I've heard a lot on the topic of praise lately, and it's not always good.
There was discussion about praise at my Common Core workshop last week. It sounded a lot like the discussion I heard at last week's Whole Brain Teaching webinar on Tuesday night.
Both discussions were about the specific kind of praise we give children. Of course praise is valuable, but certain kinds of praise can have an adverse effect on children.
Here's what the experts say: Don't praise a child for something they have no control over. Praise the child for something they can control. Praise the child for effort, strategies, or perseverance.
Here is an example: Don't praise a child because he is smart. When that happens, a child tends to feel disappointed in himself when he doesn't do well. He thinks, "I'm not as smart as she thought I was!" It can actually lead to a child giving up or giving less effort.
Instead, praise the child for something they've done. "I like the way you worked at that problem until you found the solution." or "I noticed you figured out what this word meant, how did you figure it out?"
One of the things I've loved from Whole Brain Teaching is the Super Improver's Wall. The idea is not to reward children for being smart, it's to reward them for effort. It can be effort on anything! I actually had a kid move on the board last year because he worked at remembering his snack. Seriously, it can be anything!
Here's what my Improvement Board looked like last year. I've seen much fancier walls, but this did the trick. They start the year at the lowest level, and have to earn 5 stickers at that level before they worked their way to the top. It really did take them all year, but many of the students felt this was their favorite thing about second grade. There was no question about them all growing as learners! (Not just the smart kids... although I have to say I get all smart kids in my classroom!) This helps children build their self esteem in a positive way. It also gives them the important feedback that is essential to learning.
For more information about the Super Improver's Wall, go to the Whole Brain Teaching Website. If you scroll through the videos on the homepage, the recorded webinar for this topic is Program #503. There is also a forum with discussions on the Super Improver's Wall here. The more I learn about Whole Brain Teaching, the more I love it! It's all about the things I love as a teacher... what works best to help the brain learn!