Is it important to praise children? Why? How should we praise? That’s a pretty tricky question. No doubt we do need to praise young learners. It’s one of the motivations for them. The important aim of the teacher is to make children feel successful as if they have a bad experience, they will give up, that’ll demotivate them. But at the same time, if we praise too frequently or just for anything, praise starts to lose its sense and significance. Therefore here are some tips for you how to praise and motivate children:
- Focus on learners’ achievements, what they really have learnt or done. When you praise children, if they do not try to learn or just do anything positive, and you just want to encourage them this way, it won’t work. Moreover, it’ll discourage other kids that actually have tried or learnt a song or new words. Create a rewarding system for learners’ efforts, not only knowledge. For example, start a lesson with a revision. If a kid names 3 new words, they get a star/emoji/sticker. Or each of them can plant a tree, when they do a task or try to sing a song or whatever other tasks you set, draw a part of their tree. However, make sure it doesn’t create a competitive atmosphere.
- Never compare children. They will start looking at themselves from the perspective of others. It’s a negative thing if a kid will try to live up to others’ standards. They won’t evaluate themselves adequately. Moreover, keep in mind that each child has its abilities, some of them may talk a lot, but another one has good listening skills, and another one starts reading at an early age.
- Organize a safe environment, support children, build a good rapport, have fun in lessons, do not set too difficult tasks to discourage children, so learners enjoy your lessons. Make sure no one feels stressed. Establish routines, when children know what to expect next. Success leads to success, so if children feel they’re progressing, they’ll make effort to learn more.
- Create situations when children need to learn something. For example, learn a rhyme to tell at the New Year party, or to learn a song for their performance. Children do like learning and they are open-minded and natural language learners, but they need a reason for it. So, always set the context for your kids to facilitate the learning process and involve children in it.
- Personalise the language. Make sure you create tasks that can help children to use language in “real life”. For example, when you teach “can”, “be” or “have got”, make sure you give tasks where learners can tell about themselves, their parents, pets, the house, the world around them. Project work is good for such tasks. They can draw a poster of their pet or make a house they want to live int. If you give children the opportunity to talk about themselves, it’ll motivate them more.
- Tell children WHY we are praising them and make rewards and the praise specific. For example, instead of bland, empty, automatic “well done/good” be more precise. What is good? If you ask children to draw a picture about a story you’ve listened in a class, give specific feedback, for example, “the colours you used are like in the story” or “you have a lot of details from the story in the picture!”
Praising children is really important because it tells our children what we value. But remember not to overpraise. It can become a replacement for internal motivation might actually stop doing things for the pleasure and start doing them simply to get praised by an adult. Intrinsic motivation comes naturally. So teachers’ responsibility is to help children to keep, nurture, engage, encourage and grow this internal desire to learn. Therefore, teachers must be very careful about what they say and do when it comes to motivation. There should be a good balance between praising kids and not making them dependent on the praise, not to hinder their learner’s autonomy, not to discourage their internal motivation.
Be mindful and present. Use just the right amount of praise at the right moments as anything you say is significant for a young learner.