Doug Lemov talks about “Positive Narration” — “I see Nathan getting to work on his problem set” or “Left side of the room is doing a great job with participation today”.
I thought it was hokey (at least for 8th graders) and didn’t use it at the start of the year. As students misbehaved more and my class became more negative, I realized I needed something to acknowledge students who were doing the right thing–but didn’t want to do it in a way that seemed childish or singled kids out in a way that made them seem like the teacher’s pet. Something I stole from our history teacher that has made a huge difference the last few weeks is a simple “thank you”.
It looks like:
“Take two minutes to solve example three on your own, then we’ll come together and share. (some kids start working right away, some stare off into space, some whisper to the person next to them) Thanks Jonathan. Thanks Aaron. Thanks Marly.”
And that’s it. Huge difference, from before which was “Muna, you should be doing example three” “I’m finished” (she had worked ahead) And I lose another small power struggle. Or “Jahleil, get to work”. Sometimes he needs that, but more often I need to create an environment in my classroom where kids have something to say yes to, and know that it’s normal to do what I ask–because it’s important and leads to them learning.
And the simple “thank you” is one small thing that has made a huge difference moving in that direction.