Picture this… You’ve given instructions, finished your demo, and passed out materials. Students begin working and you have just a few minutes to walk around the room and give some encouraging words to as many students as you can.
In a situation like this, it can be easy to fall into the trap of “meaningless praise”… giving lots of generalized compliments around the room like, “Wow! Good job!” or, “I love it!”, or “That looks great!”.
These non-specific compliments are well-meaning but ineffective. The best way to praise kids is with meaningful praise. Meaningful praise is specific and should relate to an action that could be repeated.
So instead, look for opportunities to catch students doing something right. It can be helpful to think of praising something you see or something you hear.
Try saying things like, ”I see names on every paper at the green table… I can tell they were listening to directions”. Or, “The third row is working very quietly. That helps the whole class do their best work.” Praising groups of students can be helpful when you have a large class or a short amount of time.
Avoid praising students for things like talent, intelligence, or natural abilities. The focus of your praise is better spent on things that students’ choices can influence, like how hard they are trying, their progress in a given area, or the way they have learned from mistakes.
It does take a deliberate effort to acknowledge your students in this way, but if you commit to doing this consistently, it will become more natural for you. This kind of praise teaches students the specific behaviors that get rewarded, and that’s what they’ll learn to repeat.
You can find more ideas for managing your art room in my blog post: “10 Mistakes Every Art Teacher Can Avoid”.
An Inspiring Quote:
“Praise, like penicillin, must not be administered haphazardly.”
~ H. Ginot
Giving students praise that focuses on strategies, progress, effort, or character requires being intentional and self-aware. It takes effort but the payoff is worth it!
My blog post “A Paper Chain of Kindness” will give you some ideas of praise-worthy, character-related behaviors to be on the look-out for!