Calling the kids smart

Discussion in 'Special Education' started by crazycatlady80, Apr 3, 2016.

  1. crazycatlady80

    crazycatlady80 Rookie

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    I'm completing my first field experience for my SPED credential. My supervising professor said that she didn't like how I kept telling the kids that they were smart during my lesson. Since she is completely unapproachable, I thought I would ask here why that would be a bad thing. Personally, as a former special ed student myself, I think it is really important to tell the kids that they're smart, even if they have ID. I didn't know I was truly smart (and actually believed it) till I was in college. I might ask my professor anyway, but I wanted pose the question here first.
     
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  3. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    Smart isn't something they have control over. Not all kids in the class are smart unless your definition of smart includes almost the entire human race. It is better to praise them on behaviors that they are demonstrating that lead to success. Also, you tell a kid he is smart and he still doesn't get it, he isn't going to feel good about himself. You praise him for actions you see him doing that can lead to success even the smallest success, he can build self-esteem for trying.

    Sometimes it is the hardest working students that succeed rather than the smartest because they learn how to manage areas that are more difficult for them.
     
  4. crazycatlady80

    crazycatlady80 Rookie

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    Interesting point. I never thought of it that way. Personally, I think smart is so relative and all kids are smart in certain areas. For example, I worked with a girl that had Downs. Obviously, her IQ was very low, but she had some of the best visual processing and thinking skills I've ever seen. She was brilliant at puzzles. One time she did a 500-piece puzzle without even looking at the picture. I know very few people, including myself, who could do such a task.
     
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  5. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    I got marked down on an evaluation a few years ago for calling one of my students smart. We're supposed to praise effort because it's something that can be changed/is in the student's control. "Smart" is something that can't be changed and something they have no control over. For example, we're supposed to say something like, "Wow, look at how many words you read. You've been working hard on your reading" or, "Great job; you studied hard and you got a good grade on your test!" It's supposed to help them see that succeeding is within their control by showing them that their efforts/actions got them there.

    That said, one of my best friends has a learning disability and grew up being in sped classes. She told me to tell my students that they're smart and was horrified when I told her I'm not allowed to. She said that she grew up just thinking that she was "dumb." When she was younger, in her perspective there was no point in putting in a lot of effort because she was dumb anyway and even if she did "better," it would still be "dumb kid's work." I definitely think that a lot of my students think this way, even from a young age. She said that it wasn't until community college when she had a professor that showed her she is smart and could compensate for her weaker areas with her stronger areas and/or accommodations. She said that was the first time that she realized she could be "not a great reader" and "smart" (in other areas) at the same time. She was able to finish a BA degree by taking 6 years so she could take less classes per semester and now has a successful career in marketing.
     
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  6. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Wow, this is all very interesting. At first I was thinking the kids need to hear they're smart and that someone is believing in them, but all the above explanation makes a lot more sense.
     
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  7. crazycatlady80

    crazycatlady80 Rookie

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    Exactly! My attitude is that it doesn't matter if they are smart or not. They need to hear it. Like I said, it is all relative. I'm a brilliant writer and researcher and, yet, my seven-year-old next door neighbor can play baseball better than I ever did in my entire life. Being a SPED kid can be very traumatizing, as it was for me. Some of the things that were said to me would make others' hair curl. I won't do it when I'm being evaluated. My master teacher has never said anything about it to me, so I'm guessing it isn't a big deal for her. When I have my own classroom, I will continue to say it.
     
  8. GemStone

    GemStone Habitué

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    I think a good balance is the answer. It's fine to tell kids they're smart, but you said you kept doing that during the lesson. If you say it too much, then like any overused word, it loses meaning. Praise the behaviors that led to their success: remaining on task, looking at the speaker, participating.
     
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  9. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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  10. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    This research is the reason my P won't let us say it. I completely believe in growth mindset, but I also believe that everyone is "smart" at something and it's important to point out that out to kids, especially kids who are in sped and just feel like they're dumb. I definitely don't believe in just saying it over and over again, as a blanket statement, or in situations where it's simply not true/doesn't apply to that specific situation (like telling a student with a math disability that they're so smart in math). However, even my kids who are just really low across the board in academics have other types of "smarts" IMO. For example, one student that comes to mind qualified for sped in every academic area and is very low in all academic subjects. However, her social/emotional skills are way above average for her age. She can motivate other kids, easily diffuse a tense situation, and "connect" with basically anyone pretty easily. I'm very "book smart" but social skills don't come naturally to me. We're both smart, but in different ways. I have other kids that are very talented in art, music, or athletics as well as kids who have dyslexia but are very good at math. I think it's important to focus on growth mindset for weaker areas while also pointing out the natural strengths kids have to help them see that there are some things that come naturally to them that they're just "good at."
     
