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A Plus Pause: In Praise of Praise

Title – A Plus Pause: In Praise of Praise

By – Doreen Diorio

Positive reinforcement as a classroom management tool has come into its own. Rightly so. We are all-too-familiar with traditional models based on teaching tendencies to address the “squeaky wheel” of behavioral issues. But, we should bear in mind that even well-behaved students can become discouraged by inadvertent attention to discipline. Fifteen plus years of teaching has convinced me that

integrating simple praise into each lesson can go a much longer way toward motivating positive student behavior


I recently overheard a rather audible teacher shouting to keep her students in check. Within the same school, I was inspired by a teacher who, at the end of each class, made a point of thanking those students who participated in a cooperative spirit. This notion of taking time to acknowledge our students’ with “a plus pause” can become a conscious, day-to-day practice. Because we sometimes, or even frequently, catch our students acting out, we can also, as I once heard a principal state, “Catch them being good.”

Children learn, not only from doing, but from hearing and seeing as well. As teachers, we play a pivotal role in engendering the values we wish to model. Teachers who rule with an “iron fist” are modeling the same bad-tempered, intolerant behavior they seek to divert. On the other hand, inculcating the positive behavior or good karma we wish to see in our students will be stimulated by repeated encouragement.

Although classroom structure and routine are necessary for a stable learning environment, the tough love method of simply correcting inappropriate behavior leaves much to be desired. Overemphasis on behavioral control can cause students to feel helpless, apathetic, and even hostile toward what they may come to view as rote educational practice. Incorporating diverse learning techniques, such as team debates or peer mentoring, that validate the social skills necessary to a student’s development can serve to alleviate the boredom that can lead to misbehavior. Just so, a carefully-timed word of praise can engender our students’ appreciation for their education so much more than a mandatory chore.


Doreen Diorio

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