"Writing compliments becomes much easier for my students as the year progresses," reports Michele McCall. "As the compliments become easier to write, I notice many more verbal compliments in the classroom."
In McCall's second grade classroom at Prairieview School in Hainesville, Illinois, students make a regular habit of flattering one another. The "Compliment Door" is a display designed to teach students how to offer compliments. Every member of the class takes a turn on the board as the recipient of a compliment from one another child, building his or her self-esteem.
"I begin the activity after we learn what compliments are, and after we have brainstormed many different types of compliments," explained McCall. "I try to discourage the words, nice and cool, as the children learn that these words don't give much information about the person they are describing. We usually do the activity together during writers' workshop the first several times until the children understand how to do it, then it becomes a must do on their language arts ticket during center time."
"Students usually start off with, 'I like you,' or 'You wrote a great story during writers' workshop!'" McCall told Education World. "As time passes, I get to read more personal things."
The most memorable compliment for McCall was a thank-you from a little girl who was having difficulty making friends. Despite the best efforts of teachers to help her learn social skills, she generally kept to herself during recess. One day, a student in the classroom invited her to play.
"It was wonderful to see her face light up, but it was even better to read the compliment she wrote later when the girl who had asked her to play was the one being honored on the board," said McCall.
As with any activity, the Compliment Door can take a little time to work well. It can be difficult for some students to compliment others, and some might not achieve the "heartfelt" praises teachers might like to see.
"Although students are expected to work together, they might have trouble having nice things to say to someone who was just been mean to them -- in their eyes -- a short while ago," laughs McCall. The practice in putting aside those differences and praising peers for their better traits and actions isn't just a second grade social skill but an important life-long talent.
Article by Cara Bafile
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