How to Praise ESL Students in a Correct Way
Effective praise builds a student's character and strengthens their attempts at all tasks they encounter. The keyword to this point is useful. When credit is targeted at the wrong aspect of a student's work, then a negative effect has a chance to take over. So is it normal after all to praise students, and if so, how should a teacher go about the task?
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Richard B. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Reasons to Paraise ESL Students
First, it is very typical to praise students. It's even encouraged and appreciated. Praise can give the students confidence, make them feel happy, and provide them with the drive to do well to get more credit. Recognition is the cheapest form of a reward in material value but the most expensive in emotional value.
When it comes to giving praise, some guidelines make it useful and not lose its emotional value. The target of credit should be on the students' effort and accomplishments, not their abilities. For example, saying something along the lines of, "Your English is excellent!" does two bad things. If any other students overhear that, it could hurt their English study as they may think their English is much worse than that of students. Two and more importantly, the student receiving the praise may take fewer risks when speaking English in fear of not getting recognition but instead getting scolded. So, a better way to give credit is by saying something like, "I can tell from your grade that you worked hard to prepare for this test." This shows other students that overheard that the student worked hard, and more importantly, the student is acknowledged for their efforts and not just their ability. Now the student will likely continue to work hard, striving to get those good grades and praise.
What to Praise for?
Another factor to consider when giving praise is what precisely the credit is being directed at. Merely telling the student "good job" while still making them feel good is inadequate, as it only has a short-term effect. There needs to be a specific target for what the student did that received the praise. This will reward the student with the long-term impact of continuing to work hard to improve that area in hopes of receiving more credit when those new efforts have been realized.
As teachers, we realize that different personalities deal with compliments differently. I'll use myself as an example. Growing up, I wouldn't say I liked praise as I was confident and didn't feel that what I was doing was that impressive. In my later years as a high-school student and college student, I felt that what I was doing was challenging and felt great when my efforts were realized through praise. Teachers need to understand what way of credit will make their students feel the most comfortable. This could mean only giving praise in private meetings like mid-semester progress evaluations. Another way would be to write awards down on their assignment that brought on the compliment.
Finally, on a side note of when and how to give praise, teachers should do their best to praise everyone. This was touched on in the point about praising effort, notability. Action can ensure that everyone is noticed. They are assuming that everyone works hard, of course. Language is difficult to learn, especially for those that are knowing they're first. Just by being noticed, students can feel so much better about themselves no matter how difficult the language is proving to be.
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Praise is not a bad thing when used effectively. Appropriately too, of course. Teachers that know their students and praise their efforts will be giving their students the greatest reward. This character improvement will be seen throughout their lives and should make for great semesters where students work hard and enjoy doing to better themselves knowing they can make their teachers proud.
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