This bit of encouragement is specifically designed for Spanish teachers, but all will benefit.


You may be doing a good job of praising your students already. This document is a way to give you some more ideas and options beyond a reflexive Muy bien.” Under the pressure of teaching, instructors often revert to default mode. When we want to encourage or praise students, the default phrase is often Muy bien.” Teachers can use this resource to vary their praise with students. Students can also use it to praise one another.

Praise is powerful and nobody gets enough of it. Robert Cialdini, renowned professor of psychology at Arizona State University and author of the national bestseller Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, says that almost all of us are helpless in the face of praise:

“Unlike other types of comments, pure praise did not have to be accurate to work. Positive comments produced as much liking for the flatterer when they were true as when they were untrue.” (p. 176)

Cialdini is not encouraging manipulation or insincerity, but describing how effective praise is–even if it is not completely sincere. That’s how starved people are for praise and recognition.

Ongoing, varied, positive comments is how to get student buy-in. Praising shows that you like the other person, and they tend to react more positively to you. If you are new to praising, at least make a conscious effort to give more praise than corrections. Overly lavish praise does not help students, but there is something praise worthy of every student. Find it and praise it. Remember to praise effort, more than the final.

You can also encourage students to use these phrases with one another. To get started, distribute it to your novice students and have them look for the cognates. Many are purposefully used in the list so that lower level students can understand and use them right away.