All good teachers praise their children, but more effective teachers know that specific praise increases student performance and attention to the specific targeted behavior or skills we are trying to encourage.
Praise must do 3 things to be effective:
1. It must be sincere. Student know when praise is hollow, so don't patronize them. Sincerity is important, and sometimes it needs to be practiced, especially with difficult or challenging students. Take a deep breath and connect.
2. It must be specific. Praise should identify the specific thing or behavior you want to reward or recognize.
- I appreciate you staying in your seat all period, I know it's hard sometimes, but I want you to know I noticed.
- Your attention to detail is really great, I love the way the shadows get darker as they go under the objects you have drawn.
- I can see you are really paying attention to the vanishing point, your receding lines look perfect!
For improving work, specific statements are also necessary. "Try Harder," is probably the least helpful thing you can say to a student, "Just take your time" may be just as unhelpful. Instead, using the 3 ideas above, consider your statements to kids.
1. Sincerity: When you are about to deliver some redirected instruction to re-focus a student, start with a bit of sincere praise for what they are doing well at the moment or up to then.
2. Specific: Think about the student's skills and setting a reasonable mini-goal for that child so they don't feel overwhelmed by the whole project or assignment. "For now, lets not worry about shadows, but focus instead on giving everything a color for now." Try to use inclusive language like Us, or I (As in "I think," "lets try this," or "I feel") avoiding "YOU" as it can sometimes be taken in an accusatory way when refocusing behavior or skills.
3. Keep it personal, and avoid nearby students hearing your redirection or refocusing statement so as not to unduly embarrass the student.
If you feel student effort is an issue, or one you want students to understand, defining effort for your class, and what it looks like can be very helpful. It needs to be specific. A rubric is a good way to do that.
More art teacher resources HERE.