How to harness the power of praise

How to harness the power of praise

In an ideal world, we would all always be happy and positive at school.

However, in reality, sometimes we get drawn into a downward spiral with our class.

If you find that you are getting sucked into negative behaviour management, such as repeatedly telling pupils off, take a moment to stop and think: is this technique working? If it’s happening repeatedly, and behaviour is not improving, then the answer is no.

Time to change to a different tact and reap the benefits for everyone in the class – including yourself!

1. Switch focus

Actively look for examples of behaviours that you DO want in your classroom. Seek out situations where pupils ARE doing what you want and draw attention to them – in a big way (with energy, enthusiasm and attention). Magnify those behaviours.

Here’s why:

  • Many negative pupil behaviours are deliberately designed to draw attention. These ‘attention seeking behaviours’ often start as annoying, small things such as tapping, calling out, making noises, distracting others. When we give attention (by looking, answering, frowning etc.) we are inadvertently feeding those behaviours and causing them to grow.
  • By training ourselves to focus on the behaviours that we do want, we are giving a clear message that this is the way to gain adult attention. Most children who need extra attention will then work out that this is the way to get what they need – by doing the right thing.

2. Be genuine

Children can sniff out false praise in a flash!

Spot the behaviours you like and draw attention to them in a positive and warm way. A hurried, ‘Well done, Joe,’ whilst also marking a book will not be enough for our attention needing pupils. They will likely decide to ‘up the ante’ to make sure that they get your full attention next time.

Instead, give eye contact, smile and be specific about what you have seen that you like (and want more of). For example, ‘Joe, I like the way you are sitting still and looking at me. That shows me that you are ready to listen.’

The added bonus here is that the rest of the class also know what they need to do to get recognition.

Many of them will instantly sit still and look at you. Quickly following up with ‘Thank you, everybody who is looking at me,’ means that they all also feel noticed and don’t need to ‘play up’ to get attention.

The payoff

Telling children off all day is wearing and boring! It’s like walking through treacle.

Training ourselves into this way of positively managing behaviour takes daily practice.

The effort is well worth it though, because pupils and adults feel happier and more productive in a positive working environment.

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