All teachers want to foster a community of learners who are thoughtful, kind, and proud of who they are and what they contribute to the class. Positive News Board is a strategy that makes space for students to pay attention to and publicly recognize what others are doing well. As students notice their peers engaging in positive contributions such as helping explain directions, going out of their way to be kind, or engaging in any action that aligns to their class values, they write a note about their peer's behavior and post it to the board on their own initiative. The teacher reads the news slips that include the name of the student being celebrated and a description of their positive contribution as part of the routine and ritual of class, and they can even consider including the slips as part of a report to parents. Focusing students' attention on positive contributions encourages their energy to be directed towards empathy and celebration.
Choose a permanent space in the classroom to set up your board. Create your own slips that include the student's name being appreciated, the date, and some space on the slip for the description of the student's actions, or use the premade news slips provided in the resources below! Provide a writing utensil and thumb tacks or magnets so students can post them independently.
Determine where you will have the Positive News Bulletin Board in your classroom. It is helpful to have it in a place that is easy to access and also a place that students will see.
Create Positive News sheets. You can customize these sheets depending on your needs. For older students, you may choose to make them a Twitter format to be more engaging.
When launching the practice, model for students how to write detailed, specific compliments that would tell others how and why the student's actions are newsworthy. You can provide a short, non-specific example (e.g. Juan is helpful.) with a very specific example (e.g. Juan noticed that Sarah didn't start her work right after she heard the directions. He went to her and showed her how to start the vocabulary activity and even watched her as she completed the first question to make sure she understood.). Be sure to ask students to tell you the differences between the two examples.
Set expectations and norms.
Can students go get a sheet or hang up their sheet at any time? Should they do it at the end of class to avoid disruptions?
Can students only write about others? Do they need to vary who they write about?
Engage in the activity. It may be helpful to call out positive contributions in order to support students to engage in the activity.
At the end of class or at least the end of the week, ask students to share the reports they wrote and watch students beam with pride. You may want to regularly clear the board and give to the students the compliment they received from their peers to take home and share with their families.
You could tie this to a behavior system, classroom economy, or add in a reward if you see fitting.
If you notice that students are repeating compliments, you may want to provide a menu of words included in the resource section below that students can look for in others. You may also want to find videos and stories to illustrate the words you'd like to see used. For example, students may not know what determination is, so you could use a YouTube video to spark conversation about what it looks and sounds like.
During a virtual morning meeting or class meeting, teachers can reserve time for students to complete a positive news board and then share out their positive news with their peers. If teachers are not meeting with students synchronously, they can create asynchronous digital opportunties for students to share their positive news as well.
Schedule a regularly occurring virtual morning or class meeting during which students can share positive news about their academic or social accomplishments.
If your students do not have access to technology, consider providing an opportunity for them to share their academic or social accomplishments with you via mail or if students have access to a caregiver's phone, through text message or a phone call, and be sure to respond to what they have shared with you.
If you are not able to have synchronous class meeting times, have your students share their positive news with each other asynchronously using one of the tools such as Padlet or Flipgrid included in the Tech Tools box below.
Set norms for having students share their positive news with each other. Consider making an anchor chart or a Y chart with students to determine these norms. To learn more about Anchor Charts or Y Charts, find the Y Chart for Clear Expectations strategy in the BetterLesson Lab
If students are contributing their positive news using a tech tool, consult BetterLesson's Developing Norms and Expectations for Digital Tool Use strategy linked below.
Give students a few minutes to write down the positive news they would like to share with their classmates. You can have students post their positive news using a tech tool such as Padlet or Jamboard, or via a backchannel discussion tool such as in an LMS common area (wall) or as comments under a post in GoogleClassroom. To learn more about any of these tools, consult the Tech Tools box below.
Consider providing a sentence stem for students to use as they develop their positive news such as:
"One thing that I learned or accomplished in school this week that I'm proud of is..."
"One thing that happened in my life that makes me feel happy/proud is..."
"Some positive news I'd like to share about one of my classmates is..."
Once students have written their positive news, project their responses on your screen and then have them take turns sharing their positive news with the class using the norms that you developed together on the anchor chart or Y chart.
Be sure to ensure equity of voice by making sure that all students have a chance to share their positive news within each week.
Be sure to have students respond to each other's positive news with verbal praise or a clap/snap.
Another way to celebrate positive news in a more academic setting is to recognize when students learn a fact that they did not know.
At the end of the week, it can be nice to have students share out positive reflections on the week as well as what they are looking forward to. Consider first having students respond to the 5 prompts independently before sharing with a partner or the whole class:
Using tools like a Positive News Board to celebrate student success is a foundational tool teachers can use to support students with disabilities. Building an environment where these students feel that their success will be acknowledged is an important building block to helping them form relationships and thus build overall engagement and investment in their learning.
Using a Positive News Board effectively in a classroom requires significant executive functioning (task initiation, prioritization, working memory, etc.), emotional regulation, and written expression skills. In order to support students with disabilities in these areas, consider the following modifications:
For students with disabilities that impact their ability to meet classroom expectations, consider using a Positive News Board to celebrate growth towards meeting those expectations, no matter how small.
This strategy supports classroom culture by celebrating positivity. English learners are provided models of positive classroom interactions and guided ways to share complimentary feedback.
English learners need to write and read posts. Learners are also required to share positive news verbally and listen to their peers share and respond. In order to support English Learners consider the following modifications:
Explicitly pre-teach positive news vocabulary. Ensure learners understand the positive news words in context, e.g., provide scenarios. Provide graphic cues for words and consider adding them to an anchor chart for whole class reference. Consider using a Y chart to show learners what brag tag worthy achievements look like and sound like.
Scaffold written news sheets. Learners at lower levels of proficiency may require support in creating compliments to share. Consider having learners dictate their compliments for you to write, providing fill in the blank sheets with word banks, and/or creating ready-made compliment sheets that describe routine positive classroom actions with visual anchors. See the "Pre-made Positive News Slips Template" in the resource section below.
Perform 1:1 check ins. Check for understanding of positivity expectations and news sharing norms with learners at lower levels of proficiency. Have learners describe for you a positive act they’ve seen or done. When learners are complimented, check in to ensure they fully comprehended how they were complimented. Consider using a response protocol to engage learners. See the "Extending English Language Learners' Classroom Interactions Using the Response Protocol" resource in the resource section below for more information.
How can you support students to use specific language that identifies positive behaviors of their classmates?
How can you ensure all students make it at least once on the news board over the course of the semester?
How can you scaffold the use of the news board over time until it becomes part of a student's routine?
How can you create an environment that fosters the positive news board?
What can you do if students are not engaging with this strategy?
How can you ensure that students take this seriously and shout each other out for appropriate, positive contributions?
If you're worried about students using thumb tacks, try pre-printing post-it notes so students can write on them and just stick them on the board. The Our Elementary Lives blog is a great resource that provides a template included in the resource section below and instructions for printing! Or if your whiteboard is magnetic, you can use magnets.
Padlet is a virtual news board which allows students to type their compliments on a virtual post it.
If wall space is at a premium, if you are engaging in distance learning, or you do not meet regularly in one space, you can make the news board virtual by using Padlet. This will require you to more consistently remind students to use it and to make the link easily accessible.
Slack is a moderated backchannel in which students can post questions, share learning and talk to each other in and out of class.
If you have a blended class or are already using a backchannel, you can make the news board virtual by using Slack. You can dedicate an entire channel to Positive News.
Explore the "We Have Positive News" lesson included in the resource section below by 3rd grade ELA teacher Jennifer Martinez to see how students can recognize each other's positive contributions.