Positive Reinforcement

Last week I took part in a panel discussion about the pros and cons of positive reinforcement on Rae Pica’s online radio show. Her producers asked me to join because they read “Goodbye to ‘Good Job’!,” an article I wrote for ASCD Express.

I feel passionate about using positive and specific reinforcing language with students because I have seen it make such a difference in the lives of students I’ve taught, as well as the students of teachers with whom I work. The other panelists, Ellen Sigler and Deborah Stewart, had strong opinions as well, which made for an interesting discussion.

We did the whole interview over the phone. We all knew the topic in advance but had no specific questions beforehand. The format led to a spontaneous, authentic conversation. The whole interview was over before I knew it!

One thing I wish I’d had time to offer were some tips for teachers on how to work on improving their teacher language skills. I would have suggested some of the things that have worked for me: focusing on one phrase at a time, videotaping myself, and teaming up with a colleague to work together on one aspect of teacher language. As a starting point, I would have recommended checking out Paula Denton’s book The Power of Our Wordsor watching this clip from the Teacher Language in a Responsive Classroom DVD, which shows examples of three teachers using reinforcing language in their classrooms:

Margaret Berry Wilson is the author of several books, including: The Language of Learning, Doing Science in Morning Meeting (co-authored with Lara Webb), Interactive Modeling, and Teasing, Tattling, Defiance & More.

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