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Praising students through the end of the school year

The following article is from the North Carolina New Teacher Support Program (NTSP) May 2018 Newsletter. The NC NTSP provides support for beginning teachers during their first three years of teaching. The key features of the program include: instructional skills institute, professional development, and instructional coaching.

As the end of the school year approaches, beginning teachers and veteran teachers alike find themselves facing full classes of students who can no longer muster much enthusiasm or effort to continue learning. This mindset can be detrimental in the last weeks as teachers finalize their lessons to address the remaining standards and objectives each student must master in order to be successful on their end-of-year assessment. To combat this downturn in student engagement, teachers can look to increasing their positive praise and feedback to pull students through the last few weeks of instruction.

From the youngest child in a Pre-K classroom to the graduating teenager sitting in a high school classroom, students crave positive reinforcement from their teachers. While some see this as a negative quality in the current generation, the fact remains that this quality can be harnessed to produce effective results on a daily basis. Research shows that appropriate praise in the classroom environment can strongly influence behavior, student engagement, and overall effort (Finley, 2017). Many teachers, however, find it difficult to effectively praise students in the classroom especially when it seems like a student may be shutting down. Add to this that all students are different and will shut down at different points in the day, and a teacher’s life can become even more complicated. 

Psychologist Carol Dweck’s research has shown that there are two types of students sitting inside of our classrooms today. One group believes that they have a specific amount of intelligence and only wish to engage in activities that show off their intelligence level. These students believe that their ability to learn has been maxed out. The second group of students believe that they can expand their intelligence by continuing in their education. These students believe that through by putting in effort, they can become smarter (Dweck, 2007). While both of these groups present their own challengers, the key to reaching both is through praising them for their effort in the process of learning.

When teachers praise students for their effort, they must remember these key tenets:

  • The praise must be genuine, deserved, and truthful
  • The praise should be precise.
  • The praise should not be a direction.
  • The praise should be focused on the process and not student ability (don’t just say, “Good job.”).
  • The praise should be immediate.
  • The praise should be unexpected.

These six tenets allow teachers to build a far better rapport with students while also instilling within them a drive to continue and to succeed (Finley, 2017). So, remember, praising students for their effort and the progress they have made in their work will engender a desire to continue forward in their education, even in these last few weeks of the school year.


Dweck, C. S. (2007, October). The Perils and Promises of Praise. Educational Leadership, 65(2), 34-39. doi:

Finley, T. (2017, November 22). Making Sure Your Praise is Effective. Retrieved May 10, 2018, from

For more information about the NC NTSP, click here.

Bradley Sasser

Bradley Sasser grew up in Kinston, NC. He received his degree in Secondary English Education from East Carolina University. For seven years, he taught at Greene Central High School in Snow Hill. During this time he received his certification as a literacy coach with the Keys to Literacy program. For the last five years, Sasser has served as an Instructional Coach for the NC New Teacher Support Program through the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While working in this role, he has coached over 150 beginning teachers in Wilson County, Halifax County, Weldon City, and Roanoke Rapids while also meeting and working with hundreds more through various programs and professional development opportunities made available by the NC New Teacher Support Program. Bradley currently resides with his wife in Winterville.