The importance of celebrating student success (and how to practice it in the classroom)

Jarrod Brown
Jarrod Brown

Most education professionals would agree that the title of “teacher” is code for a number of other roles and responsibilities. To students, teachers are rule-makers, confidants, managers, organisers and, above all else, motivators.

It’s that motivation offered by passionate teachers that K-12 students unknowingly depend on to get the most out of their early studies. Teachers play a pivotal role in supporting student success by providing students with an environment where they not only want to succeed but believe they can. 

Setting students up for success

Whether you’re helping a struggling student to persevere or supporting a gifted student to overcome a new challenge, self-belief is a major driver in student success. For most students to achieve great success in school, the motivation to do well and to believe in themselves is vital.

Erin Lynch is a literary expert and K-12 educator with almost two decades of experience. She says that, despite spending hours planning engaging lessons, the most powerful motivator for her students are words of encouragement.

“I am still surprised that after preparing and teaching an informative and dynamic lesson, what seems to really get my students motivated and working hard are my words of encouragement at the end of the lesson.” says Ms Lynch.

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”Within just a few minutes of getting started, I usually have several excited hands in the air waiting to show me their progress.”

By emphasising the benefits of hard work and perseverance – not natural talent – teachers can help students build confidence in their ability to achieve and have a massive impact on learning habits. 

What does effective praise look like?

While celebrating success can be impactful, students only reap the benefits when it’s done right.

Effective praise…

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  • Focuses on the effort, not just the achievement of students.
  • Clearly defines the accomplishment and the learners being celebrated.
  • Comes with information about the performance.
  • Is clear, creative, and varied.

6 tips for celebrating student success

#1 Verbal praise

One of the simplest methods to inspire and recognise kids is through verbal encouragement and appreciation. Before students begin working on an assignment, give them a pep talk. Give praise to pupils who have worked hard to accomplish a project or make academic progress.

Praise and pep speeches can be given either one-on-one or in a group. When praising kids verbally individually, try being as detailed as you can. Recognise the objective and the actions that helped them achieve it.

#2 Connect with a parent

Parents and guardians adore it when a teacher recognises their child’s accomplishments. A few simple comments about their child’s success bring a smile to any parent’s face and are sure to be discussed back at home. 

The student will feel proud that their teacher took the time to let them know about something they did well in class. These conversations can also lead to family discussions about homework, academic objectives, education difficulties, and more.

#3 Class rewards

Having a goal to reach as a class can be an effective team-building exercise that turns celebrating student success into a class event. The desire to do well for your peers is a great motivator for most students and can encourage others to help their classmates when pursuing a common goal. 

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Implementing a class reward system can be as simple as creating a marble jar or class chain. When students do something well, add a marble to the jar or a link to the chain. When the jar is filled or the chain reaches from ceiling to floor, hand out a prize or celebrate with a group activity.

#4 Peer recognition

Sometimes the best recognition a student can get is from a peer. So next time students are acting a bit restless or seem discouraged, have them participate in a “strength circle” activity. 

To begin, each student will need their own envelope with a blank piece of paper inside. Instruct students to write their names outside their envelopes and gather a circle. Once in a circle, everyone passes their envelope to the person on their right. With each passing of the envelope, students will take the piece of paper out of the envelope and write down a strength they recognise in their peers. Encourage students to write about a specific time they noticed each person’s strength.

#5 Displaying work in the classroom

Displaying students’ work in class is an excellent way to celebrate their efforts. Though especially effective with younger students, even teenagers have feel-good moments when they see their efforts on display. Remember to make these displays diverse and celebrate improvement, not just perfection.

#6 Certificate of achievement

It’s important that students have something tangible to keep that says, “You achieved success”. Cheap, easy and efficient, certificates can be pre-printed, filled in quickly and are perfect for any class occasion. 

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No matter what methods of celebrating success suit your students best, what is most important is the recognition and respect they feel when they are seen and celebrated. By receiving positive messages about their achievements, they will, hopefully, feel inspired to keep trying.

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Jarrod Brown combines his background in journalism, copywriting and digital marketing with a lifelong passion for storytelling. Jarrod established his journalism career working on the education news and information site The Bursar. He lives on the Sunshine Coast - usually found glued to the deck of a surfboard.