Beyond GOOD JOB: effective, creative ways to encourage kids

Have you gotten in a rut of using the same phrases over and over to encourage students? Repeatedly saying “You did great!” can cause the sentiment to lose its effectiveness over time and even start to sound insincere. And relying only on praise like “You’re so smart!” can cause kids to attribute their success to innate talent, rather than hard work and perseverance.

However, I do think praise has an important place in the classroom. Who doesn’t enjoy hearing that they’re awesome on occasion from a person who genuinely means it? Sometimes kids truly wow you with their performance, and I don’t think you should hide that fact because you’re afraid of over-celebrating a student’s accomplishment. If you mean it, you can say it!

Drawing attention to a job well done (and encouraging kids when they’re halfway there) is an important part of nurturing kids’ development. When used correctly, appreciation and encouragement can reinforce good choices, build a rapport, help develop self-confidence, and inspire kids to do their best.

Here are 6 tips to help you effectively encourage your students:

6 tips for encouraging students

So, how can you get out of the “good job” rut while still using phrases that feel natural to you?

In the image below, I’ve compiled some of my favorite ways to encourage kids. Some of them call attention to kids’ natural traits, while others reinforce grit and effort. There are also phrases that emphasize how kids’ choices make other people feel, and help build empathy and socio-emotional intelligence. See which ones fit your teaching style and context, and try mixing them into your regular phrases!

You can also use many of these phrases to help kids show appreciation to their peers, compliment one another, and recognize each other’s hard work. The more students hear you use these phrases, the more likely they are to pick up the same language and encourage one another.

50 creative ways to encourage kids

Click here to access a printable list in a Google Doc.

Do you use a phrase that’s not on the list? Share it in the comments below!

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Angela is a National Board Certified Teacher with 11 years of classroom experience and 7 years experience as an instructional coach. As founder of Due Season Press and Educational Services, she has created printable curriculum resources, 4 books, 3 online courses, the Truth for Teachers podcast, and The 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club. Subscribe via email to get her best content sent to your inbox!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Melissa McCutcheon July 8, 2015 at 4:43 pm

I couldn’t agree more! My students this year tried harder than any other class I have had before because I became intentional in how I communicated their progress. It forced me to pay attention to all of my students’ strengths and areas of growth. In particular, I noticed significant strides in their writing because the feedback I gave was specific. A lot times, I would call attention to a terrific topic sentence, spectacular supporting details, exciting opener, or an out-of-this world closing paragraph. In fact, I had students come up to me and ask how they could improve their writing so that their writing could be highlighted more often. The fabulous thing is that it WASN’T the same students that were always being recognized because I was focusing on specific details, not an overall piece of writing and to be honest, I was always able to find something that a student “rocked” at because I was looking for it!

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2 Angela Watson July 17, 2015 at 2:27 pm

What an awesome story! I’m so glad you shared that.

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3 Melissa McCutcheon July 13, 2015 at 3:31 am

22 Powerful Alternatives to You’re Smart by Mark Barnes @http://www.brilliant-insane.com/2015/07/22-powerful-alternatives-youre-smart.html. It totally addresses your criteria giving some great prompt templates.

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4 Angela Watson July 17, 2015 at 2:16 pm

Oh wow, those are wonderful! I’m so glad you shared the link.

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