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‘Three Top Tips from Tom’ will be updated weekly with the best advice and tips on behaviour and classroom management.

Tom Bennett is the TES adviser on behaviour and a teacher at Raines Foundation, an inner city state school in Tower Hamlets. He regularly supports teachers on TES through our behaviour forum and monthly newsletters on behaviour.

Glory Be! Using praise to drive learning

I often write about authority, and the correct balance to strike between allowing the students to direct themselves, and when to step in to ‘amend’ off-task behaviour. And frankly, that often means getting the naughty stick out and drawing the boundaries. And that’s a perfectly legitimate side of behaviour management, because frankly, if you wait for their inner angels to drive their behaviour towards the light, with some of them you’ll be growing a beard before they improve. People respond far more efficiently to the threat of some present discomfort than to the promise of some vague reward in the future. Such is life, alas, and it’s why we have police, instead of roaming bands of community officers handing out lollipops for committed citizenship. But rewarding students is an important part of the process for two reasons: it motivates them towards desired learning and social behaviours, and because it’s just. People who try hard deserve to be rewarded in some way.

  1. Genuine praise - is the most valuable reward there is. If you’re on of those teachers who gushes with delight every time someone doesn’t spanner their peer, then you devalue your praise, and any future praise needs to be twice as theatrical to have a genuine impact. So try not to praise children every time they do something that they should be doing anyway.
  2. Be sincere - any praise needs to be delivered with directness. It should be clearly aimed at the intended recipient, it should be unequivocal, and it should be available for others to hear, IF you think the student won’t be embarrassed for others to hear it. But most will secretly love hearing their name being praised, as most people do.
  3. Create an atmosphere in your classroom that celebrates achievement, not mediocrity - It’s OK to praise a child for half a page of work if they never produce any normally. It’s less helpful to praise a normally hard working pupil for the same results. Your praise, like some of your work, needs to be tailored to what will meaningfully drive their willingness to exceed themselves. Praise them when they near the envelope of their abilities, and when they are perceptibly pushing themselves. And let everyone know about it, so that the tone of your room is one that encourages rather than settles.

 Good luck


Read more from Tom on our behaviour forum or on his blog or Twitter

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