How To Praise The First Week Of School

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One of the tenets of SCM is to give only worthy praise.

What is worthy?

Here at SCM we define it as work or performance greater than an individual student has done before.

In this way, you ensure that it provides the student helpful feedback while still nourishing their intrinsic motivation.

Any other form of praise is false, manipulative, and ultimately harmful to students.

But what about the first week of school when you don’t know what your students are capable of? How do you know what greater performance is?

Well, here’s the thing: Your classroom and the way you do things is new to them. Your routines, procedures, and expectations are all going to be different than what they’re used to.

In other words, it’s new learning.

And new learning, no matter what it is, falls under the umbrella of “work or performance greater than a student has done before.”

The only difference with the first week of school is that you’re teaching common expectations like how to enter the classroom, turn in homework, follow an instruction, circle into groups, etc.

Common expectations are the procedures and routines required for an efficient, well-run classroom. The expectation—or standard—for doing such things is the ceiling on improvement.

In other words, and for example, your students can’t enter the classroom better than the expectation.

Once your students have proven that they can perform this new learning as taught, and you’ve praised them for it, then it’s officially commonly expected and you won’t praise them for it again.

It’s not like writing or math, which can be continually improved upon.

One reason we don’t praise common expectations is that they (the expectations) aren’t worthy of it. It would be like being praised for using the automatic checkout at the grocery store. Once you know how to do it, you know how to do it.

The other and more important reason is that it weakens praise for that which is truly worthy of it.

It puts pushing in their chair or turning in their work correctly on the same level as writing the best essay of their life. It’s confusing to students and loses its meaning and impact.

Furthermore, if seeing your students walk to lunch or put away their materials exactly how you taught them makes you happy and appreciative, then you can give them the standard reply:

“Thank you.”

PS – For more on this topic, visit the Incentives & Praise category of the archive.

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