In writing workshop today I just stopped by a kindergartner's desk to check in. It wasn't a huge writing conference and I was really just walking by him when I realized I should see what he wrote today. I just stated what I noticed, patted him on the back and walked away, not really thinking anything of my 'hit and run' conference. I didn't leave him with a 'next time try...' or a 'good writers always...' tidbit like I usually do. I didn't say 'good job' or 'great writing' but pointed out that he'd used spaces, put details in his drawing, and added details to his story. I never know if the specific praise theory works with kids or not, but that's what they tell us to do so I try to stick by it.
A few minutes later I heard him whisper to his friend, "Hey! Do you know what Mrs. Lipstick told me? She said I had nice spaces and that I added on more details to my story when I wrote 'with my dad'." He was practically bubbling over with pride. Pride that didn't come from pleasing me, but for realizing what he produced in his own work.
I guess that whole teacher-language of stating specifics really works.
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