I don't like to give out candy as a reward most of the time, but I just can't help it in February. Throughout the school year, I address different types of interactions, how to begin a conversation, turn-taking, body language and other pragmatic language skills. I started to realize that the flow of conversations was still not always typical. Pre-programmed questions were being asked, answers were given, another topic was asked, and so on. Yes, it worked, but, to my ears, it still did not sound typical. One thing struck me as missing from all of my groups, whether they were elementary, middle or high school students -- compliments. My students learned to thank people when given a compliment, but none of them ever gave a compliment.
I decided that was a goal I needed to address. First, I took a jar and wrote COMPLIMENTS on it, then I put marbles in a bag next to the jar. When each group of students came in, i explained that a marble would be placed in the jar each time a compliment was given by a student. When the jar was filled, we would have a party. We discussed what a compliment was and practiced the four different types of compliments:
1. Appearance (The color of your shirt really shows off your eyes)
2. Character (kindness, responsibility, etc.)
3. Behavior (recognizing someone for a job well done)
4. Possession (I love your necklace!).
Here are two activities I used, one for elementary students, and one for older students.
1. Bean Bag Compliments:
As students toss a bean bag, they toss a compliment. Seat students in a circle or around a table with some room. Explain that the student holding the beanbag will choose a peer, give a compliment, and then throw the bean bag to that person. Pass the bean bag repeatedly, ensuring that all students are included several times.
2. Candy Compliments:
Candy and compliments are given in this game. You will need index cards and pieces of individually wrapped candy. Write the names of your students on the index cards, attach a piece of candy to it, and mix up the cards. Each student should have three cards, adjust the numbers accordingly if you have groups that are smaller).
When students arrive, each student should be given three cards. Students should look at the names on the cards and write one compliment on each card. Students should be encouraged to be creative, selecting compliments specific to the person they are writing about.
Once the cards have been filled out, students can hand out their cards to each person. Allow students to read the compliments they have received out loud while the enjoy their candy.
My students were so motivated, we filled up that jar quickly. They stopped fighting over silly things, and smiled more. They were being nicer, and sounding more typical when having conversations. The jar comes out often, especially if I stop hearing those sweet compliments.