Analysis and Discussion of "The Praise Paradox"

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SWBAT trace an argument in a longer text, “The Praise Paradox” by Po Bronson and Ashley and Merryman by discussing and analyzing it.

Big Idea

What motivates you, praise or criticism?


1 minutes

The lesson focuses on kicking off the theme of the argument unit, the role of praise and motivation in one's learning.  I sought a somewhat controversial topic so that there would be difference of opinion, but nothing too incendiary, since this is the opening set of lessons in the year, and we are still gelling as a class and developing the rules of engagement for constructive controversy that is based on evidence (SL.9-10.1).  The lesson will focus on exploring key ideas and tracking what the author's point seems to be (RI.9-10.3), his use of evidence (RI.9-10.1) and exploring how these efforts might lead to a strong written argument (W.9-10.1).  The next lesson will focus on debriefing cause/effect by having students complete a comprehension graphic organizer. 


Link to my video notes explanation of this lesson!

Activate Prior Knowledge and Grabber

10 minutes

Attention grabbing hook!  I use this discussion activity to help students see their ideas in a physical way.  It gets them up and out of their seats so that they can engage in the discussion and gives me some important information about how well they can engage in co-leading this class as the year unfolds.

What I do:  Lay a rope of the floor in a circle, and ask students to form a circle around it.  If the question applies to them, they step in and closer to the center.  I start this activity with no-risk questions and then go a little deeper as the class seems ready.  The focus of this activity is to help students to see that English class is a place where we take risks, say what we thing, respectfully disagree, and never give up on finishing a text (SL.9-10.1b).  Since we will be reading “The Praise Paradox,” a 9-page article about praise and task persistence, this is really a key moment in class.   Here are the questions that I expect to ask, but some will be generated on the spot.

1.)    I like to travel to new places.

2.)    I like to meet new people.

3.)    I like to try new foods, for example, spicy foods like Thai food or Indian food.

4.)    I like difficult assignments.

5.)    I like challenging assignments.

6.)    I want to try bungee jumping sometime!

7.)    I am not afraid of being wrong.


Activate prior knowledge:  What makes you do well in school?  Do you need positive feedback?  Would you rather be somebody who is smart or who works hard?  Whom do you think learns better?  What is task persistence, and why is it important?  Most importantly (on board): how do pressure, praise, and performance affect you?

I will use the discussion and modeled examples to elicit student thinking and to develop the norms of constructive controversy.

Reading the "Praise Paradox," a non-fiction article exploring feedback to students

20 minutes

My goal in this lesson segment is to facilitate our reading of a longer piece of non-fiction (link to article), our first serious text in the class.  We will mix it up between large group, pairs, etc.  Again, I am looking to emphasize the norms of the class (SL.9-10.1a) and focus our discussion and analysis on evidence (RI.9-10.1). 

1.) I will read the first 2-3 pages of the article, tracing the graphic organizer on the board and asking students to add their own ideas for effects of different kinds of praise.  

2.) Students will complete reading in pairs, circling unfamiliar vocabulary and looking for ways to define the word in question (L.9-10.4).  They will write a guess definition in the margin and be able to explain why they think it fits based on surrounding context clues. 

3.) Whole class debrief of reading.  We will discuss the students previously-learned vocabulary and word-attack strategies used for at least the following words: (pp.  5-9): control group, aptitude, distorts, risk-averse, mediocre, inevitably, duplicity, glaring…

3.) On the next lesson, we work on summarizing the article using a cause/effect graphic organizer (RI.9-10.2).




1 minutes

The text from this lesson comes from an online publication by the National Education Association: “The Praise Paradox” by Po Bronson and Ashley and Merryman. 

The lesson ideas here were influenced and made possible by team work that I completed under the READi grant.   PROJECT READI is a multidisciplinary, multi-institution collaboration aimed at research and development to improve complex comprehension of multiple forms of text in literature, history and science. READI is a project supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R305F100007 to University of Illinois at Chicago. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education.