I thought it would be a good idea to reflect our own behaviors for delivering praise, both orally and in writing, when we live or work with falling writers. This is important because we always want to praise kids in ways that assist them with internalizing actions and strategies. Then they are more likely to use them on a regular basis. Otherwise, what good is praise and constructive feedback? It is the writer that must be able to ultimately praise him/herself and we can help this along by examining HOW we deliver praise to those who fall.
Here are some reflective questions you may want to ask yourself when working with struggling writers:
*What am I physically doing when I praise kids?
*Am I standing directly in front of the student looking down on him/her? (can be intimidating)
*Am I sitting across from the student engaging in eye contact as I praise him/her? (useful for making key points)
*Am I standing behind the student whispering into his/her ear? (sends a great message that the child is in control of his/her own writing while we act as a ‘Jiminy Cricket’ behind the child:)
*Am I pointing to a specific part of their writing that I am praising them about? (effective)
*What is the child’s physical reaction to my praise?
*What is the tone in my voice? Is it effective and how do I know?
*How is the volume and pitch of my voice when I am delivering praise? (engaging or boring, supportive or judgmental?)
*If I am praising him/her in writing, what color pen am I using? (red is too bold!)
*Where have I written the praise, i.e. top of the page, side margins, directly above or below the child’s writing, bottom of the page, end of the story, etc.? (variety is best)
*Knowing this particular child, what is the best way to deliver praise of his/her writing attempts?
*What can I do to give praise while simultaneously work to create independence within the falling writer?
*How is my attempt to praise this child going to actually help this child become a more self-sufficient writer?
*What does this individual need from me in terms of praise and constructive feedback? Should I say it or write it?
*How often does this child need praise when writing and how do I know this? (know the child!)
Offering praise requires reflection, practice, more practice, trial and error, and student feedback in order to know if what we are offering actually works. The tricky thing is that the type and amount of praise that work for one child may not work for another child. It is what some might call the craft of teaching and it is not easy, but it is essential for catching falling kids. Keep at it until you find just the right pinch of praise for each and every falling writer you work with.
Praise well 🙂