With demanding schedules, teachers may start to feel that they just can’t justify taking minutes out of the end of lessons to have a “wrap-up,” or a whole-class reflection. But this can prove to be a costlier sacrifice than many realize.
“Rosa has lined up so respectfully for recess.” “Wow, Ethan is managing his time so well by checking the instructions.” “Check out how Candice has taken the time to carefully revise her piece before publishing.” Here are 13 reasons–one per grade–to make positive praise one of your most valuable teaching tools.
Kindergarten: Motivate students by attaching their names to something positive.
Don’t we all hope for a little validation for our hard work? School is a full-time job for students, too, and even your kindergarteners value recognition for their efforts. “I see Kate waiting her turn to get a drink at the fountain,” goes a long way for a five year-old working on patience.
1st Grade: Highlight those who make appropriate choices.
This is not to be confused with grooming a flock of “teacher’s pets,” especially since that usually involves recognizing a select few. Teachers should make it a priority to frequently catch all their first graders making good choices. “I notice David found a great place to read his book,” conveys to the rest of the class what you value.
Helpful starting tip: use a blank class list to actually tally your positive feedback. Not only will this help you develop awareness of how frequently you praise certain students, it will also help you notice how frequently you issue praise in general.
2nd Grade: Eradicate the common habit of focusing on those making inappropriate choices.
Since mischievous 2nd graders tend to stand out, this is much more difficult than it sounds. Next time you notice an off-task student, instead of going straight for direct reprimands, try praising a student within his or her proximity who is following instructions. “I appreciate how respectfully John is raising his hand to share his ideas” gives effective feedback both to John and to a classmate who has shouted out, while placing the positive attention on the student making better choices.
Note: We absolutely believe that constructive criticism has its place; however, we contend it should be a secondary strategy–not your primary one.
3rd Grade: Teach students about the balance of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.
Perhaps you have set up some kind of extrinsic motivation system in your classroom, such as earning classroom “money” for positive behavior. Especially when used intermittently, this can be a valuable classroom tool. However, imagine a statement such as, “I’m impressed that Johnny didn’t even need to earn a bonus to push in his chair. He has become a responsible enough 3rd grader that he knows how to take care of our classroom without any extra reward.” There is clear potential there for shaping a student’s desire for self-development, rather than always depending on tangible rewards.
4th Grade: Reinforce your instructions.
It’s exhausting to repeat yourself to inattentive students. Instead, picture this scenario. As you discuss with your 4th graders the procedure for your latest science inquiry experiment, you jot each step on the whiteboard. Then, as soon as students begin, flood the transition with simple, out-loud observations of those double-checking those procedures, such as “I see Kalli quickly gathering her supplies as we discussed for step 1,” or “Paul is double-checking step 3 on the board before he proceeds.”
The point: Proper instructions get reinforced, you don’t feel like a nag, and students who follow instructions get some recognition. Win-win-win.
5th Grade: Reinforce your expectations.
As your fifth graders have generally become quite familiar with one another through their primary years, they often become quite social–which adds both liveliness and challenges to your classroom management approach. Proactively reinforcing the appropriate times and contexts for socializing may keep the school year running more smoothly. Some examples of this kind of feedback: “I see Marta respectfully listening to her group member, waiting to contribute her ideas until it’s her turn” or “Joseph wisely chose not to stand by his best buddies in line so he won’t be tempted to chat as we walk down the halls to lunch.”
6th Grade: Encourage specific growth.
Each year, my feedback tends to center around one idea or theme. Some have included:
- Make life easier for others.
- Say no to distractions. (Inspired by Steve Jobs quote.)
- You may solve your problems in ways that aren’t problematic for yourself or others.
These themes arose from the opportunities for growth I observed in each class collectively, and I voiced them every single day through my specific positive praise. “Nancy made Jim’s life easier by stacking his chair when she saw he was busy at the end of the day.” “Robert is saying no to distractions by putting away his pencil during instructions.” “Cindy solved her problem of losing her permission slip by making a new one for her parents to sign.” My fifth graders became so familiar with it that they started using similar language in their own conversations. Daily illustrating what it looked, felt, and sounded like through positive praise had a much more lasting impact than an individual lesson might have had.
