Are your students getting bucky in February??? Lay some VERBAL PRAISE COUPONS on them!


I was a bit tapped yesterday when I strolled into 8th period.  February is a rough month. All the novelty of the school year and the winter season have long disappeared.  The students and my colleagues have gotten (as my mom used to say…A BIT BUCKY!)

But yesterday, as I hustled into class, I was greeted with a student’s smiling face, and this coupon.  PLEASE LET ME EXPLAIN!  Twice a semester, I’ll copy a number of these coupons, bring them to class, and distribute them for various acts or dispositions:

  • Perhaps, a student excelled on an assignment
  • Perhaps, a student made a wonderful contribution to class
  • Perhaps, a student was a good citizen
  • Perhaps, a student encouraged a peer
  • Perhaps, a student was kind and helpful to a classmate
  • Perhaps, a student wore an outstanding outfit

I will then present this young person with a VERBAL PRAISE COUPON that can be redeemed at a time of her choosing.

Now rest assured, the first time you do this, you’re going to be greeted with a lot of mystified, or perhaps hostile, expressions!!!  If you’re adept at body language, you’ll probably interpret some those non-verbal signals:

What’s this crazy $@#!& doing now? Why in the %$#@ do I want a verbal praise coupon?

Also, don’t be surprised, or discouraged, if you find some of your freely given coupons on the floor or in the recycling bin after class!  DON’T LET THAT SHAKE YOU!  A significant portion of the students will tuck them way and redeem them.

I’ve also found, the second and third time you do this, the students become much more engaged and cooperative.  So, try it a few times, but just not very often!  Maybe, a couple of times a semester.

Oh…back to my student yesterday.  I can’t adequately express what her act did FOR ME!  I was having kind-of-a stressful day.  When she presented her coupon…my face was instantaneously creased with an award-winning smile!  I just laughed and laughed!  Then, I complimented her on her beautiful sweater and learned it was a Christmas gift.  We became closer because of my stupid little coupon.  I’ve found such interactions offer a wonderful segue into bonding with kids!!!  And, my pre-class stressed out disposition ended up in the recycling bin instead of an unwanted coupon…all thanks to a scrap of paper!

Please give this easy, fun, low risk method a try!

If you’d like to learn more about connecting with students, check out my book “You’ve Gotta Connect”


You can also listen to me talk about connecting with students on the following podcasts:

Talks With Teachers with Brian Sztabnik

Inspiring Educators with Sung Lee

Cult of Pedagogy with Jennifer Gonzalez

Principal Center Radio with Justin Baeder

All Sides on NPR’s WOSU 89.7 with Ann Fisher

Middle School Matters

Please visit my website and follow me on Twitter @jamessturtevant