Praising the process: See it in action


I want you to jot down on your Post-It your next little goal for yourself.

Chana Stewart, First Grade Teacher, East Palo Alto Charter School, East Palo Alto, CA: Having a growth mindset means that you believe that your intelligence is malleable.

“It's time for writers, writers, Writers Workshop.”

A Writers Workshop model helps promote growth mindset because it gives students an opportunity to really focus on the process and the habits of mind of what it means to be a writer.

“Giving ourselves little goals or directions help us grow as writers.”

“You want to make your characters move and talk so your reader can really picture them. Awesome goal. Go get started on that.”

One thing I really focus on in my classroom is praising the process rather than praising the product.

“My goal is to have spaces between words.”

“That's such an important goal. You want your reader to really be able to read it. So you want to make sure you have really clear spaces between your words. That's super important. Go get started.”

So rather than saying, “This product was really good,” it breaks down for students what they did that helped them to accomplish that goal.

“You really make your characters come to life...”

And it helps them to think about how they can continue to grow and emphasize those strategies in their work.

“I wanted to teach you how to write a lead that kind of hooks the reader.”

I also think that process praise helps build a growth mindset because it starts to become the language that students then use.

“You also have already thought of a problem.”

So if I'm praising their process, then they can start to focus on the different things that they're doing well in their work, and they then can begin to internalize that language and also use that in supporting partners.

“My goal was to move and make my characters talk, and I made it in the beginning.”

“Thanks for listening to your partner. So show us where you did that in your writing. Your goal was to make your characters talk. Can you show us a place where you did that in your writing? Whoa! You really made them come to life! Way to set goals in your writing.”

“You have set some great goals for yourself about what you're going to do next to take charge of your writing.”

“Writers, I'm going to give you twenty minutes to work on reaching these goals. If you reach this goal, set another little goal for yourself.”

“Where would you start at?”

“Austin tells his mother things.”

“That lead really hooked me because you told me not only what your character was doing, where your character was going, but also what your character was saying. Nice job.”

“Writers, you are really taking charge of your writing. I saw Alexandra, she wanted to revise the beginning of her story. So she went over to the Writing Center, and she said, 'I'm going to go revise the beginning.' She got a revision flap. Sarah really wants to work on making a strong ending. So she set the goal using her folder that she is going to write an ending for her story to solve the problem. Writers all around the classroom, you're setting little goals and then reaching those goals.”

I tried to make my process praise really authentic through really spending time looking at students' work. So before I have gone into a conference with a student, I really spent time looking through students' work so that I can kind of pinpoint what are those areas that I really want to celebrate with that student.

“I took your book home last night, and I started reading it, and you have done something really amazing. Can I tell you what you did that was super amazing? In the beginning, you really made me picture where your story's happening and what was happening. Awesome work, writer! So I was thinking that something you might start trying as a writer is writing in your piece about how your characters are feeling. Do you think you might like to try that out?”

“Whoa! Writers, check this out. Look over here. Joshua discovered in his folder he has a realistic fiction writing checklist, and he used it to see, 'Have I done all the things that realistic fiction writers do?' Wow, you can try that, too, if you're feeling like, 'What's my next goal?'”

“I think if you really want to build your practice in terms of giving process praise, one of the best things that you can do is start to kind of script out what you want to be saying. So have a little cheat sheet for yourself that you can carry around with you in a binder, on a clipboard.”

“I can't wait to see you try that in your writing. Keep up the great work!”

“I heard writers whispering directions to themselves like, 'Imagine another character! Think of an adventure! Make sure my reader can read it!'”

I first introduced process praise to my students through a lot of modeling. So my own self-talk was something that I think was really helpful when I was working through things in front of students.

“Awesome job of putting your goal up there to celebrate that you met that goal.”

I also think that we create a lot of really clear visuals for students about what our goals are, and then we can refer back to those in our process praise. So I think it just kind of becomes like the fabric of everything we're doing in our classroom.

“Where did you reach that goal?”

“I elaborated on three pages.”

“You elaborated on three pages today? Would you hold it up to show us how you met that goal? Wow!”

“I'm seeing some quiet, 'Me, toos.' Some other friends also elaborated in their writing today.”

I think that teaching students about growth mindset in the classroom really helps them to take ownership over their own learning, to be willing to take on challenges, to reflect on their mistakes, and that can carry beyond the classroom into their lives when they are no longer with me.

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