The problem with most behavior management systems is that the kids who are misbehaving get all the attention. It’s hard to remember to pay attention to kids’ GOOD choices when you’re required to track and address their bad choices. And often rewards are built into behavior management plans so that a child who struggles to stay on task gets a reward for 15 minutes of on-task behavior, but a child without that plan who is on-task 99% of the time every single day gets nothing.
How can we as teachers acknowledge kids’ good choices in the classroom simply and easily?
How can we show appreciation to children who are respectful and hardworking on a daily basis?
For me, one of the simplest solutions has been the use of compliment slips. I just typed up a number of tasks that I wanted to thank kids for, printed the compliments out on colored paper, cut them apart, and stored them in a pencil box divided with little cards I made from old file folders.
Every few weeks, without warning, I chose one of the compliment types and placed them on the desk of my students. I’d notice who hadn’t been tardy that day and left a “thank you for being on time to school” note on their desk when they went to art. Or during the kids’ lunch break, I’d do a random desk check and leave notes that said “Thank you for keeping your desk so neat and clean” for the kids who had followed our clean desk diagram without reminders.
Sometimes I gave the compliment slips only to one or two kids at a time. When I got a new student who didn’t speak English and a Spanish-speaking student took him under her wing, I placed a compliment slip on top of her backpack: “Thank you for being so kind and helpful to your classmates.” When a student had the opportunity to keep a dollar she’d found on the ground but instead chose to turn it in, I gave her a compliment slip that read “Thank you for doing the right thing when no one was watching.”
Although I rarely gave out any kind of tangible rewards to students, I’d amassed a small collection of sparkly pencils, stickers, and bookmarks, and decided to store them in the pencil box with the compliment slips. I thought of these as surprise gifts: something that I wanted to give to my students not out of obligation to a reward system, but as a token of appreciation for their help in making our classroom run smoothly. This is something I like to do on occasion with husband or family or friends who are so supportive and wonderful to me…why not my students? Why not give them an unexpected thank you gift and card?
I really can’t overestimate the impact these compliment slips have had on my students. It didn’t matter whether I gave a surprise gift or not: just saying thank you, and memorializing my appreciation in writing, was incredibly gratifying for the vast majority of students. One student attempted to collect every type of compliment slip I had created. Another tucked them carefully into the clear plastic pocket of her homework binder so she could admire them every time she took the binder out. Even my harder-to-impress kids still smiled and exchanged happy looks with me upon seeing the thank you note on their desks.
Because the compliment slips were such a powerful tool for thanking and appreciating kids, I decided to create a more polished version for my TeachersPayTeachers store. I’ve created individual slips in three different sizes (depending on how much paper and ink you can spare, and whether or not you also want to take time to write a personalized message to students on the slip.) There’s also a version of each compliment in black and white so you can save your colored ink and print on colored paper if you prefer. Additionally, I created dividers to help you organize the cards: the two smaller versions of the slips will fit perfectly behind the dividers so you can find them easily. If you want to save time and purchase these ready-to-print compliment slips and thank you notes, I’ve made them available for for just $1.50.
Thank you reading this blog. Thank you for your support in all the ventures I’ve undertaken throughout the years: books, webinars, curriculum resources in TPT, and more.
And thank you for the hard work you do every single day in the classroom. Your work is so, so important. I hope these compliment slips make the job a little easier, and help you pass on this attitude of thanks and gratitude to your hard-working students as you let them know THEY are appreciated, too.
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