How to praise your students and why it’s so important

So many people thrive on compliments and praises. Actually, praise is usually the way to very many people’s hearts. Kings, rich people and other rather superior people always love to stay close to those that praise them. Don’t you think praising can be a good way to control your students?

I mean when we are younger, we crave the praise even more, and whether we get praised or not, has a great impact on our lives.

Why reprimanding is extremely ineffective.

Once a student infuriates you (which happens like 90+% of the time), it’s hard to think of any good words to say to them. However, students can respond to threats in the stupidest ways once they get used to them and aren’t afraid anymore.

On the other hand, the positive is insatiable, and it keeps us yearning for more, so it’s hard to get used to it.  Below are the ways you can praise students to bring out the best effect.

1. Praise in public, correct in private

This is like the first rule in praising students. You have to make sure you praise them in front of their peers, but correct their faults in private. Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to lie to them or sugarcoat, even when they’ve done something clearly wrong.

Here are the benefits of setting that standard;

  • It maintains their self esteem
  • That way, you have their full attention
  • One on one advice usually works, because communicating eye to eye and in private is valued.
  • Protects the students from being insulted or humiliated in front of their peers

Because you’ve praised your student, they usually don’t want to lose someone that’s on their side.

2. Be specific

While you praise your student, make sure you state their actions that are the cause of your sweet talk. Being specific about why you’re praising them has the following benefits;

  • They get to know what they’ve done that caused the compliment
  • Makes them likely to repeat it
  • Sets a perfect example to the other students about what they should do

The mistake some teachers make is say open-ended statements like “you’re smart”, “you’re good”, etc without specifying what they’ve done, and this can send the wrong message.

3. Use charts to make it more material

Ever seen these restaurants and certain other workplaces where they hang a photo of the best employee of the month? This works even better in the classroom. Just imagine a chart with “Below are the 5 most disciplined students this term”. Here are the possible effects;

  • Gives students a new goal
  • You don’t have to keep saying it, yet the message will reiterate itself whenever anyone reads
  • The students on the chart will maintain their positivity to stay there

4. Praise effort, not ability

Usually, conversations aren’t something we plan or think a lot about. Many times, it’s easy to use statements like “You’re smart”, ”You’re a natural at this”, ”You’re very good at Math” and others that seem to praise their innate abilities. These are the effects;

  • Praising ability makes them proud
  • Discourages other students from trying hard, because they don’t feel capacitated
  • Builds laziness in students

On the other hand, praising effort makes even the less smart students feel like they have been given a chance to compete. This usually results in a dramatic change in the performance of the rather weaker students. this makes it a worthy incentive to hard work.

5. Refrain from negative comparisons

There’s a time you should reprimand someone, but it complicates things when you say things like “John, you’re smart; you’re not like James” or “Sara, don’t you think you have to work hard and be like Jane?” This is because;

  • Such comments discourage some students
  • Makes the praised students feel smug and proud
  • Creates unnecessary competition among students, usually fueled by enmity

Many times, we say some things without thinking, partly because we expect no penalty from students. However, such comments only do more harm than good. No wonder, some internal family feuds start with preferential treatment and such statements from parents.

6. Praise potential

There are some students in your class that perform poorly or are rather disorganized, yet they have the potential to change for the better.

If you call these students aside and have a serious conversation showing their potential, here are the benefits;

  • Inspires/ motivates them to tap into their potential
  • Gives them a positive view of any form of struggle
  • They trust and look up to you, thus approaching you if they face any challenges.

So many times, students say they didn’t know what and how much they were capable of, until they were inspired by their teachers to tap into it.

7. Reveal your expectations

Some parents these days don’t even have the time to check their children’s report cards or see their class teachers. Students miss out on knowing what their parents expect out of them, but teachers can help fill that gap.

By using your perception of their potential as basis, you should praise your students in private by showing them what you expect. It has the following benefits;

  • Motivates the students to work hard
  • Makes goal-setting easier for them
  • Gives them a basis upon which they can gauge their academic results on a regular basis.

8. Eliminate all forms of bias

No matter how much you might feel inclined towards some students because of your personal reasons, one of the things that make a good teacher is neutrality. The following are some of the sources of bias;

  • Tribe
  • Gender
  • Religion
  • Personal/ family ties

9. Praise consistently

This is not like you’ll be a new sycophant working for some narcissistic student. However, once you praise a student once, you know pretty well that that will be their motivation. Once you stop, some students will simply give up. Here’s a few strategies you can follow;

  • Assign them leadership positions to show you trust them
  • Use different words and be brief
  • Use charts so you won’t have to repeat yourself over and over again


90% of people reading this article will probably forget to implement these strategies. This is because they are quite hard and require mindfulness on all occasions. However, it’s not like you have to walk on eggshells for the rest of your career. Not all students are alike – but once you study yours, you’ll find a way.

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