7th Grade: Give reminders to off-task students without confrontation.
By 7th grade, most students “catch on,” often manifested by eye-rolling. A strategy that involves reminding students of appropriate behavior without direct confrontation may be the very tool you need that will preempt power struggles throughout the year.
8th Grade: Build rapport with students.
By 8th grade, overt teacher praise is often officially “uncool.” Depending on the student, you may actually push away certain students if they feel overly recognized. But as you gear your positive praise toward a more one-on-one level, it can still have a powerful role in building your relationships with students as they sense you respect them as mature young adults. For instance, you may pull aside a student for this kind of feedback: “I could tell you dedicated some thoughtful reflection in your essay; I have other students that don’t yet understand what that kind of serious reflecting looks like, so I was wondering if you’d mind my sharing it with the class? I can keep your name anonymous if you would prefer.”
9th Grade: Align your practices with research.
At Purdue University, the Department of Child Development and Family Studies discussed John Gottman’s positive to negative feedback ratio. According to his research, marriage relationships thrive when that ratio is balanced at 5:1.¹ This research is reinforced in the classroom by numerous additional studies which find that “the use of contingent, behavior-specific praise has been linked to positive student outcomes, including increased student academic engagement and decreased disruptive behavior.”² We simply must have a greater number of positive interactions with our students than negative.
10th Grade: Let the modeling of quality thinking and choices come from students’ peers.
21st Century learning and teaching is defined by a technology-facilitated shift: from teachers as sources of knowledge, to guides who coach students to assess and evaluate the knowledge now at all our fingertips. Embrace this shift by allowing student peers’ work to be the model wherever possible. Supporting the philosophy that quality ideas can come from anyone–instead of just one wisened individual–is both empowering and realistic in this modern age of collaboration. For example: “Check out how Lucas is approaching this algorithm. How can that strategy be helpful for some individuals?”
11th Grade: Encourage students to make better use of their resources.
Let’s say you put some dictionaries in your classroom (or the link to dictionary.com on your class blog homepage), hoping that will help eradicate spelling errors. Maybe you even give your students a mini-lesson on how to look up words in the dictionary for spelling aid. However, none of your best efforts will encourage students to utilize that resource as well as praising a student who does so.
12th Grade: Cultivate a growth mindset.
The way we praise students has a greater impact on their development than we may realize. A motivation researcher at Stanford, Carol Dweck, has addressed the terms, fixed mindset and growth mindset.³ Students who receive praise that focuses on innate ability (“You got 100%–you’re so smart at math!”) develop a fixed mindset–instilling perfectionism, fear of failure, and belief that ability is static. When the praise centers around effort (“You got 100%–you must have worked so hard!”), students develop a growth mindset–leading to courage, perseverance, and belief that ability is malleable. See an inspiring video on this subject by Khan Academy below.
- Poulson, Shruti S. (March 2008). A Fine Balance: The Magic Ratio to a Healthy Relationship. Purdue Extension, CFS-744-W. Retrieved from https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/CFS/CFS-744-W.pdf.
- Rodriguez, Billie J. and Sprick, Randy. Why a Positive Approach to Behavior? A Research Summary. Randy Sprick’s Safe and Civil Schools. Retrieved from http://www.safeandcivilschools.com/research/references/positive-approach-to-behavior.pdf.
- Dweck, Carol S. (January 2010). Mind-Sets and Equitable Education. Principal Leadership. Retrieved from https://www.nassp.org/portals/0/content/61209.pdf.
School is back into full-swing for many schools by now. Amid back-to-school supplies, carefully-designed units, and seating charts, remember to maintain a vision of those things that are most important. Here are a few of our favorite reminders.
#1: Brene Brown’s Leadership Manifesto
(and while you’re at it, perhaps her “Engaged Feedback Checklist,” too. Both of these come from her latest book, Daring Greatly, which is definitely a worthwhile read for any educator!)
