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Positive Praise

Positive Praise

Why should I do it:

  • Some students need outward motivators
  • It helps keep students engaged
  • Provides encouragement
  • Boosts confidence, self-concept, and self-esteem
  • Increases student buy-in
  • Builds rapport and trust
  • Is uplifting
  • Increases students’ desire and drive to please and succeed
  • Increases students’ resilience
  • Helps embed an internal desire to try, succeed, and persist
  • Helps students to push through difficulty, barriers, blocks, etc

When should I do it:

  • Positive praise, according to research, should always be done with every student at a ratio of at least 4 positive praises to 1 criticism
  • When students are stuck, frustrated, getting bogged down, etc
  • When students exhibit good behavior, expectations, help others, show generosity, share, etc
  • When students put forth good effort
  • When students succeed, overcome, persist, push through, achieve, etc
  • When students demonstrate positive behaviors
  • When students use productive coping skills, problem solving skills, etc
  • When students are independent, self-start, etc
  • When students look down, need encouragement, are having issues, personal difficulties, peer conflict, etc
  • When you want to increase a positive behavior
  • When you want to improve trust and rapport with students
  • When a student steps outside their comfort zone, looks embarrassed, seems to feel stupid, takes a risk, etc

How do I do it:

  • Praise, according to research, should be given in a ratio of at least 4 praises to 1 criticism
  • When students display positive or productive behaviors, actions, skills, characteristics, etc, or appear to need some encouragement, etc, verbally praise the student and/or give them a high-five, pat on the back, clap, exclamation, cheer, hop, etc
  • Praise can be done either quietly or if the student is motivated by peer approval, can be done in front of the class
  • Praise can be verbal or physical (like pat on the back, fist pump, head nod, hop, jump, etc)
  • When delivering praise, use direct eye contact, positive demeanor, open body position, and get to the level of the student if possible
  • Make praises specific, personalized, and individualized
  • Repeat praises if the student seems unconvinced at the first stating of the praise
  • Restate praises in different ways to get the point across

Resources & Support for technique:
(Items with footnotes link to external websites)


  1. The Incredible Art Department (2010).REMEMBER, A SMILE IS WORTH 1,000 WORDS. [].
  2. Flora, S. R. (2000). Behavior Analyst Online., Gale, Cengage Learning. Praise’s Magic Reinforcement Ratio: Five To One Gets The Job Done. [’s+magic+reinforcement+ratio%3A+five+to+one+gets+the+job+done.-a0170112823].
  3. Force Choice Reinforcement Menu.doc Modified by Gable, R. A. (1991) from:
    Cartwright, C. A., & Cartwright, G. P. (1970). Determining the motivational systems of individual children. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 2:3, 143-149. [].
  4. Jackpot! Ideas For Classroom Rewards. [].
  5. J. G. Hunter, HGIC Information Specialist, and K. L. Cason, Professor, State EFNEP Coordinator, Clemson University. (New 01/07). Non-food Rewards For Kids. [].
  6. Free Printable Certificates. [].
  7. Astroth, K. A. (1994). The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes. [].
  8. Gold Medal School Team, Salt Lake City, UT. (2005). Rewards Kids Will Crave. [].
  9. Riffel, R. (2008). 100 Free or Inexpensive Rewards for Individual Students: Elementary Level,
    60 Free or Inexpensive Rewards for Individual Students: Secondary Level,
    35 Free or Inexpensive Rewards for Adults in the Building.