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This content is taken from the National STEM Learning Centre's online course, Managing Behaviour for Learning. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 5 seconds Hello, and welcome to week three. One of the ways that we hook students into STEM subjects is by simple use of a positive note home. A positive note home is four levels of recognition that your students will truly value. It’s not for those students who have just decided to behave well for half an hour. It’s for those students who come every day, they work hard, they’re respectful, they’re polite, they’re diligent. It’s those students that need your positive recognition more than ever. The first level of recognition for a positive note is when you give it to the child. It’s not just a beautiful moment that you share when you give it to them, it’s more than that.

Skip to 0 minutes and 51 seconds You are pegging their behavior. You’re saying to them, this is you behaving brilliantly, doing some outstanding work. Remember this moment. You are framing them as the learner that you want them to be, because next week, when they’re wobbling a little bit, you’ll need to take them back to this moment. When you get a positive note, it’s so much better than a digital reward. There’s something tactile going on. The second level of recognition is when the student takes it home. It’s not for you to reward your students with material items, but that may happen at home, and it’s the parent’s right to choose how they reward their child.

Skip to 1 minute and 33 seconds That level of recognition at home is where mom says, I’m so proud of you and sticks that note on the fridge. And that’s recognition level three, because once it’s on the fridge, it’s public in the home. Granny comes around, and grandpa, and all the visitors to the home share in the appreciation of that student. They reinforce the positive messages that you’re trying to give them. And that takes us to the fourth level of recognition. When you take the positive note off the fridge, where does it go? In the bin? Discarded, unloved. You know that’s not true. Any parent will tell you they have a scrapbook for their child. I certainly do.

Skip to 2 minutes and 16 seconds Most of your older students will have their own files that they keep, those small notes of appreciation. And when they’re compiling their record of achievement, those notes are so powerful. They beat that paragraph and summary of their school experience. They have something that’s so much more valuable, and so much more personal. Of course, on the back of the positive note, you have a real opportunity to go further. We’re not just giving our students positive notes to say, well done. Good puppy. We’re about learning here, and we’re about trying to encourage our learners to go further. So on the back of the positive note, let’s have three opportunities for that student to go even further in their learning.

Skip to 3 minutes and 3 seconds Perhaps there’s an invitation to a math club on a Wednesday afternoon. Perhaps there’s a research task in design technology. Perhaps the student is invited to work with some older students on something that’s a little bit more advanced, and some experiments that take them even further. And suddenly, you’re rewarding your students not just with a bit of praise, but with more work. You’d be really surprised how many students take the opportunity to do something on the back of the positive note. And suddenly, you’ve got something simple, cheap, easy to give that’s really valued by your students and encourages them to go even further in STEM subjects.

Positive notes home

So far this week you have learned about recognising students in day-to-day teaching. Paul describes here how positive notes can be used to recognise good behaviour that is ‘over and above’ what is expected. Positive notes home can have a powerful impact on student motivation.

Positive notes home

One of the strategies looked at in the section is the value of sharing good news about students’ behaviour with families. The Steer Report (2009) stated that schools have a clear responsibility to work with and support parents in caring for their children. Research by Kinder et al (1999) found specifically that communications home were well received by both students and parents.

Creating a strong culture of appropriate behaviour doesn’t have to be complicated. As the teacher you can acknowledge those students who are diligent and hard-working every day. Building trust through positive relationships with a student can be simple; one way is the postcard home.

The inexpensive piece of A6 card that has the potential to change a student’s life, leads to more than just your recognition. Its impact is recognised on more then one level.

When you give them the card to take home you are creating a moment in time that will be remembered, by you and them. ‘Thank you for completing that quality homework. Please take this home to show your parents.’ The act of giving creates a marker that you can subsequently refer to as an example of the time when they needed to be acknowledged and how their appropriate learning behaviours helped create trust between you both.

When the card arrives home a second level of recognition occurs as parents talk of their pride and how well their child has done to receive the acknowledgement. ‘I love the way you worked hard on your homework.’

When the card goes public and appears on the fridge door the family get in on the act and provide further reminders for the student. ‘You should be proud of your achievement!’ When the card’s time on the fridge has come to an end, it goes in a parental or student scrapbook or blu-tacked on the inside of the wardrobe door - one of a long list.

More opportunities to involve the student in learning should be taken; on the back of the card offer more times that they could become involved in further learning such as clubs after school or getting involved in community projects with you.

The power of the A6 card…

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This video is from the free online course:

Managing Behaviour for Learning

National STEM Learning Centre