#2: Bill Ferriter’s essential technology reminder
#3: Ann Lander’s wisdom on child autonomy
#4: Dr. Haim Ginott’s realization on a teacher’s daily influence
#5: And this.
Or maybe just a poster that says, “Serenity now!” Have a great 2014-2015 year!
Featured Image: (only visible on mobile devices with current layout) Nick Amoscato
We know actions speak louder than words. But some simple, carefully-chosen words that lead to exemplary action can speak volumes, too. This is especially true for teachers.
“Awareness is the greatest agent for change” (Eckhart Tolle). That’s why we’re contributing to the dialogue on gender differences in education.
#1: Challenges exist for both genders
Author and literacy advocate Pam Allyn has written several powerful articles that rally the public to recognize educational barriers to girls’ education across the globe, such as this one here, here, here, and here. She urges us to take action on terribly serious realities, including the fact that two-thirds of those who are illiterate are female. She has established “LitWorld’s girls’ LitClubs that meet around the world, sometimes in secret, to read together and write together” (“For These are All our Girls”). With all this action on behalf of girls, one might expect that Pam’s work is limited to that sex. But it’s not.
She has also written Best Books for Boys, in which she highlights several obstacles to boys’ reading, including the following: “the testing mania and the idea in our culture that learning is symbolized by children sitting quietly in their seats has been, in some cases, defeating for active boys” (p. 21). She regularly writes articles about all children, and the stories they have to share (such as this one, or this one). She even founded the Books for Boys literacy program.
There’s an important pattern here: one of recognition and action for all children. Those of us involved in children’s education must be willing to acknowledge that academic barriers exist for boys and girls alike.
#2: The challenges for each gender are different
Evidence of the unique educational challenges for both genders is mounting. We list a few points below.
- Girls often receive cultural messages that undermine their self-images as learners, explorers, and thinkers. A recent commercial by Verizon illustrates this:
- In the developing world in particular, girls are also faced with lower rates of enrollment due to a variety of cultural reasons. GirlEffect.org released a powerful video highlighting that cycle:
- Boys often receive cultural messages in the classroom that passions and dispositions common to their gender do not belong. A recent video by Prager University summarizes the way this impacts boys’ education:
- The rates for post-secondary degrees are consistently lower for males than females. Some of these numbers are shown in the infographic by National Student Clearinghouse below:
#3: 76% of teachers are female (source)–and that really matters!
Author Leonard Sax extensively researches gender differences, and has cited several ways female teachers might pay closer attention to the differing needs of their male students. One such difference lies in what’s more visually appealing to females than males. Says Sax:
“…boys are more likely to draw a scene of action, such as a monster attacking an alien; girls are more likely to draw people, pets, flowers, or trees, with lots of colors. The people in the girls’ pictures usually have faces, eyes, hair, and clothes; the people in the boys’ pictures (if there are any people) often are lacking hair, clothes, often the boys draw mere stick figures in one color. How come? The usual answer “Because that’s what we teach them to do” is unpersuasive, as I explain in Why Gender Matters. On the contrary, many of these boys insist on drawing these pictures not because teachers tell them to draw such pictures, but in spite of the teacher’s repeated pleas, “Why do you have to draw such violent pictures? Why can’t you draw something nice – like what Emily drew?” (source)
Another difference he discusses is hearing, even citing it as a possible contributing factor for the more frequent ADHD diagnoses for boys over girls. “…the average boy may need the teacher to speak more loudly–roughly 6 to 8 decibels more loudly–if the average boy is to hear the teacher as well as the average girl hears” (source). Teachers need to be aware of such differences to ensure they do not unintentionally favor their female students.
(For more on the ratio of male teachers to female teachers, check out our post, “Elementary teachers less than 25% male in US”).
Awareness Point #4: Comparing which gender struggles more is unproductive to progress
As author William S. Wilson wrote:
“Comparisons deplete the actuality of the things compared.” (from “Conveyance: The Story I would Not Want Bill Wilson To Read”)
Articles like Bryce Covert’s “Enough Mansplaining the ‘Boy Crisis’ — Sexism Still Holds Back Women at Work,” offer criticism when concerns are raised for one gender, because they feel the other gender is more victimized. However, such comparisons undercut our collective efforts for children; we need “all hands on deck” in order to address the educational struggles facing all our youth. With objectivity and compassion, let us endeavor to understand and improve the state of education for children everywhere.
