How to give praise and feedback in your classroom

As teachers we have two very powerful tools that we can use to develop our teaching and achieve successful outcomes: praise and feedback. These two methods come hand in hand and can be used as very effective motivators and tools of recognition. They are ways that we can develop our relationships with our students, nurture their progress and encourage achievement.

As humans we love the feeling of being praised, we love recognition and appreciation for what we are doing and young students are no different. In fact, young people thrive on being praised and it is something we can easily use on a daily basis to encourage and motivate our students.

Praise can come in many different forms and we can control how we use it in order for it to be most effective. It can come in small forms of recognition or bigger scenarios of presentation.

In our classrooms, a small whisper into the ear of a shy student goes a very long way towards improving their day, improving their confidence and improving their motivation. Sometimes a small word of recognition, a “well done” or “great handwriting” or “excellent understanding and progress today”, is all it takes for a student to flourish and sparkle.

Perhaps it is a whole class recognition of the progress they are making through a unit, how skills are developing and being demonstrated or how test results have improved as a whole.

Praise could also come in the form of mementoes such as short notes home or postcards through the letterbox, a phone call to parents to highlight their child’s ability. It may come in the form of certificates or special events containing awards and public recognition.

It is wonderful to be recognised for our efforts and hard work and we should share this with our students.

Alongside praise comes feedback; where we explain exactly what it is that students are doing well at or may need to try a bit harder with. If we simply said “well done” or “good girl/boy” it can be difficult for a student to understand what they are being praised for – is it their understanding? Is it their knowledge or their bookwork? We need to be more specific in our comments, “well done on your explanation of…..” “great presentation of that image and notes”.

What would be even better again would be if we praised our students for what they are attaining right now in their learning and what exactly they could do to move forwards and improve even more. Perhaps we could think of it in terms of “what went well, but even better if….”

We could praise their correct spellings of words then encourage them to use more complex vocabulary and spell it correctly. We could praise their correct responses to questions but ask them to develop their responses to include more detail and the word “because”.

There is always a place for praise and feedback in our classrooms and in our lives. We love to feel recognised, whatever age we are. As adults it feels great to be recognised and this is very true for our learners. Such a powerful tool is a wonderful strategy to use in our classrooms.

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