Use this simple prompting technique (also known as ‘praise’) to boost on-task behaviour with very little effort. Praise can be verbal, non-verbal or both. It is a form of conditioning that encourages students to increase certain behaviours while decreasing others (Owens, J. S. et al., 2018). Sprinkle some positive feedback a few dozen times each lesson and watch your behavioural issues gradually reduce. This technique is very simple – when students are doing the right thing, let them know you noticed. For example, you may say, ‘working hard Jessie, thank-you’, or ‘Liam is on task, Lucas is reading quietly, excellent work everyone’. Students very much appreciate the positive attention and public recognition.
Sprinkle some positive feedback a few dozen times each lesson and watch your behavioural issues gradually reduce.
Using praise also helps the teacher to win students over and to build a positive classroom environment. It is an underrated proactive technique. Don’t forget to spread your positivity far and wide while remembering the often forgotten ‘middle-grounders’ (the 80% or so of students who don’t get as much individual attention as others). Note that ‘catch them out doing good’ is not about praising exceptional behaviour or achievements – it’s about praising normal, everyday, appropriate behaviours which meet your expectations. This in turn encourages both target and non-target students to repeat the behaviours in the future.
Hint: Researchers have agreed on the importance of praise for many decades. Madsen et al., (1968, p.1) said that ‘showing approval for appropriate behaviours is probably the key to effective classroom management’. Almost 50 years later, Borgmeier et al., (2016) suggested that teachers should provide 4 times more positive statements than negative statements.
Be sure to add the praise technique to your daily routine. It is one of the few techniques that you can use as often as you like – in fact, the more often the better. A common way to use this technique is to ‘catch out’ 5 or 6 students in quick succession. This encourages everyone else to follow and is a very positive way of managing ‘slow-coaches’ – those who take longer than they should to get ready for the lesson, to transition from one activity to the next and so forth. The teacher scans the room and says something along the lines of, ‘Yosef, Maya, thank-you, Ayala is ready and sitting up straight, good job, this group is doing well, 5, 4, 3, 2, 2, 2, 1.5, 1, and… 0 – thank-you everyone, shall we begin?’ The teacher has praised the behaviour of about half the class which in turn encourages others to behave in the same way (peer prompting). Use this technique to start and end the day on a high.
Note that ‘catch them out doing good’ is not about praising exceptional behaviour or achievements – it’s about praising normal, everyday, appropriate behaviours which meet your expectations.
Owens, J. S., Holdaway, A. S., Smith, J., Evans, S. W., Himawan, L. K., Coles, E. K., Girio-Herrera, E., Mixon, C. S., Egan, T.E., & Dawson, A. E. (2018). Rates of common classroom behavior management strategies and their associations with challenging student behavior in elementary school. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 26(3), 156-169. https://doi.org/10.1177/1063426617712501
Madsen, C. H., Jr., Becker, W. C., & Thomas, D. R. (1968). Rules, praise, and ignoring: Elements of elementary classroom control. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1(2), 139–150. https://doi.org/10.1901/jaba.1968.1-139
Borgmeier, C., Loman, S. L., & Hara, M. (2016). Teacher self-assessment of evidence-based classroom practices: preliminary findings across primary, intermediate and secondary level teachers. Teacher Development, 20(1), 40-56. https://doi.org/10.1080/13664530.2015.1105863
Adam Green is an advisor to government, a registered teacher, an instructional designer and a #1 best selling author. He is completing a Doctor of Education and was previously head of department for one of the country’s largest SAER (students at educational risk) schools. Adam is managing director of ITAC, an accredited training provider for thousands of teacher aides every year.
Source: Behaviour Management Skills and Strategies for the Modern Classroom: 100+ research-based strategies for both novice and experienced practitioners.
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