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Effective Praise

How to Give Effective Praise

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A key part of teaching is providing students with effective praise. When used correctly, praise provides students with positive reinforcement. It motivates them to learn and participate in class. However, in order for praise to truly be effective, it is must be specific.

General vs. Specific Praise

General praise is praise directed at either no one in particular or if directed at an individual, generic in its use. Examples:

  • Great job, class.
  • Well done, Johnny.
  • Good work.

On the other hand, specific praise is both directed at an individual student and very specific in what is being praised. Examples:

  • Nice job explaining absolute value, Rita.
  • Omar, I can see you've been studying your multiplication tables. You got all of your 9's correct.
  • Amy, I really like how you used deductive reasoning to answer that question.

As you can see, specific praise not only lets the student know that they are correct, but it is also meaningful because it allows them to see exactly what it is you are praising.

How to Give Effective Praise

  1. Make eye contact.
  2. Move close to the student if it appears natural.
  3. Smile.
  4. Give specific praise based on the type of result you wish to have:
    • For Praise to Reinforce Behavior

      Describe the behavior you want to reinforce telling how you feel about it with specific comments like, "Your thoughts were well organized in this essay," or "I liked your use of transitional phrases." Don't say this is a great paper. The younger the student, the more immediate the praise should be. At the high school level, most students are able to enjoy delayed praise.

    • For Praise to Raise Self Esteem

      Tie this praise to some admirable personality characteristic. For example, you might say, "That was hard for you, but you kept going. You have great endurance," or "You are such a considerate person. People are lucky to have you as a friend."

Additional Tips for Giving Effective Praise

  • Effective praise must be given with sincerity and enthusiasm.
  • Some phrases that may help are:
    • "I like it when you...
    • Hey, you are really sharp, you...
    • I'm very proud of you for...
    • Thank you for...
    • That's a great way of...
  • It is important not to combine praise with criticism. To keep praise separate from criticism avoid using the word, "but" immediately after a compliment.
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