Featured Image Credit:
No one likes dedicating time to an unproductive, thankless task–especially if you’re a teacher maintaining a class blog that no one checks! Here are 10 of our time-tested strategies to improve your blog, and to encourage your students and parents to visit.
Some teachers see this word and want to run for the hills–after all, the list of educational strategies with this recommendation could probably stretch for miles. However, the good news is that this doesn’t have to be a time-intensive commitment when you employ one or more of the following tips:
- Maintain a regular post structure so you don’t need to design a lengthy, creative piece each day. For instance, start each post with some quick highlights from the day, followed by a list of homework, and ending with upcoming school/class events. See my old class blog for an example.
- Copy and paste content from the previous day and just make changes as needed. With the above example, you can just edit the highlights section and update any homework/events.
- Download the app for your blog’s platform if it’s faster or simpler for you to post from your tablet or smartphone!
- Use the post scheduling feature (included on both WordPress and Blogger) to publish at an exact time each day (that way, you can prepare it whenever you have a few minutes, but you won’t have to worry about hitting “publish” at a specific time after school).
#2: Use Tags
Add a tag or two to each post to help students and parents easily navigate your archives. Be sure to remember to add the tag widget to your sidebar as well!
#3: Share Pictures
Students of every age love seeing their pictures, and parents love seeing their kids in action at school! The result: an effective way to draw in your audience. This is where your platform’s app may come in handy as well so you can post directly from the device with which you took pictures. Of course, you may find you’d prefer to microblog your pictures using Twitter, but you can always also add a Photo Gallery section to your blog for students to explore. For posts with pictures, remember to add a “pictures” tag!
#4: Have Students Make their Own Blogs!
Not only does this get students excited about the concept of blogging in general, but if you put links to each of their blogs on your homepage sidebar, they will have an added incentive to visit. Get started using our practical (and teacher-tested) guide to student blogging!
#5: Add Helpful Resources (really)
Creating a few drop-down menus of organized student and parent resources is a fantastic way to increase your blog’s usefulness and traffic! If you’re an elementary school teacher, you can make one page for each subject area that’s packed with links to relevant games and tools. However, be sure to screen every link, both for safety and for quality–even young students are tech-savvy enough to see through an arbitrary list of “games” that aren’t actually fun! Check out our list of student favorites!
#6: Don’t Get Discouraged!
It may take a few months before your class blog catches on with a regular traffic flow. Just keep looking for ways to make it as useful as possible for your students, soliciting their ideas to find out what resources would help them!
#7: Layout: Go for Simple
Ask yourself: do YOU enjoy looking at busy web pages with patterned wallpapers of dogs or bright bubbles that make the words difficult to discern? Keep the colors solid behind all words, and play with fonts, sizes, and text colors to ensure easy reading.
#8: Add a Twitter Feed & Some RSS Feeds
If you have a class Twitter account or hashtag, make sure you add a widget to your sidebar that projects that Twitter feed (see our post on unlocking Twitter’s classroom potential). Also, ask students whether they’d be interested in seeing RSS feeds from sources such as TIME’s picture of the week, NASA’s image of the day, daily science news, or even a daily comic strip.
#9: Add link to your email signature
In all the back-to-school paperwork, be sure to promote your class blog link as much as possible! Let parents know the link is in your email signature, and remind them as necessary throughout the year!
#10: Throw in Intermittent Rewards
A fun way to encourage visitors is to periodically throw in an incentive. Give students a “Secret code word” in your post every now and then, telling them to write it on a slip of paper and to covertly hand it in the next day for a treat or bonus.
niXerKG (featured image)
Whether you are looking for games to add to your class blog or to your class computer bookmarks menu, we have compiled ranked lists based on games most visited and praised by 5th graders over several years! All the games are free and kid tested. Be sure to check out other ways to improve your classroom blog here! (All links last checked for safety and functionality on July 29, 2016).