Saturday, February 22, 2014

Are you a praise junkie?

Do you ever catch yourself doing something and it bugs you?  Maybe internally you say, why did I do that?  

Last week our Warner Elementary Minecraft Club kicked-off.  After a few minutes of getting students onto the server and going over some logistics I began to rotate around the room.  Some students needed minor assistance and others wanted to show me what they were up to.  

As I moved about the room I began to see some really cool creations.  One student was in the midst of creating a castle, another student was making a zoo and others were building their own houses.  The creativity and imagination in the room was amazing!  Every so often I would stop and watch.  I would say, "That's cool!" and "Great job!"  Then it hit me!  I was being, "A PRAISE JUNKIE."  I went over to help a little guy place blocks and learn the correct keys for movement, and as I assisted him I thought to myself...STOP, these students need specific feedback, not just random praise.

We've all heard and read the research about the power of Acknowledging Children's Positive Behaviors .  I do believe adults do this pretty well when there is a certain student behaving in an extreme manner.  Yet what often happens is the behavior begins to improve and we as adults move on to the next emergency.  Unfortunately kids who lack consistent attention will often return to negative behaviors.  That is why I believe ALL people deserve our Specific Feedback.  A couple guidelines to keep in mind when we give feedback are:

1)  Show authentic appreciation

2)  Acknowledge Positive Behavior in a behaviorally specific manner:
       - Super Effort!
       - Awesome answer!
       - Terrific start!
3)  Avoid Generalities - 
       - Good Work!
       - Way To Go!
       - Great!
       - Fantastic!
       - Terrific!
       - Super!
       - WOW!
       - Awesome!
(I believe this feedback has a positive intent, but this feedback is general in nature and we must be more specific in our message.  We don't simply want to be praise junkies.)

Effective praise is specific, it means something to the person.  This type of praise takes more effort on our part because we must attentively listen and watch.  I can also turn it around on myself. When I receive praise it means more to me when it is specific.  To simply hear someone say, "Nice Job" just doesn't mean as much as when someone may say, "I was really impressed by how you handled __________.  Keep it up!"  This praise is specific and meaningful, and the other praise is surface oriented and lacks depth.  Don't get me wrong, praise is typically a good thing. I simply believe we owe it to people to be as specific as possible.

Here's an example about Specific Positive Feedback.  Last week as I was visiting classrooms I heard a teacher say, "You complimented two of your group members during the activity, I could tell it made them feel good and it really made me proud!"  This is much more specific than a simple "Great job".  

I believe it is important to be more specific with our feedback, not only towards students but also with adults.  Currently we are in the midst of Mid-Year Evaluations and my goal has been to have a conversation.  How has the year been?  How do you feel about the goals you set in the fall?  What are you hoping to sustain or improve from now to the end of the school year?  Throughout this process I try to listen, encourage and give honest feedback.  

My point is this: EVERYONE needs and deserves honest and specific feedback.  As we move forward I encourage all of you to take the time to make your feedback specific.

This Week's Big Question:  What type of feedback do you crave?


Monday, February 24th:  Peer 2 Peer Classroom visits begin
Monday, February 24th:  NWEA Webinar at Admin 9:30am
Monday, February 24th:  1:1 Tech Meeting at 1pm
Monday, February 24th:  4pm Minecraft Club
Tuesday, February 25th:  Kimble Camp Meeting
Tuesday, February 25th:  Peer 2 Peer Classroom visits continue
Tuesday, February 25th:  4pm Minecraft Club
Wednesday, February 26th:  Grades K-2 assembly in cafeteria 8:45
Wednesday, February 26th:  Peer 2 Peer Classroom visits continue
Wednesday, February 26th:  3pm Minecraft Club
Wednesday, February 26th:  Professional Development with Brad Wilson on Video Discussion Board
Thursday, February 27th:  Lockdown Drill in the PM
Friday, February 28th:  Happy Bday to Nancy Bunker
Friday, February 28th:  Happy Bday to DeAnna Struck
Friday, February 28th:  Elementary Carnival Night

*  With this being the last week of February I will be scheduling Mid-Year Meetings with anyone that hasn't nailed down a time with me.
*  Last week we had our first ever Warner Lock-In.  I believe it was a tremendous success!  We had over 150 kids and so many were laughing, dancing and playing.  Thank you for coming out and offering your support.  I'm extremely grateful.

Articles Worth Reading:

20 Tips For a More Organized Classroom +TeachThought @TeachThought

Secrets of teachers who love their jobs; always be a learner +Angela Watson @Angela_Watson

Reading is Bigger Than Us +Pernille Ripp @pernilleripp

New APP: @TellAboutThis - a creative way to inspire... +Erin Klein @KleinErin

Wait Time...It Matters +Joan Young @flourishingkids

Gamifying Education: Do we really know how to gamify the classroom? +Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher

What motivates You? (Probably not grades) +Kristen Swanson @kristenswanson

Are You a Yeller? HUSH! +Amber Teamann @8Amber8

The small ripple +George Couros @gcouros

No Words Necessary @Jonharper70b

Taking the "Book" to the next level by Patrick Andrus #nerdybookclub

A Runner's Enemy @ShutUpRun

That Sinking Feeling +Arin Kress @ArinKress

20 Things That Belong on Everyone's To-Don't List +Marc Chernoff @marcandangel

Videos Worth Watching:

Kids Re-Enact 2014 Oscar Films (4 min)

Failing until you Succeed (20 min)

Marathon couple gets a huge surprise from Ellen! (4 min)

REMC Connected Educator Series with +Mr. Abud @MR_ABUD (14 min)

Just Dance Video! All I gotta say is...Warner Lock-In (4 min)

I had a cool opportunity last week to share the positives of Warner Elementary.  The radio interview was with @Joesanfelippofc and @TonySinanis 

Feel free to listen to the podcast at - BrandED Podcast


  1. Great post, Ben. Our ISD is hosting Peter Johnston next month, and this is his message as well in his book, "Choice Words". Thanks for the reminder as it is so easy to slip to the "easy" praise statements. Johnston says that these can actually do more harm than good.

    1. Appreciate the feedback Sue. I find that quality comments take time & dedication. Being specific is the next step and sometimes our lives feel hectic. It's important to slow down and give people the specific feedback they crave and deserve.

  2. Thanks for the reminder about such an important part of our lives - not just for our students but for everyone! Loved our first lock-in, too! The kids looked like they were loving the freedom to roam and choose to do whatever they wanted. You had it really well-organized!

    1. Thanks Suzanne! I was thrilled with our Lock-In. To have 150+ students, several parents and so many staff members really made me proud. What an uplifting evening. The smiles and fun lifted a lot of people up.

  3. Excellent blog! What a good reminder to be specific with detailed praise. We are always asking our students to give details and use describing words just as we should in our praise :)

    1. Good point DeAnna! I see how you reflected and turned it around on yourself. Thanks for the feedback.

  4. I really enjoyed this post, Ben. Just this weekend I read an article called "Five Reasons To Stop Saying 'Good Job!'" and as a parent and educator, it really made me think. The timeliness of your post has reinforced some ideas and helped me filter down some of my thoughts. Thank you.

    By the way, I really enjoyed your interview on the BrandEd podcast. Have a great day!