Do your students know that you appreciate them? How do they know?
I give thanks to my students often. I am fortunate to work in a school where the students come to class eager to learn and behavior issues are very rare and just as I am supported by the leadership within my building, the students are provided with the support needed to be successful. This in turn means that I can use my 40 minutes of class time to build relationships, teach, and assess my students.
In this blog post I shared how I frequently alter my PBL projects and my summative assessments so that the end product is a different, shareable artifact. Classes have left behind iMovies, podcasts, essays, posters and collated lists of crowd-sourced teen-specific health resources. The best of these artifacts are displayed in the classroom, embedded in iBooks or tweeted out to provide my students with a wider, more authentic audience.
I tell my 5th period students all about the great discussions that I have with my 7th period, and I have also provided my students with an outlet to share their work via this blog site. My students know that I talk about them when I present at conferences and that I am proud of the work that they produce, and also thankful for their patience when they allow me try out new ideas on them.
However, my favorite way to let my students know that I am thankful for their efforts is with praise postcards. I think I first heard of praise postcards through the tweets of Adam Llevo (digital praise postcards) and Jeff Bartlett.
Using Canva, I created this generic postcard and write personal messages to the students on the reverse. Typically these postcards go out to the students who have impressed over the course of the semester, and held a high A grade. Each message is personalized to reflect the student, highlighting an attribute that has stood out during our time together.
I don’t make a big show of distributing these, but do wonder what might be the ‘best’ way to pass them out. I prefer placing them next to the student while they are working and then I get the warm and fuzzy experience of watching them read the card with a smile, look up and look at me as I give them an acknowledging nod of appreciation. I also like it when I ask a student or two to stay back at the end of the class and hand the postcard to them personally. Looking in their eyes as I hand the card over is enough to make my day. There have been times when I’ve put them in the mailbox of the students advisor, which has the added benefit of letting that advisor know that one of their students has been recognized for their efforts.
Another benefit of the praise postcard is that it allows me to acknowledge some of my better performing students who might be quiet in class. The ones that engage in classroom conversations are easier to remember, but I always have students who produce great work but rarely participate in discussions. I don’t grade on ‘participation’ as I know that some students are naturally quieter than others.
It’s nearly winter break, so now is the perfect time to acknowledge some of your students. If you haven’t tried a praise postcard, I urge you to give it a go. You can download a PDF of my praise postcard here.
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