Hey there, wonderful teacher! Has anyone told you today how incredible you are? If not, please give me the honor. You’re doing a fantastic job, and I love the privilege of visiting with you every week. This week, I want to share with you a classroom management issue that arose in my students recently, and I had to nip it in the bud. Do your students rush through their work and not really take pride in what they’re doing? Do you see sloppy student work that isn’t focused and thoughtful, and you just know your students could do better?
Today, I’m going to give you some sure-fire ways to improve students’ pride in their work so you can see their true abilities and be proud of them too. These strategies are simple, actionable, and not at all complicated.
Teacher, I am passionate about helping teachers be more impactful and joyful in their classrooms. You are playing a vital role in the lives of children, and we need to spread that joy to them. I’m working on the Joyful Teacher Academy, which is an online community and self-paced professional development geared toward teaching you how to sustain in this career. How we find and keep our joy through all the THINGS they never told us about. If you’d like me to let you know when the doors open to the academy, tell me HERE.
One of the large components of Joyful Teacher Academy is classroom management. When students are thoughtful and take pride in their work, our lives are easier.
Yes, I want to impact students in a way that makes them full of pride in their abilities and give them skills that can aid them in being successful adults. But I also just love neat and focused work! The question is, how do we get our students to a place where they take pride in what they’re doing?
It Works Because of You
We absolutely can encourage this pride in our little ones. Believe it or not, it’s a lot easier to do that since we’re working with the most innocent, special, wonderful age group of all: K through 2.
I’m going to give you three sure-fire ways to accomplish this. These strategies are simple. No gimmicks. Not elaborate and not fancy. But they will get the job done. Best of all, these practical ideas can bring a smile to students and put joy in their little hearts. With a little help and motivation from you, they will be proud of their work and themselves.
The secret to improving students’ pride in their work in primary is actually no secret at all. It goes back to their adoration and love for YOU, their teacher, and their inherent need to feel valued and loved by you. They want to please you, and this is an incredible part about teaching primary.
I’ve been told by my principal and other observers that I’m really good with classroom management and handling student behaviors. I’ve been told that many times throughout my years of teaching but never really took much thought to it.
But one day, I had an observer from my district that I really, really respected. She came in and observed my classroom, and she left me a note. It said, “You know, Mrs. Mullins, your classroom management is incredible. You could absolutely teach other teachers how to do what you do. Wow.” Even though I’d heard my principal and many other people say it, hearing it from this particular person was pretty amazing and actually has inspired me so much that all these years later, here I am on a blog and podcast sharing classroom management strategies with you.
I tell you this, not to brag, but to bring forward the concept that you are the difference maker in your classroom and your students’ pride in their work. Adoration and love for you is what can really inspire them to give you the results you’re looking for. Although I’m sharing some awesome strategies with you today, it all really goes back to the idea that your students look up to you and have this need to feel valued and appreciated by you, their teacher.
Strategy #1: Hang Student Work in the Hall
You may already display student work in the hall or a special wall in your classroom, but I really want you to hack the hallway display. In times past, I would just take up students’ work, and whenever I found time, I would hang it up in the hallway. It was really disconnected from my students. It was something that I would do separately at the end of the day or some other free time (that I could barely find!).
But I’ve learned to really use that hallway display to my advantage. That display for me is sacred ground, and my students know it. It’s an honor to have something displayed in the hallway. So I use my language and hype to really bring this idea forward.
“Boys and girls, if I notice that you are being so thoughtful and careful to do your very best work, I may choose it to go out in the hallway. Our hallway display is so special because everyone in our school walks by and looks at what’s there! All day long teachers say, ‘Wow, look what this student did. Look what that student did.’ It’s truly an honor to have something hung out in the hallway, so it has to be our very best work.”
Not only do I talk about how incredible it is, I really make it an honor to go out in the hallway and hang something on the wall. I take my students out in the hallway and let them choose a spot where they want to hang their work. I also take a celebratory picture with my phone to show them just how special it is. Later in the day, I will post that in our Facebook group or send it through our classroom texting.