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  11. crazycatlady80

    crazycatlady80 Rookie

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    I completely agree. Earlier this year, I worked with this child with autism. The District didn't know how to handle this kid, so they hired this outside ABA therapist to train me. She wanted me to praise the kid for EVERYTHING. I remember she wanted me to praise him for walking, which was never a problem for him. It was insane and it stopped meaning anything to the kid.
     
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  12. crazycatlady80

    crazycatlady80 Rookie

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    I will check it out. Thanks for feeding my book buying addiction. :)
     
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  13. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    When you tell kids who are not smart (or you have to really search for that one area in which they are smart), you risk losing your creditability because you are going to be telling kids who are not smart that they are smart and if they don't figure out your lie, others will.
     
  14. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Eh. I think that you aren't doing the kids any favors by telling them that they're smart when they're not. If they're good at baseball, tell them that you love how fast they run and how well they can hit the ball. If they're good at art, tell them that you love the way they use colors and how their portraits look so life-like. If they're good at math, tell them that you love the way they memorized their times tables and how hard they are working even if they sometimes get the wrong answers. Those praises are much more meaningful, and true, than empty, generic statements that every single other kid in the class gets even when it may not apply. I mean, if someone walked up to me and said, "Oh, hey, you're so tall!", I would be like, "Uh...but I'm really not...." and it would immediately make me question their judgment and wonder if they had any ulterior motives or if they even knew me at all.
     
  15. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

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    I agree with this completely.
     
  16. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    I totally agree with everything you are saying... I just wouldn't use the word "smart" to describe all of those skills/talents. Instead of telling a kid that he/she is "smart" in art, I might say: "You are quite talented at artwork". Instead of saying that someone is "smart" in the area of social skills, I would say something like: "You are really great at making friends".

    In short, I'd be more specific. The definition of "smart" is usually intended to refer to intelligence. Some students are really lacking in intelligence. I agree, however, that we should find out what strengths they do have and highlight those strengths for them. We should also praise their behavior and work habits when they are working hard towards something that they are not already skilled or talented at.
     
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  17. TeacherNY

    TeacherNY Maven

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    My students wouldn't even know what I meant if I said they were "smart" so I would never say that. Someone in my school must have told a student he was polite...so now he goes around telling everyone, "I'm polite, right?". I don't know if he understands what that means. I'm assuming he would do the same thing if someone said he was smart. I agree with praising something specific (like artwork) or how they're working (working hard, staying on task, etc.).
     
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  18. ChildWhisperer

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    There was a research done on this some years ago, I think in Japan.
    They took 2 classes of children (same age).
    One was consistently told how smart they were when they got a right answer or did something great.
    The other class was told how hard they worked to achieve the right answer.
    At the end of the year, both classes were given the same impossible question to solve.
    The class that was told they were smart gave up after 5 minutes.
    (I don't know the answer, I'm not smart enough)
    The class that was told they were hard workers worked on the question for an entire hour.
    (I'm a hard worker, I can solve this)

    Being told you are smart makes you think you are naturally smart and that's how you get to answers to solve problems and whatnot. So when you come across a problem that is "hard", you give up because you think you aren't smart enough to solve it.
    When you're told how hard you work to solve problems, you will keep working at it.

    I never tell my students that they are "smart". I always tell them how hard they work, how hard they try, how their brains are doing amazing, etc. (They're preschoolers).
    I hate hearing "I can't do it!" so I tell them I know they can because they're hard workers. It makes them work harder until they get it and they feel so great because they finally did it!
     
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  19. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    One of my grade 7 students who volunteers most frequently during math lessons often gives the wrong answer. I work really hard in my classroom to create an environment where those very public "errors" are not only okay, they are encouraged. We learn far more from those "wrong" answers than we do from the "right" ones. Ethan would never accept me telling him how smart he is; he does celebrate being told how much I love his persistence and willingness to take chances in order to learn.
     
