YOU’RE SUCH A GOOD GIRL/BOY
YOU’RE NOT TRYING
THIS IS EASY – YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO WORK IT OUT
THIS IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH
These are the types of statements we often say to our children. Yes, they acknowledge the child in some way, but in reality it is not helping them become better learners. Let’s look at each of these statements again and the underlying message.
- FANTASTIC/GREAT WORK OR WELL DONE: What exactly was fantastic or well done? Was it because of the child’s neat writing? Was it because of the strategies the child used to find the answer? Was it just because the child got the answer correct?
- YOU’RE SUCH A GOOD GIRL/BOY: Does this mean that when I get the wrong answer or make a mistake I’m not a good girl/boy?
- YOU’RE NOT TRYING: How are you coming to this assumption? Often children who are making mistakes are trying very hard. If you do not find reading or spelling easy, it is very tiring (it is very common for my students to yawn).
- THIS IS EASY YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO WORK IT OUT: If the child obtains the correct answer, then there is no credit because it was easy and therefore everyone should be able to get the correct answer. If the child provides the wrong answer then the underlying message is ‘I am so stupid because this is supposed to be easy and I can’t do it.’
- THIS IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH: This is similar to the first point. What exactly is not good enough – the writing, the strategy used, the answer obtained? Is everything ‘not good enough’ or just some parts?
Better feedback always focuses specifically on the task completed and what was completed correctly or identifies the point of error.
Examples of better feedback:
INSTEAD OF “FANTASTIC WORK OR THAT IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH”
- You have written that sentence very neatly because every letter sits on the line and they are all the correct size.
- To make your writing neater, you need to make sure every letter sits on the line. Your ‘s’ and ‘t’ are sitting on the line and are the correct size, but your ‘a’ goes under the line and your ‘f’ is too small.
- I like the colours you have used in this picture.
INSTEAD OF “YOU’RE SUCH A GOOD GIRL/BOY”
- You really persevered on working out the correct answer.
- You have made good progress in your spelling. Last time you got 5/10 and this time you got 8/10.
INSTEAD OF “YOU’RE NOT TRYING”
- Identify your child’s emotion. I can see that you are feeling frustrated or angry or confused or tired.
- After identifying the emotion, work together to devise a strategy. Let’s break this down into smaller steps.
- If a child is angry or frustrated, stop and do a ‘calming’ activity (e.g., take some deep breaths, shake a bottle filled with water and glitter and watch the glitter float to the bottom, do a 1 minute physical activity such as running up and down stairs, hopping around the table or crawling around the room).
- Sometimes it is better to stop the activity and return to it later. If so, first agree with the child when you will return to the activity and make sure you follow through and do return to the activity when the child is less angry.
INSTEAD OF “THIS IS EASY”
- Say, “This is difficult or tricky.” If the child succeeds then there is a sense of accomplishment. If the child doesn’t succeed then he/she doesn’t feel like a failure because it was difficult and the expectation is that you won’t necessarily succeed.
When you are providing feedback try to identify specific things that have been done correctly as well as pointing out specific areas of improvement (just focus on one or two at a time). Feedback is an intrinsic part of life and we need to prepare our children to accept criticism and to use feedback as a way of learning. The underlying message should be that it is fine to make mistakes and that if you are getting everything correct then you are not learning anything new.
It is also useful to have your child identify errors or areas that need improving. You can’t always be by your child’s side and teachers can’t give individual attention to every child in the class at the same time, so children need to develop the skill of self-correction. In addition, self-analysis is a great life skill.