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The Power of Positivity

As adults, many of us want praise and recognition so why wouldn’t our pupils? Nadine shares the ways she makes sure her classroom is a positive environment.

Over recent years I have noticed that I personally need positive praise for my efforts, as do many of my teaching friends, and with this in mind I have been trying to incorporate more positivity into my practice.

Verbal Positive Praise

“Thank you for feeling brave and sharing your work with us.”

“Wow, you have really tried hard.”

“I can see you have been working hard to improve that part.”

These are just some of the statements that you will regularly hear within my classroom, with the praise being targeted at the amount of effort to learn and conquer skills, rather than the end product. I have found that this encourages the children to challenge themselves further and they are incredibly proud of what they achieve.  


These are a firm favourite with so many teachers and I too have a collection of them. Some are generalized ‘Well done’ statements, some are coloured shapes, sparkly smiley faces and some I’ve had made with key phrases that I use such as “Mrs F likes my writing”. However, I may have a sticker collection but I don’t over use them. They are not handed out ‘willy-nilly’ (as my colleagues would say). Instead I have a sticker day, where I give the children a challenge of something in particular I am looking for and this is usually Values based, for example being respectful to each other, and each time someone does that throughout the day they earn one of my stickers.

My all-time favourite sticker is “I am a Maths Magician”. The children earn these for their efforts in Maths and not only receive the sticker but also my magicians hat, which they get to wear for the rest of the day. This is astonishingly alluring!

A cushion

I have 2 soft, fluffy green cushions that the children can earn throughout the day. I tend to give these out based upon the effort that the children put in to their learning. Sometimes it’s due to them trying hard to pronounce a diagraph that they find challenging or they have been brave enough to stand up and read their work aloud. “Well done, that was a great effort, you deserve a cushion!”

Health warning #1 – The cushions do not hang around for long. They may have them for 5 mins, they may have them for an hour but no matter how long the cushion stays with that child, they may earn them back at any point during the day.

Health warning #2 – I once handed out a cushion to a child during a parental engagement session. A mother sat at the back of the room sniggered as I awarded the cushion, however within moments she saw how proud the child was for receiving it and at the end of the lesson came to apologies. So from this day onward, at the beginning each lesson, I announce the possibility of earning a cushion.

Class Ted

I have two class teds, Rafferty and Gordon, who are both orangutans. They sit on my desk and watch the class throughout the day. In one class the children started to come to me and say “Rafferty thinks Freddie has been trying really hard and deserves to go on the Praise board”. As this was initiated by the children it grew with intensity very quickly and for a child to be chosen by either Rafferty or Gordon, was an honor.

There are also times when one of the teds writes a note to a handful of members of the class and leaves them at the table for the children to find when they arrive in the morning. These notes are usually identifying and praising something that the child did during the previous day for example “I noticed you tried really hard with your handwriting during yesterday’s History.”

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The author

Nadine has worked with children for 17 years having originally trained as an International Montessori Directress and then moving into state schools by completing a GTP. Nadine is passionate about making the most out of every day, either at school or with her two young children. She has previously written articles that have been published in various magazines including the TES.

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