Its funny, today I have heard the word ratio quite a bit. My son came home from school and like you do you ask 'can you give me three things you have learnt at school today' he replied with 'Fantasy stories and in maths I learnt you know those dot things' I had no idea what he was talking about so he went on and got very frustrated at the same time, 'mum, you know the sharing thing' I said divide? and did the symbol in the air... I was doing this in my car on a very busy road with a lot of parents thinking what the hell is she doing as my child is getting pretty annoyed at me... he then did the correct symbol in the air it looked like this : , he said it doesnt have a line in the middle. Okay, so its Ratio... he let out a sigh of relief.
Anyway, now I am talking about Ratio... Not maths (dont worry)
The Power of Positive Reinforcement ...
'Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen'
This is a verse from Ephesians 4:29
I really like this verse and I think it says a lot about how we communicate. At the same time, I came across the phrase 'The Perfect Ratio' of praise to criticism. I had never heard of such a thing, so naturally I went home and looked up some more information.
What is this Ratio?
Good Question... 5 to 1 Ratio is a practise in which teachers increase the number of positive interactions with students as compared to negative interactions. Throughout the school day teachers and students share numerous interactions, such as discussing work or providing feedback. Research has supported the idea that there is a 'critical ratio' of positive to negative interactions between teachers and students to best support and sustain constructive student-teacher relationships. That ratio is to provide 5 postive interactions (e.g. freindly conservations, non-verbal acknowledgment, praise and so forth) to every 1 negative interactin for each student. It is not just about complimenting students, although this is a form of positive interaction, it is about forming postive relationships in general.
The 5 to 1 ratio is meant to improve students feelings of connectedness and positivity to the classroom experience. The negative comments are an integral part of the ratio. A little negative feedback can go a long way with our students. I love this post from 'Putting words in Your Mouth' on the importance of negative comments, it states- 'Shouldn't we be honest with our students? How will they know they are doing something incorrectly if we do not tell them? If they were already capable of self- montioring their speech, then they wouldn't be here. If we dont tell them what they are doing wrong, how will they know what to change?'
I think we all set out to work towards this perfect ratio, relying heavily on positive reinforcement and not enough negative, especially when we are new to the environment. This is because we are all aware of the number or studies that have been carried out with how positive reinforcements shapes behaviour, then off we go ready to speak encouraging words that uplift our students and change them into the perfect communicators we know they can be... but then come the screeching breaks of reality. We have all had students that either spit, hit, refuse to participate or just dont like us. And there we are we become tired and frustrated and the words positive reinforcement is a struggle to find.
In my sessions with my students I dont always utilize the 'perfect ratio'. As I read that verse at the beginning, a couple of students came into my mind. Every week I spend a good amount of time, like you all do on planning my sessions activites. I have purchased materials specifically with those students in mind and have spent countless hours cutting and laminationg in an attempt to engage them in a fun way. If I am honest its sessions I dont always look forward to- thinking back on their sessions, Im pretty sure (actually 100% sure) I dont give 5 positive comments to 1 negative comment in these sessions.
So, as much as I am writing this for you to see, I am also writing this to me. I have come up with a list of ideas to come as close as possible to that 'Perfect Ratio' in my sessions:
1) Always greet every student. A simple, cheerful 'Good morning' can go a long way. Chances are, if you are having difficulty with a student, so is his or her teacher. We need to be that breath of fresh air when they enter our room and give them a completly blank slate, with no mistakes on it yet.
2) Take notice of your students and comment on it. I find little girls especially light up when I tell them “I really like your dress. Is it new?” or “Did your mummy do your hair today? It’s so pretty.” With boys, I always try to make a point of noticing and commenting when they get a new haircut or perhaps new shoes. We want people to notice us and it is the same for our students.
3) Try to leave stress that happened at home, at home. I remember a teacher at school. At times, she would come into school ready to start the day with a smile and other times there was a definite dark cloud surrounding her and she would snap at the smallest things. As her students, we never knew which teacher we were going to get for the day and that lack of consistency bred fear of asking her questions or approaching her. Our students truly have no control over what happens before we come to school, so don’t take it out on them. As hard as it is somedays, try to come to school every morning with a fresh and positive attitude.
4) Make that negative feedback count. Our kids need to be shaped and guided by what they are doing correctly and incorrectly. We need to ensure our students heard our negative feedback “No that’s wasn’t correct” and also that they understand what we want them to change “Instead, try it this way.”
I hope this has been helpful, have you heard of the 'Pefect Ratio' before?
Have a great week praising those students!