By Erin DelRegno
While working with children throughout the day, I know you try to praise their actions. You want to acknowledge when they are helping, when they are showing their talent, or when they achieve a goal or a milestone. However, how many times a day do you think you just say “Good Job” in these situations? It ends up becoming an automatic response to everything. What is the intention? Is it letting them know that they pleased you?
Here are some questions to think about:
• Does saying “Good Job” extend the conversation or end it?
• Does it focus on the effort the child made?
• Does it provide any details or encouragement about what they did?
• Does it encourage them to try harder or come up with other ideas, or is what they did good enough?
As you can see, when you think about the answers to these questions, no specific feedback is being given to the children. “Good Job” is very close-ended and doesn’t extend learning. It is focusing on the result rather than the effort made.
So, what is good about the job they did? That is what you should focus on when giving positive recognition or encouragement to children. You could also ask questions to spark higher order thinking, and you can expand on their answers and add more information. You’ll begin a back and forth conversation.
Below are some examples to help you see the extra information and vocabulary children are receiving when you say more than “Good Job.” You can tell exactly what happened in these situations without even being there.
• “That was very kind. You helped Sue pick up the pegs she was playing with, even though you were done cleaning up your toys. You helped her get done before the timer went off. She appreciated that.”
• “You built a very tall tower with the square and rectangle blocks. How did you make sure it wouldn’t fall over? Why didn’t you use the triangle blocks too?”
• “You are all focusing on completing that difficult puzzle. Keep working as a team and I know you will be able to put all the pieces together. Let me know if you need any help.”
• “I see you sorted the sea animals. You have a pile of purple octopi, a pile of green seahorses, and a pile of blue dolphins.”
• “The spider you drew has a large, round body, eight legs, and lots of eyes. What materials in the classroom could you use to build this spider?”
• “You put the baby in that bassinet very gently. Why did you lay her down and put a blanket on her?”
• “Purple isn’t in any of the paint cups you used, but I see it in your picture. How did you make the color purple?”
If you provide more specific, genuine feedback, it will be so much more meaningful to the children and to you. This will help them build confidence. They will persist with difficult tasks and will share ideas with others. They will begin to feel pride in what they’ve learned how to do. In addition, it will help you to understand that what you say promotes learning, encourages thinking, and motivates them. You will be more intentional in what you say.
“Good Job” Alternatives. (2003, September). Teaching Young Children (NAEYC).
Retrieved from https://www.naeyc.org/tyc/article/good-job-alternatives
Stewart, D. (2017, January 11). Powerful words to say instead of… “Good Job!”. Retrieved from https://www.teachpreschool.org/2017/01/11/powerful-words-to-say-instead-of-good-job/
CONGRATULATIONS to Anabela Araujo of Learn and Play, who won the drawing for our Blog Survey Contest.