Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Power of Praise

Over the past 2 years I have had the privilege to learn about the power of positive praise in the primary aged classroom.  I wanted to write a post to share some helpful phrases you can start to incorporate into your classroom, home, or daily language with children, specifically ages 3-7.  

Here are some simple tidbits about positive praise:
    1. You cannot “over-do” praise.
I believe children should receive praise and affirmation for the ordinary behaviors they are expected to do on a day-to-day basis. Young students are just starting to figure out the world around them and if they receive love and attention from following the rules and expectations, they are more likely to continue the praised behavior. Simply put, PRAISE THEM! Don’t feel like a broken record – let them know how much you appreciate their good behavior.

    2. Correct Simple Negative Behaviors
In my Kindergarten/First Grade classrooms I so often see students exhibiting simple behaviors: running to the door, rolling at the carpet, blurting, trying to make others laugh, being silly during learning time… A good portion of the time, I can correct those behaviors by simply saying “I love how Susie is sitting criss cross with her voice at a Level 0.” Boom, shwoosh, zoop - 3 kids just fixed their behavior. “Oh I like how John fixed his body right away to match Susie – what a great first time listener!” Swish, swash, swoop! The rest of the off task students  just fixed their behavior. Now sometimes, it is not that simple, but it sounds much more polite than the “Sit still. Turn around. Stop this…” It makes me feel much better to correct behaviors by zooming in on the positives and not having to single a student out.

3. Instill Motivation and Self Worth
When students are praised, they feel a sense of worth. When you walk by a student and say “Wow I love how you started with a capital letter and used spaces between the words in your sentences. This looks nice and neat and easy to read!” That student now feels proud of that work and will likely remember to do those things in their next writing assignment. The other students will also take note of the praise you gave their classmate and want their teacher to give them the same praise! They now feel as if they excel in a certain academic area and may put forth a new effort with their confidence! 

    4. You will feel silly!
Saying these things will truly make you feel “silly” at first  - but when you get in the wonderful habit of giving positive specific praise and you see the impact it has on the classroom environment you will never go back! Getting in the habit can be tricky at first: ask for help! I had instructional coaches and administrators look for it in my observations.

Make sure to use SPECIFIC praise!

Generic Praise                              Specific Positive Praise
Good job!  
Wow! You made a capital “M” with nice, straight lines. 

Nice work!
I like how you completed your journal page and used sight words during Work on Writing.

Neat handwriting!
Wow! You made a capital “M” with nice, straight lines.  Your writing looks neat and easy to read.

Bill is sitting nicely.
Bill is sitting criss cross, watching the teacher, and has his voice at a 0. He is ready to learn!

I hope you enjoy using positive praise with the little ones in your life! Helpful hint, it is quite effective with adults too! :) 


  1. Okay, this post is AMAZING. I just pinned it for future reference too! These things are sometimes hard to remember to do, but this was a FABULOUS reminder post for me, thank you so much!
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  2. We all know praise be an encourager and motivator, but sometimes we forget to use it in the most effective way or often enough. This post is a great reminder of the power of praise! :)

  3. Love this!! It is a really good reminder - some days I cringe when I hear myself being that "turn around please, good job" or the generic type comments that I could make so much better!! I needed this read!!!

  4. Thank you for your feedback everyone! :)