Give 3 pieces of specific praise, then encouragement for the next step.

I’ve mentioned before my loathing of the ‘good!’, ‘good job!’, ‘well done!’, ‘awesome!’ style of praise of students, which is usually linked to an obsessive need to describe in detail any misdeeds which occur.

I’ve also mentioned my belief in differentiating praise, so that you are praising a student for something which they normally have difficulty with.

Key to praise is giving three specific observations, to show you’re listening, and then following it with one piece of encouragement as to how to further impress you.

So to one student at the beginning of the lesson you might say:

“Sam! You’ve got your coat off, your book is out already and you’ve brought  a pen! That’s fantastic! Now get the title, date and learning objective written down before everyone else is ready.”


“Jordan! You’ve included a subordinating conjunction, a pluperfect and reported speech in that short piece – that puts your work near the top of what’s expected. Now just see if you can add a reported opinion, to be assured that this will get the grade you want.”

If you give students an instruction on its own they are less likely to act upon it, than if you first acknowledge what they are doing right, and three praise to one encouragement is a good balance. But remember – the more specific, and specific to that student, the better.

3 stars and a wish with knobs on, perhaps.

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