I have always been a person who has valued words of affirmation. When we use our words to encourage others and to affirm their choices, powerful things can happen.
When I taught third grade, students engaged in a Compliment Circle. Everyone sat in a circle on the carpet and had the opportunity to give or receive a compliment (they were also allowed to pass). At the beginning of the year, most students wanted to either pass or receive compliments. After the first couple weeks of setting up our routine for Compliment Circle, a domino effect would occur — once one student started choosing to GIVE compliments, all the other kids wanted to as well.
This was the perfect way to end class each day: reflecting on kindness that you displayed to others or that others displayed to you.
Because of the nature of middle school, the time I have with students is significantly shorter than what I had with my third graders. Sadly, this doesn’t really allow for a 10-15 minute window for Compliment Circle at the end of each period as I’m already desperately pushing copious amounts of content into a 66 minute block.
Enter “Shoutout Sheets.”
A few months ago, I started using these handmade sheets to acknowledge students regularly in class. They’re created so that both myself and other students can give one another shoutouts.
Because I started implementing this in the middle of a quarter, my consistency wasn’t the greatest. I would either run out of time at the end of class or — well, usually I would just run out of time. Let’s be honest, time flies when you’re having fun and learning in the lab. 😉
I started making these motivator sheets a priority toward the end of third quarter and the kids started getting really interested (again, let’s be honest, who doesn’t enjoy being recognized for good work?).
As we kicked off fourth quarter three weeks ago (?!?!?! HOW DID THAT HAPPEN!? — will answer this question in a different blog post I’m certain), I made a concerted effort to ensure that a student in every one of my classes was being recognized every day.
One day last week, I completely forgot to stop class a few minutes early to give my shoutout. A few kids had left the classroom already but I stopped everyone else, saying, “WAAAIIIT! TODAY’S SHOUTOUT!” I scrambled to my desk to get my paper and saw students standing in my doorway (presumably my third period). I told the students to line up outside the door since second period hadn’t gotten out yet, but I quickly realized it was the rest of my second period standing there.
Well, we heard you had a shoutout, so…we came back!
As my heart grew about three more sizes in that moment, it dawned on me that these kids really care for one another and want to see each other excel.
With each shoutout given, the kids applaud and high five.
This notion was reinforced as I passed back post-assessments for our last unit two weeks ago. I told the students how much growth they made collectively and how some students quadrupled their scores from the pre-assessment they took so many weeks ago. A student raised her hand and asked if some of those kids who made a lot of growth could have their names called; the class was completely on board, so I rolled with it.
With each name called, the kids cheered for each other.
…and we’re talking legitimate hoops and hollers and claps and “good jobs!” ringing in the air.
It amazes me that I get to work with kids and watch them grow developmentally to understand that the world is larger than they are alone. It’s a beautiful thing to see students so invested in one another. Just another echo of the importance of building a strong classroom community that fosters trust and compassion.
Y’all, this is what it’s all about. Kindness. Helping one another. Showing genuine interest in the lives of others. There’s good everywhere — in our classrooms, in our students, in ourselves and each other — so let’s start recognizing it.
How do you recognize students (and even your coworkers!) for all the totally awesome things they do!?