Saturday, October 29, 2011

Positive Comments Create a Positive Learning Environment

     I was thrilled this week to visit one of my student teachers who is working in a preschool program in a large urban public school. She has now created a wonderfully positive learning environment! Initially, she was struggling to keep the children's attention during circle time. The first time I observed, my notes recorded these comments, "sit down... turn around... sit the right way" "Sit down...Shhh....Shhh." Needless to say, the children continued to wiggle and ignore the requests.

     This week, however, it was like a different class. This student teacher had been practicing all week by pointing out the positive behaviors she saw. She started out by saying, "Marissa is ready for the story. Joshua is sitting in criss-cross applesauce so I know he's ready....etc." Throughout the circle time, she verbally acknowledged the children who were behaving the way she wanted them to. Each time she made a positive comment, I saw the children shift their little bodies into place, look at her, and engage with the book and the activities. Throughout the entire circle time, she did not say one negative statement and the climate was peaceful, engaging, and calm. What a pleasure to observe!!

     Another story about positive comments this week comes from Monica Atencio, one of my undergraduate teacher education students. She writes, "One of the best ideas I've had was to ask about class management. The class that I am in is the worst in the day care. Since the beginning of the school year their teacher had a baby so they have had very little consistency with replacement teachers. These children were so hard to manage--but not just because the teacher was not there. It was because we spoke to the children the wrong way. Even the director was coming in every day just to check on the class but we had little success.

     "Letters were sent to every teacher in the daycare about the way we talk to children: children are not dogs, you don't say "sit" you say "sit criss-cross applesauce". This was not enough for a class that needed the extra help. After a while I felt like I did not want to go into that classroom anymore. I felt like nothing was helping. I felt stressed. At last I decided to ask Dr. Rand for help. Gladly she gave the class examples and ways of managing a classroom. I have learned that the best way of managing a classroom is to always be positive and never give up no matter how hard the situation. Nothing is easy; people learn from their mistakes. My mistake was that every time the class did something wrong I would point that out. "Can you please sit the right way," instead of focusing on the children that did the right thing, and point them out.

     "After paying attention to the students that were doing the right thing and mentioning them all the time, I started to realize that the kids who were not doing the right thing started to follow they children who were getting attention. I could not be more impressed!"

     Thanks for the great story, Monica! I'd love to hear from others who are using positive comments to help children learn what behavior is expected. How have you created a positive classroom?


  1. I love the stories that i read. I must say that i do agree with using positive comments in the classroom to help control behavior management. In my class, i often try to point out the positive behaiors that the children are using to give them attention when they are doing the correct thing because, "what you pay attention to is what you will get more of in your classroom". This is really true and i have observed negative behaviors being reinforced daily because it recieves attention and the other things that the behaior wants such as having to get long walks, late breakfast, and not doing their classwork at the appropriate time that it is given.

  2. Alicia,
    Thanks for the reminder of "what you pay attention to you will get more of"!
    What types of behavior change do you notice when you give positive feedback?

  3. I have noticed when we use positive comments in our classroom with children it is a proactive approach for the other children who is behaving inappropriately. They will want the positive interaction and feed back from the teacher, that the other child or children are receiving. Therefore they will do the exact behavior which would be the correct one that the teacher would like to see. This could be putting the tops back on the markers when they are finished using them.

  4. So glad to hear this is working for you, Alicia! It's a great way to remind the children of the behavior that is expected while creating a positive atmosphere at the same time.