Last Monday we had a Curriculum Day lead by Jo Lange. The topic was Beyond ‘Telling Off’. Part of the day was spent discussing student motivation and independence.
Jo reminded us that students often think that learning is all about pleasing the teachers. We would rather that students want to learn for the benefit of themselves. The warm, fuzzy feeling that comes from finally working out how to solve a word independently, may lead to the desire and confidence to tackle other challenges that will come along. This is much more beneficial than the fleeting desire for a sticker. (But stickers can have their place too! I’m still going to put them in the homework books.)
Teachers were told to be careful of saying statements such as “I like your reading” because it implies that the purpose of the reading is to make the teacher happy. The teacher will be happy if the students reads well, but that is not the chief purpose of the reading. I want my students to show determination and to want to read, whether I am there or not.
So…. I am trying hard not to make statements that make the learning all about my approval. Instead of saying ‘I like…’ I am saying comments such as, ‘You helped yourself by rereading to fix the word that didn’t sound right‘ and ‘You chose the right letters for the end of that word’.
It’s not easy to change overdone praise such as ‘well done’ and ‘good job’. I’m trying to be specific about what the child is doing well so that he and she knows exactly what strategy is being celebrated.