Jo Ann Flaxbeard - Boys Town National Training
“Most of us, swimming against the tides of trouble the world knows nothing about, need only a bit of praise or encouragement and we will make the goal.” Robert Collier
Before each new school year begins, teachers across our nation spend countless hours planning for the upcoming school year. It is their goal to be well-prepared to supply the knowledge to help their students become academically savvy. Knowing that students will walk into their classrooms with a wide range of prior knowledge, teachers plan contingencies for when pre-teaching and re-teaching may or will be necessary.
But just as importantly as preparing to deliver content to students of diverse academic proficiencies, it is wise for teachers to understand that their students will come into their classrooms with a wide variety of social/emotional abilities as well. And, more and more research shows that social/emotional competencies can be as indicative to future success as academic aptitude is. This is especially true for our students who struggle socially and behaviorally!
Thus, it is in the best interest of preparing students for future success that teachers will need to create a culture of praise in their classrooms in order to build social-emotional skills. How can this be achieved when teachers already have so much “on their plates?” Actually, it can be as easy as ABC!
Always praise your students!
First, teach students developmentally appropriate social skills. Give them the opportunity to practice the skills in a variety of situations. Prompt them when they will have an upcoming opportunity to use the skill. And during all of these stages (teaching, practicing, prompting, and using) praise, praise, PRAISE, PRAISE whenever students are approximating or are successful with the skill.
Here at Boys Town we use 3 types of praise: General, Specific, and Effective.
Be willing to teach your students how to praise each other.
As important as it is for students to have teachers affirm positive behavior choices, it is just as important for students to have their peers recognize prosocial actions. Being able to genuinely praise another student does not come naturally to most. Unfortunately, tattling comes much more easily. However, it is in the power of the teacher to turn a culture of tattling into a culture of praise.
Let your students know that you are going to start a project called “Catch Us Being Good.” Articulate to them all the good things you see your students do and post it on an anchor chart. Then, assign them the task for looking for those positive behaviors (and more) in their fellow classmates throughout the day. At the end of the day, provide a sharing time in which students have the opportunity to positively “tattle” on a peer. This basic plan can be altered if need be in order to target those students who struggle making friends or getting along with others. Having a classmate tell about the good things they see may help the struggling student to initiate positive friendships.
Continually and consistently acknowledge when one student praises another.
After teaching all students a social skill and teaching in follow-up lessons how to recognize and praise the skill in peers, it is imperative for teachers to be always on the lookout for students who recognize a prosocial behavior in another student. Use these opportunities to give additional praise. Be ready to point out that you noticed and appreciate students helping other students to be their very best.
Receiving words of affirmation from both teachers and fellow peers is a powerful positive reinforcement for all students, but is especially rewarding to students who struggle socially. Building and maintaining a culture of praise by always giving praise, teaching students to praise each other, and continually acknowledging when praise happens will help teachers to build those social/emotional competencies that help all students become successful!