Do your students know how to praise a partner?
When using cooperative learning strategies or working in collaborative groups we often ask students to praise a partner, but do we ever teach them how? This blog post is full of tips and techniques for keeping things positive and keeping the classroom community strong.
Often the last step of a cooperative learning structure is to praise your partner when they answer a question. While we tend to spend a lot of time modeling the actual cooperative learning strategies we don’t explicitly show students what it looks like and sounds like to praise a partner.
This crucial step is often what makes the difference between meaningful connections between students through praise and just following the steps of the process. There are a few elements of praise that differentiate flippant comments from actual praise and these are the elements we much teach our students.
In this post, I will be discussing the elements that make praising a partner effective and giving examples of how to help students master them.
I would not recommend going through all three of these elements of praise on the same day, but instead over several days so you can spend some time reviewing and practicing each element together with your students.
Praise a Partner with Specific Phrases
So many times when praising a partner we throw out a quick, “Great job.”
While this is better than nothing it doesn’t do a lot to boost student confidence or build relationships.
Instead, show students how to be more specific in their feedback.
For example, use specific phrases like, “I like the way you thought about that problem and talked it out until you got it,” or “You worked really hard on that, way to go!” Both of these phrases are specific and recognize a student’s work or effort.
A great way to get students to give more specific feedback is by providing them with sentence stems to start with.
Some sentence stems to start with:
- I like the way you…
- When you ____ it really showed how hard you are working.
- You impressed me when…
- It was really exciting to see you…
- I was inspired to see…
Work together to come up with examples of how to finish the sentence stems and create a list of specific feedback students can use if they get stuck. Then, ask students if they have any other examples or sentence stems they think should be added to the list.
Praising a Partner Should be Genuine
This element is probably the toughest because it has a lot to do with tone and timing. These are hard concepts for adults, much less kids.
First, we define what being genuine is together. We work as a class to come up with our own definition. It usually works out to be something along the lines of meaning what you say.
When we talk about being genuine in praising our partners we are talking about delivering praise with fidelity. This can be as simple as making eye contact, using a kind tone, and not rushing the praise.
Modeling examples and non-examples is the best way I have found to achieve this. We partner up and use the list of sentence stems and praise examples we already came up with to practice what being genuine in giving praise does and does not look like. After practicing with partners, we come back together to talk about what students noticed to feel genuine and what didn’t and make an anchor chart.
One of the items I mentioned was making contact, but some students are made uncomfortable or feel unsafe making eye contact. This is NOT something that should be forced. Instead, encourage students to do what they feel safe doing. This may include, but is not limited to, looking at someone’s forehead or looking over their shoulder.
When You Praise a Partner It Should Feel Good
This may seem like an obvious one, but for some learners, it needs to be made explicit. The entire goal of praising our partners is to make them feel good about themselves and their work. We are building up self-worth here, and praise is an important element of it.
We start by making a list of items that make students feel good. Then, we compare this list to the list of sentence stems we created earlier. We notice any similarities as well as items that might be missing and add them to the sentence stems.
Another thing to consider here is whether you would like your students to also perform some sort of physical interaction during praise. This might include motions such as a high five, fist bump, or handshake. All of these actions can aid in making an individual feel good. They also assert a sense of belonging and signify they are part of the community.
Want to Know More?
Praising a partner is just part of the process of cooperative learning.
Check out this post for tips on how to help students become peer coaches during cooperative learning.
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