Descriptive Praise- a habit every teacher needs
In school or at home, parents and teachers use a lot of Evaluative Praise, such as “Well done”, “Good boy!”, “You’re so clever.”, “That’s fantastic!”.
Adults assume that this kind of praise will help children feel confident and motivated or to encourage them to focus. The problem is this over-the-top type praise is that children might not believe us, seeing that the rest of the world does not seem to think they are that great or wonderful. Children, even the very young ones, will eventually feel and notice the non-genuine praise that we give to them. Montessori teachers generally avoid this kind of praise due to a few reasons: inaccurate description, shifts the focus of the children away from their natural, internal sense of learning and puts the focus on the teacher’s perceptions and judgement of the children’s performance.
Descriptive Praise leaves out the evaluative praise and simply notice, mention and emphasize every tiny step in the right direction; small improvements in behaviour, working attitude, work habits, social skills and any absence of negative behaviour.
Here are some examples of Descriptive Praise (from Montessori International magazine) which can motivate a reluctant, resistant or rebellious child to accept classroom routines and rules. Each phrase only takes a few seconds to utter.
- Following Instructions: “You did exactly what I told you to do.” “You put the puzzle away as soon as I asked. No time-wasting!” “Thanks for not arguing.”
- Following routine and rules: “You’re following our routine, and you didn’t need anyone to remind you.” “You told yourself the right thing to do and then you did it.” “You stopped pushing. Thanks!” “You’re remembering what we always do after lunch.”
- Staying on-task: “Instead of giving up when it felt difficult, you tried a different way. Very sensible.” “I see you’ve been sitting for ten minutes, without once getting up.” “You’ve stopped banging on the table. It’s much more peaceful now.”
- Politeness and consideration: “You’re using your indoor voice.” “Thanks for looking right at me while I’m talking to you.” “You’re waiting patiently.” “I appreciate that you didn’t interrupt.” “You might be feeling annoyed, but all I hear are polite words.” “You’re not complaining.”
To put this new tool in use, start makinga month-long project of Descriptively Praising every child . Start with 10 praises per day per child.
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