Mark Twain once said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.”
A sincere compliment can have a magical effect on a student. We all know that relationships can make or break your classroom. And when you have a particularly difficult student, it can be difficult to keep things positive. That’s where this strategy can help.
One of the easiest and most brilliant strategies I’ve found to encourage students is called the “I Heard” Strategy. I learned it from a colleague who used it at our school. I interviewed her about how this strategy works, and you can find her answers below:
What is the “I Heard” Strategy?
The “I Heard” strategy is a way of celebrating kids who may not always be celebrated. I learned it from an administrator at a large high school whose main goal in life was to help under-resourced children succeed, especially those kids other teachers thought were “bad” kids.
It’s a way to build rapport with kids who for whatever reason may not be that good at “playing school.” The ones who are often in minor trouble, or who may be reluctant learners, or who just need a boost. The ones who have learned that school is a place where they fail and/or get in trouble. It’s not for those kids who are always celebrated, who perform well most of the time and then rack up the awards at the end of the year.
How can I implement this strategy?
A teacher on a team or a grade level will collect emails from colleagues regarding any small successes those kids may experience, even if it’s a small as remembering to raise their hand instead of shouting out answers.
It’s really useful when a kid who usually gets low grades does better than usual on an assignment. Then, when the list is compiled, it’s sent out to teachers/admin who then tell the kid, “Hey! I heard that you did well on your last math quiz,” or “I heard you were on time to ELA every day this week.”
It’s important to read the kid to know if they would prefer that you say these things in private, or out in the open. Some kids prefer you say it just to them. But, I’ve never said it to a kid and not gotten at least a smile.
What are some examples of things to share with students?
- Better than usual grades
- Behavior like talking out a problem instead of fighting
- Being respectful to adults
- Good attendance
- Taking a risk, like reading aloud in class
- Highlighting a success they had outside of the classroom, like on cheer teams or extracurriculars
How do kids respond to the “I Heard” Strategy?
I’ve never had a kid respond negatively. They are always surprised and delighted to know that their teachers are talking about them in a positive light.
It increases rapport between teachers and students. When kids feel appreciated, it makes the them see school as less of a chore. It also creates inroads for those teachers who might struggle to connect with students; it allows teachers to see another side of a kid, one they may have been unaware of.
Do you have any examples or anecdotes?
There was a kid at my last school who was always in trouble. He had very few coping skills and a whole lot of feelings. When we started the “I Heard” strategy, he was so happy when I stopped him and passed along the compliment. He was dying to know which teacher told me about whatever it was he did, but I just said “a little bird told me.” He smiled the rest of the day. That isn’t to say that he was a perfect angel from there on out, but it did provide a little positivity for both of us. It allowed me to see his better side, and it gave him reason to dislike school a little less.