Strategy #2: Give Thoughtful Feedback to Your Students
You may not find instant results from this strategy, but over time you will really notice the difference in how your learners take pride in their student work. Sometimes as teachers we get in the habit of saying, “Great job! Awesome job! Wonderful job!” But to truly get more specific results and to see some improvements in our students, we need to be more observational and specific to each child. We really need to be thoughtful in what we’re telling them so that it’s really clear to them that we’re taking special notice of what they’re doing. It also provides them some means of improving.
So here’s what we may normally say: “Oh, that is so awesome! Good job!” And here is a good replacement for that: “I see that you took extra time to do your work, and your handwriting is so neat. I’m so proud of what you’ve done, but just notice right here that you forgot to capitalize this word.” That is much more specific and can really show your students that you notice what they’ve done.
You can be very vocal about this. Let other students hear what you’re saying, and that will in turn encourage them all to take notice of that. If they hear me really hyping up little Johnny and telling him how proud I am of his neat handwriting, you can bet most of your students will try to be just like Johnny so they can hear the same thing. It’s magical.
Strategy #3: Use Kid Appropriate Praise for Student Work
Of course, our little learners are wired differently than older students, so we have to make sure that what we’re doing to celebrate their work is appropriate to them. So let’s praise and reward them in a way that makes them feel special and happy in their little hearts.
I’ll give you just a few things I’ve noticed in the classroom that are really effective in accomplishing that.
One way you can praise students for taking pride in their student work is by giving them a classroom cheer. “Look at Presley. She’s taking her time. She is being so neat and making sure she has every answer correct. Let’s give her a big loud Yeehaw!” Taking a quick moment to interrupt whatever is going on and to cheer for that student is a wonderful way to praise them and make them feel special. I’ve written more about them at this POST (and there’s a set of free cheer cards).
Another way to praise students is by giving them a table point. In this POST I talked about using classroom games like table points or girls vs. boys to really encourage behaviors in your classroom. You can really help to notice the pride students take in their work by giving points if you are using these games. It encourages them to take their time because they know they can earn points this way.
A third way I found to encourage my class to be neat and focus on their student work is to use smiley faces. It may sound crazy but it works like a charm. Before we begin an independent work activity, I tell my students that I’m going to draw special smiley faces on the papers of those students who take their time, do their most neat handwriting, and are careful to get every answer correct to the best of their ability.
I tell them that I have this special marker that I like to draw them with. Truthfully, they’re just these big Sharpie markers that are very vibrant colors. Each day I draw a special kind of smiley face. It’s usually a surprise up until I draw the first one on their papers. Here are my different kinds of special smiley faces: giant smiley face that covers the entire page, little baby smiley face, smiley face with a mohawk, smiley face with SpongeBob teeth, and the student favorite which I only do on very special occasions is the smiley face that looks like the kid.
My second graders love this. They literally beg me to do it all the time. I draw a regular smiley face with two dot eyes and a mouth, and I put on some features that are specific to each student. So if I have a girl with curly hair, I’ll put long curly hair on it. It only takes a second longer, but it’s so special to my kids. I literally have some students who have a collection of the smiley faces I have drawn.
Bonus Strategy: Send Positive Notes Home
Just as that observer left me that special note and it had such an impact on me, you can give your students that very same experience with a little note home. You can write it on a Post-It note or a printed template. Either way, taking a moment to commemorate students’ pride in their work can be so effective.
Each day, I choose one student to recognize with a positive note home. I hype it up and tell my class I’m looking to see who is taking pride in their work and being really careful and thoughtful. I mention it all throughout the day. A little secret that I’ll tell you is that I go through and choose every student. I kind of cycle it through, that way I don’t leave anyone out. At the end of the day when I present this note to the student, I verbalize what they did that helped them earn this recognition.
Now, I’m going to give you some super cute emoji positive notes that you can use. You can use the templates, add student names, and send one home every day. I’ve used them many times, and I love them because they’re so cute.
Keep Making a Difference!
I appreciate what you are doing to bring joy to our little learners. We’re building an awesome community on our Facebook group, and we’d love to have you join us.
I hope you have a wonderful rest of your week. Keep making a difference, teacher friend!