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What Every Schoolteacher Should Know About Giving Praise

Praise, if done right, can be an effective teaching strategy.

A good teacher can make all the difference in a child’s life. That’s true for preschool teachers to kindergarten teachers and beyond. But what do you have to do to be a good teacher? Turns out, one of the most effective strategies is to offer appropriate praise.

Research has shown that children’s mind-sets directly affect their ability to succeed in the classroom.* And praise—when done right—can help improve a student’s mind-set. If you want to become a teacher who can make a difference in your students’ lives, you’ll want to learn how to use praise effectively.

What Every Schoolteacher Should Know About Giving Praise

The Right Ways to Praise

Telling children they are doing a good job may seem easy enough, but some types of praise are better than others. Even at the elementary school level, you want to embrace a teaching strategy of sophisticated praise. To do this, you should:

Give Praise to the Praiseworthy: Save your praise for when students actually impress you. This can include everything from performing beyond grade level to showing effort where they haven’t shown effort before. In other words, focus on praising individual progress.

Make Praise Specific: Tell students exactly what they did to earn your praise. This makes the praise feel individual and meaningful.

Focus Praise on Behavior: Children, like the rest of us, can’t control where they come from, what they look like, or who their family is. But they can control what they do—which is why you should focus praise on your students’ actions and choices, complimenting things like the effort they put into their assignments and the way they treat fellow students.

Use Praise at Every Level of Learning: You don’t have to wait for students to complete an assignment before offering praise. In fact, it can be quite helpful to use praise to compliment, encourage, and guide students’ efforts throughout assignments.

Keep Praise Consistent: While you should praise each individual student for his or her unique, praiseworthy accomplishments, you should also make sure the praise you give consistently aligns with your overall expectations for student performance. This will help students better understand what it takes to succeed in your classroom.

Methods of Praise You Should Avoid

While praise is never a bad thing in the classroom, it can be ineffective. When giving praise:

Don’t Play Favorites: Every student deserves praise, and you should make a concerted effort to find what’s praiseworthy in the actions and behaviors of each and every child. If you only praise your highest-performing or best-behaved students, you’ll miss the opportunity to help improve the mind-sets of your other students.

Don’t Rely on Generic Words: “Good job” is better than nothing, but it doesn’t mean much, particularly if you use it a lot. Try to weed out cliché phrases from your praise vocabulary and embrace language that relates specifically to the deed you’re praising.

Don’t Make Praise About Winners and Losers: If your praise of one student makes another student feel bad about him or herself, you’re not using praise effectively. Avoid expressing praise in a way that can be interpreted as “student A did this and the rest of you failed.” Instead, work to make the praise you’re giving one student inspirational to other students or, if that’s not possible, give praise privately.

How You Can Learn More With an Education Degree

Effective praise is just one of the many skills you need to excel as a teacher. This skill, and many others, can be developed during the course of earning a teaching degree, such as a BS in Elementary Education. A bachelor of science degree can help you develop the skills you need for the classroom and prepare you for teacher licensure.

Fortunately, earning your elementary education degree and becoming a certified teacher is not as inconvenient as it once was. That’s because online education has improved the way working adults can earn college-level degrees. Through a BS in Elementary Education online program, you can complete your coursework from home. Plus online bachelor’s programs offer flexible scheduling, giving you the power to attend class at whatever time of day works best for you.

If you want to gain your teacher certification and succeed as an elementary school teacher, an online teaching degree can be the stepping-stone you need. It’s a great way to become a teacher who can change students’ lives.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering a BS in Elementary Education (Teacher Licensure) degree program online. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.

*C. Dwyer, Using Praise to Enhance Student Resilience and Learning Outcomes, American Psychological Association, on the internet at

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,