Encouraging, Praising and Helping as a Teaching Strategy

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What is praise and what is encouragement?

Encouragement is given while a child is doing something to support them to continue it and to show appreciation of their efforts.

Praise is given after a child has completed part of all of a task to show them that their achievement is worthy of your approval.

The difference between the two concepts also lies here: spoken praise tends to emphasise the child while encouragement tends to emphasise what the childis doing. Children's learning is best supported through encouragement rather than praise alone.

Why should you use encouragement as a teaching technique?

To encourage someone means to reassure and to support them when they are having difficulty with a task or experience. This reassurance and support might be verbal or non-verbal. You should use encouragement as a teaching technique to reassure and support children attempting new or difficult activities. The aim of such encouragement is to help children persevere with the task and to learn new skills or dispositions.

As a teaching process, praise shows children that they deserve recognition, acclaim and approval.


Non-verbal encouragement and helping

To physically help someone is to assist them, to aid and contribute to what they are doing. Help can take many forms and may last for moments or for much longer. Physically helping a child with a task might involve holding their hand as they attempt to enter a situation about which they feel apprehension, or helping them to use a piece of equipment by holding it steady. Such help can encourage children to continue with their task and can assist them to achieve success.

It is important to remember that helping is about doing something with someone, not doing it for them. Don't take over for the child just help them with the task so that the children achieve and learn from it.

Verbal encouragement

Verbal encouragement can act as a positive motivator for children's learning if some basic rules are followed. You need to ensure that their encouragement is very specific and that it focuses on how a child is undertaking a specific task. This is best done when the child and the adult are alone, rather than part of a large group, because this prevents the adult's comments embarrassing the child in front of other children. It is also important to ensure that comments on a child's performance do not involve comparison with other children, thus avoiding competition with them.

Words of encouragement should extend children's learning rather than reduce it. Emphasise the process of thinking rather than the product and this will extend the thinking.

How to use praise

The following points show how to use praise in the teaching context:

  • Use praise sparingly.
  • Praise children equitably.
  • Praise children only for new achievements or consistent effort.

If you praise too often or without a thought as to what you are praising, praise will become meaningless to the child.

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