Using Praise to Increase Positive Behavior

Thursday, February 16, 2017

 Have you ever tried to complete a new skill but struggled immensely?

I have, and I absolutely hated the experience of not being able to do something that I wanted to learn to do.
I’ve felt this way a few times throughout my life, but no more so than in my 9th grade home economics class. Our teacher was giving us a lesson on how to sew. We practiced a few things, then we were supposed to bring in fabric to make pajama pants.

Pajama pants y’all?!

Like, I could BARELY sew the sit-upon together in 5th grade at girl scout camp and that required no hem or sewing needle point. Heck, it didn’t even require thread! We used ribbon.

If you can sew, I envy you. But I cannot. It was like herding cats. I did not have the skill. At one point, I actually sewed the pant legs together. Who does that?
My teacher was pretty good though. She had me stay after class and helped me out. She tried to show me, encouraged me, and praised me for trying. With a little more practice I finally got it. If she hadn't praised me and encouraged me, I hardly think I would have finished that pair of pajama pants.

So why does my pajama story relate to positive behavior management?
If my Home Ec. Teacher told me that I sucked at sewing, I really don’t think I would have stuck with it. If she didn’t give me any feedback either, I am not sure I would have finished the pajama pants. The praise and encouragement she gave me, was what helped me be able to complete and finish the task at hand. I think many of you can probably relate, you perform better, and feel better about yourself if you are given praise.

Kids are no different. Our students need specific praise about what they are doing. They need to feel good about their work.

So often we as teachers get stuck in a rut. I know I am guilty of this. We are so used to correcting and reacting to bad behavior that we forget to be proactive and praise the good behavior. Praising a student’s good work or behavior increases academic outcomes. With so many tasks to do, transitions to make, goals to meet, IEP's to write, it's a wonder we have time for anything else. but just a little bit of praise goes a LONG way.

There has been TONS of research on specific praise use in the classroom.
Research indicates that when implemented consistently giving students specific behavior and academic praising increases on task behavior, correct academic responses, and increases instructional time. Didn’t you always want more hours in the day? Implementing specific praise will help you gain time! Maybe not hours, but more time is always good.

 To help you understand completely what academic and behavior specific praise is I made a handy chart below!

You want to give specific praise statements, but you don’t want to overdo it. Research says that a ratio of 4:1 praise to reprimand statements is a desirable amount. Using about 6 praise statements for every 15 minutes is also a good marker of success.

1. Complete a Praise Challenge

Challenge another classroom to a challenge, whichever teaching team has the most counts after a week or even 2 has to do something for the competing team. Whether it's being them coffee, or pick up their recess duty. Make it desirable. If you win, you and your students will be rewarded.

2. Get Your Students Involved

Play the teacher/student game.  Explain to your students what you want to see. We have even done this in our MD classes. We lead by example and give students several chances to watch specific positive praise being implemented in the classroom, then we point it out to them. Once the kids get what it is, challenge them to praise off.
The teacher verse the students. Every time the teacher says a Positive Praise Statement, they get a point, if the students say them, they get a point. Points are tallied and at the end of the day see who wins. You can determine ahead of time what is on the line. Are they working for no homework? extra recess? Getting them involved will create an overall better classroom environment and students will be encouraging more positive behavior and good academic performance.

3. Squirrel!

I tried for the longest time to remember to implement more specific positive praise statements, but I failed miserably. My paraprofessionals and I had a joke at the time about how I would sometimes jump from one student to the next and sometimes would completely blank about what I was doing. It didn’t happen all the time, but I’d have those “oh, shoot!” moments on occasion. They would always whisper “squirrel!” when I did it.  I decided to put up a picture of a squirrel in my classroom. The picture was to remind me that I needed to give my students specific praise more often. Because of the pictures my parapro’s started to do it too. It’s sounds silly, but I promise it is effective.

4. Create a List

Think up a list of areas in your classroom that you feel like you are always correcting yourself with. Type or write out that list and laminate it. In fact, make two. Put them in places you will see them, so you have a quick and easy way to remember specific statements.

That’s my short list on how to improve positive behavior in your classroom through using praise. I’d love to hear what you do in your classroom! Drop me a line in the comment section below.

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