by Dr. Jane Nelsen and Dr. Kelly Gfroerer
Nothing can change your mood from sad to glad more quickly than gratitude. Negativity changes to positive feelings the instant you focus on what you appreciate. Since this is such a profound truth, doesn't it make sense to teach this valuable skill to students—and to provide time and space for them to practice on a daily basis. Students practice gratitude through the skill of giving and receiving compliments.
For some silly reasons, students (and adults) often feel embarrassed about giving and receiving compliments. However, with practice your students will become more comfortable with compliments, and they become the favorite part of their day. Positive Discipline class meetings provide a structure for students to give and receive genuine compliments on a regular basis. Following are some tips for teaching the skill of compliments.
1. Remind students to focus on what others accomplish and/or how they help others instead of things such as what they wear.
- “I would like to compliment you for helping me with my Math yesterday.”
- “I would like to compliment you for playing in the sandbox with me at recess.”
- “I would like to compliment you for working so hard on your project.”
2. It is helpful to model compliments by giving several every day. Keep notes to make sure every student receives a compliment from you each week.
Studies show taking time to compliment students improves student motivation and learning. Students learn to encourage each other and show appreciation for how someone helped them.
Shannon Potter1 studied the effects of class meetings and found that students’ ability to give and receive compliments improved and overall the number of compliments increased as a result of regular class meetings. Findings indicated an increase in students' positive interaction skills. Specifically, students’ listening, ability to compliment and appreciate others, and ability to show respect for others all improved.
A 6th grade teacher shared this journal entry from a student in her class after their first day giving and receiving compliments:
“Today my whole class got into a circle, and then we each gave a compliment to the person on our right. It felt good to give my friend a compliment and to hear others say what they appreciated about one another. It changed my entire school day because whenever I felt bad I just remembered what my friend said about me, and it made me smile. I also remembered the smile on my friend’s face when I gave her a compliment. I really liked starting the day this way, and it would change school if we could do every morning. I think the whole world would be a better place if people would just stop and take time to appreciate one another so people would focus on the positive.”
Take time to teach the art of compliments, and your classroom culture and climate will be positively enhanced.
1Potter, S. (1999) Positive Interaction Among Fifth Graders: Is it a Possibility? The Effects of Classroom Meetings on Fifth -Grade Student Behavior. Submitted as partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Education. Southwest Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.