A few years back, while visiting colleges with my daughter in the United States, I witnessed a simple strategy to build team cohesion. Sadie was training with a basketball team in San Francisco, and as the session ended, the team gathered in a circle, and the coach called for ‘Shout Outs’. At that moment, magic happened. One by one, the players started:
- “Rachel’s shot selection was excellent”,
- “Ket was really pushing the pace”,
- “Nicky’s effort on perimeter defence was intense”.
The impact was incredible – a surge of energy and connection swept the team. Girls who a minute ago were huddled over and puffed from the workout were suddenly standing taller with satisfied grins across their faces. Others clapped and nodded in agreement or slapped each other on the back.
It got me thinking about the power of this simple strategy and how (if used correctly) it could foster positive classroom communities.
Kids today are used to getting feedback from their peers via heart emojis, thumbs up or other digital reactions. But how often are they on the receiving end of genuine face-to-face acknowledgement? When do they get the opportunity to feel the warm rush of pride?
By being publicly recognised by their peers for their progress, effort and ethics, connections are fostered, and motivation expands.
Did you ever notice how when you GIVE someone positive feedback, YOU also feel good? Even if I’m having a hard day, just lifting someone else’s spirits helps change my mood. The research is clear. Expressing genuine gratitude positively impacts both the giver and the receiver and comes at no cost.
The other fantastic thing about ‘Shout Outs’ is that they take some feedback responsibility off us, the teachers or leaders. We can’t always catch every positive thing happening in the classroom, but kids become each other’s supporters with’ Shout Outs’. It’s like having a bunch of detectives who notice and celebrate the good stuff happening around them, and it opens our eyes as teachers to something we may have missed.
- This is not a space for banal platitudes – ‘Shout Outs’ needs to be specific, timely and reflect the effort of the receiver. Don’t accept the “Great work, Toby!” get them to drill down to the specifics.
- Beware of overuse – Too many shout-outs or long drawn-out Check-out Circles will diminish their impact. It is like eating too much sugar. It can make you feel queasy. Keep the sessions short and snappy, and aim for a few times a week.
Why don’t you try using ‘Shout Outs today and watch as the magic unfolds?