Encouraging Words

by Duen Hsi Yen

In order to create an effective learning environment, it is necessary to know the language of encouragement. This refers to a nonjudgemental empathy and caring about how a particular student feels, choosing the words or phrases that he or she finds encouraging. If the student looks more discouraged after what you said, then try saying something else! When they smile and their eyes brighten up, you know you are reaching them. Likewise, you too will smile and your own eyes will also brighten up! Hey, let's all have some fun here! I compiled the following while teaching at various schools in Hawaii. I simply asked my classes to tell me what kinds of encouraging words they would like to hear from me. When a student makes a presentation, I would ask my class to help out and express their appreciation. With this kind of dialog, I was able to quickly learn about the culture of students of diverse backgrounds.

Wow! Great job! Now you've got it!
Awesome! Outrageous! You have a lot of talent
Superior! Fantastic! Very much improved.
Right on! Outstanding! You're the best!
Nice job. I'll take that. That's a commendable job.
Wonderful. Fabulous! You can do it!
Good going! You're great! That's thoughtful of you.
Groovy! Hang ten! You're good at this.
Good job. Good work. Keep up the good work.
Clever! Correct! I liked the way Mat cleaned his desk.
Incredible! Impressive! I like the way Mark raised his hand.
Nice work. I'm proud of you. Now that's creative!
Bravo! Applause. It's been a pleasure to be with you.
Hug. Hot dog! Hamburger, two fries and a shake!
Shaka sign. Give me five! You are very precious!
:) Smile! Kawabanga dudes!
Laugh! That's hip! That was BAD! :)
That's nice. I'm touched. That's so funny! Ha Ha Ha!
Terrific! Thank you. I can see you enjoy learning.
Great! Good cooperation. You were very courageous.
Whoopie! That was fun. I like your enthusiasm.
Aha! Great! You really outdid yourself.
Artistic! Chicken skin You are very intelligent.
Cool! I like malama too! I appreciate the encouragement!

The above is one of three lists in this hypertext document. I originally got the idea after seeing a page entitled "WAYS TO SAY "GOOD FOR YOU!" copied out of a workbook published by the International Network for Children and Families, located in Florida. On this list, they said it was adapted from another list by an Edward S. Kubany. I then did an electronic search of the University of Hawai'i Hamilton Library's card catalog, and by chance, found that such a person did their Ph.D thesis right here in Hawaii! Could it be the same person, I asked myself? I then looked in my local telephone book and found such a person and immediately dialed his office. Indeed he was, and he said that the list was first published in 1972, and that there were so many requests for the article, that he and his publisher placed it in the public domain. The title of his article is 65 Ways to Say "Good for You!" which first appeared in Teacher, 90, pg. 47.

Now check out my Encouragement Machine!

Using the encouraging words as outlined above maybe a little simplistic. Not everyone reacts in a positive way, and adults can also be accused of using these words of praise to manipulate a child's behavior like a circus animal. For some thoughts on this, see my webpage Praise versus Encouragement."" Last updated 29 June 2000

Copyright © 1995-2000 by Duen Hsi Yen

I hereby enter my article into the public domain. If you send me encouraging words not on these lists, I may post them in future editions of this page. Send e-mail to:

E-mail: yen@noogenesis.com

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