Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Praising for Progress

There is so much literature on giving praise to children. I do not wish to regurgitate that but after watching this video I do want to consider some of my practices that do not reflect my beliefs.

I believe in focussing on progress with children. I think this is easiest to do (and I probably do it best) with writing, because you can use the last piece of writing to form the focus for the next. I also think it's reasonably easy to do with reading and maths - within small groups you're always making mini group and individual goals in order to progress. It seems that when students can compare pieces of work, like start of the unit/term/year and end, progress is more obvious and can be commented on easily.

Then I started thinking about the surface/knowledge features. Things like spelling and basic facts. Now spelling, I can tick off and say that my practice was to pretest - therefore, I was collecting progress scores rather than just a number. Basic Facts on the other hand, I have traditionally run a tables ladder then a challenge board. Once students have passed all their tables, then they move onto the challenge board and try to work their way up. James Nottingham would classify this as a practice that classifies low, mid and high ability, and yes, that is true. However, I have also seen it's merits where 'low' students can recognise their starting point (the bottom) and their progress and were determined to get to a certain place by a given time. Visually my tables ladder was probably not a good idea. I did do lots of talking around my expectations, "All I want to see is you improving, it doesn't matter how many levels, as long as you improve each week." (I should note that support and provisions were put in place for students not achieving or with processing difficulties). With both sides of the argument about even, would I still continue this practice? I think it would depend entirely on the group - it has worked in the past, but actually it may not one day!

This video also raised another important aspect, that I had never really considered, in our Professional Learning Meeting - what is the ratio of praise we give? Sometimes, as teachers, we do need build confidence in children and the type of praise we give for that is often going to be entirely different praise of progress. Is saying, "what a great job you've done!" such a bad thing some of the time?

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