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  20. crazycatlady80

    crazycatlady80 Rookie

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    This is super interesting. Thanks everyone for your opinions.
     
  21. ChildWhisperer

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    Here's some articles about it. I think I was mixing up 2 different researches done and combined them lol
    (Read the last 2 articles!! One is about the study Carol Dweck did on telling kids they were either smart or hard working. The other is about the difference between American & Japanese cultures in terms of struggle/working and intelligence)

    http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/06/the-s-word/397205/

    "When people perform well (academically or otherwise) at early ages and are labeled smart or gifted, they become less likely to challenge themselves. They become less likely to make mistakes, because they stay in their comfortable comfort zone and stop growing. And their fixed mindset persists through adulthood. The simple and innocent praising of a smart kid feeds an insidious problem that some researchers track all the way up to gender inequality in STEM careers."

    http://www.businessinsider.com/carol-dweck-how-to-talk-kids-success-2014-11

    "In one telling study, Dweck and her team gave 400 fifth graders in New York a relatively easy nonverbal IQ test.
    After finishing the test, researchers gave students a single line of praise, either "You must be smart at this" or "You must have worked really hard."
    Though it was only one sentence, it made tons of difference.
    As the experiment continued, the kids were given a test designed for students two grades higher than them, intentionally making them fail. Then they were given another test designed for their education level.
    The result?
    The kids that were praised for their intelligence the first time around did 20% worse on the test after they failed, while the kids that were praised for their effort did 30% better after flunking the extra-hard exam.
    All because of how the grownups talked to them."

    http://www.npr.org/sections/health-...-eastern-and-western-cultures-tackle-learning

    ""We did a study many years ago with first-grade students," he tells me. "We decided to go out and give the students an impossible math problem to work on, and then we would measure how long they worked on it before they gave up."
    The American students "worked on it less than 30 seconds on average and then they basically looked at us and said, 'We haven't had this,' " he says.
    But the Japanese students worked for the entire hour on the impossible problem. "And finally we had to stop the session because the hour was up. And then we had to debrief them and say, 'Oh, that was not a possible problem; that was an impossible problem!' and they looked at us like, 'What kind of animals are we?' " Stigler recalls.
    "Think about that [kind of behavior] spread over a lifetime," he says. "That's a big difference."
     
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  22. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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  23. Special-t

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    I tell students they made a smart decision or analysis or used a smart strategy. These are concrete acts that can be learned, practiced and repeated.
     
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  24. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Apr 9, 2016

    This is pretty cut and dry to me, mostly for the reasons others have done a good job of explaining - the research, the rationale, the fact that it's not true, etc. In short, effort over IQ/intelligence. There's no real reason to use the word "smart" unless you need to - there's plenty of other language that can equally empower kids to see themselves as competent, without the drawbacks.
     
  25. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

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    I don't like to label students. On the other hand, many elementary students think they are stupid at certain subjects or at everything; some parents reinforce this belief by calling their children stupid, or knucklehead, or other names. I agree with encouraging students according to specific behaviors and accomplishments as mentioned above, but sometimes I find it important to assist students in understanding that they are not stupid. Concerning "praise", some research indicates a need for caution in even praising specific accomplishments. Two possible outcomes are that the students will avoid stretching themselves and stay within a comfort zone to ensure they achieve the same praise or rewards or grade. Students might also focus more on achieving the praise, reward, or grade and focus less on learning for the sake of learning; some research implies that the students might view the learning process as a necessary hardship for obtaining the reward and begin to detest the learning. This was especially emphasized in an intriguing book I've just read, (as I mentioned in an earlier post), Kohn, Alfie. Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s Praise, and other Bribes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1993. Kohn is concerned, in one example, that rewarding students for reading books might decrease their desire to read apart from the reward. I found myself agreeing with most of Kohn's conclusions (and he's even careful to mention that the cited research is somewhat debatable). I agree with his main point of being careful not to over-emphasize Skinnerian behaviorism, but rather be encouragers; encouraging students' accomplishments, efforts, ideas, explorations, and even mistakes, [hey, some of the best scientific discoveries were the result of a mistake], and encouraging students to take an active and interested role in their education.
     

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