Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Power of a Compliment

I ended class yesterday with a compliment circle.  A compliment circle is just as it sounds:  Everyone sits in a circle and gives each other compliments.  It's so simple, yet so powerful!  With all of our curricular demands and extra school activities outside of academics (assemblies, special programs, new testing, etc), we often do not have time to just sit down and tell each other something nice.  Looking a person in the eye, then genuinely telling him/her something kind is like nothing else.  No app, gadget, device, or new trend has as much impact on a classroom as the power of the genuine spoken word.

During the last 15 minutes of the school day on Friday afternoon, my students gathered in a big circle in the middle of our classroom (my students are fifth graders- a circle of 24 11-year olds takes up quite a bit of space!).  I asked each of them to point to the person to their right.  As they were pointing, I said, "Think for one minute about a thoughtful compliment you can give this person about something they did, said, or demonstrated today at school."  After about a minute of silent think time, I asked my students if they were ready.  All nodded.  Then, the magic happened!

I started, "I want to compliment Connor for working hard and thinking to understand how to multiply fractions today during math."  Connor said thank you with a smile, the class clapped, and then it was Connor's turn to give a compliment to the person next to him.

"I want to compliment Andrew for still having fun and having a good attitude during our whiffle ball game even though he jammed his fingers at recess today."

"I want to compliment Helen for helping me in writing workshop when I became stuck on extending my idea."

"I want to compliment Ian for coming to school with a smile and always having a positive attitude, which really helps me enjoy school even more."

"I want to compliment Sophie for always having great ideas in writing workshop.  She also helps me with my writing a lot."

And, it went on and on.  After we went around the circle once, students started giving compliments to others who were not sitting directly next to them.  All of my students left the classroom all smiles yesterday.  They went off to start their weekends with a positive memory from school.  Regardless of what happened that day, they are all able to look back and reflect on the compliments that they received.

Everyone needs to hear a compliment every now and then.  Go make it happen.

Imagine 24 students sitting in a circle, saying kind things about each other.
The power of the spoken genuine compliment is like nothing else.

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