so on can all have a turn.

Extra tip: 12. Be consistent

Praise the same items to the same degree for all students. Hold everyone to the same standard but then praise students who have clearly gone the extra mile.

Use these twelve easy ways to praise, and see what a difference it can make to student motivation.

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