One hundred positive adjectives for learning.

One hundred positive adjectives for learning.

Have you heard of the “ideal praise to criticism ratio” (5:1)?
It’s used in business to improve team performance.

Or how about the “magic ratio” (5:1) used in Dr John Gottman’s research with married couples. He predicts the success or failure of a marriage using a 5:1 positive to negative interaction ratio.  

There's also research supporting the ratio of positive to negative affect (3:1) needed for an individual to flourish. That research has been reviewed/updated by Dr Barbara Fredrickson in her book Positivity



All three ratios show that positive interactions should ALWAYS outweigh negative. It doesn't matter if you are interacting with your spouse, peers or children. That's not saying neutral/negative interactions will never occur – that would be unrealistic.  

But it is ESSENTIAL to ensure the ratio of positive to negative is always more than 1:1.  


The human brain places more importance on negative experiences than positive ones. For the scales to balance, positive experiences/interactions need to be more frequent to have an effect. In adults, it's been proven that positive thinking and self-talk offer a range of health benefits.

But isn't it more beneficial to start tipping those positivity scales as early as possible? 

As Fredrickson sees it, "positivity is the mindset that helps produce emotions such as joy, amusement, happiness, serenity, gratitude and inspiration." It can also be argued that the reverse is true. Early childhood environments that value and foster those same emotions will surely enable positivity to flourish.  The outcomes of the positivity mindset Frederickson describes read like 'best practice' in early childhood settings

having more moments of that open mindset help us connect with others and build our relationships, it helps us build our resilience, it helps us build our physical health because we become more energetic     

Source: Interview with Janet Malcolm ABC's All In the Mind


Whether educators (and parents) are modelling positive interactions or writing about them, the language matters. It's important to always focus on the learning process rather than the end product. It’s the “learning” in a learning story that provides the key.
What is the child learning to do?
What qualities do they display in their learning? 
Is a child being "stubborn" or "determined"? "Loud" or "expressive"? "Nosy" or "curious"?
Aim to keep your language positive, engaging and specific.

To help out we’ve compiled this list of 100 positive adjectives. Use them in your learning stories and in your daily interactions. No more good boy/good girl/good work - it's not useful. 



Now challenge yourself

You give children feedback on their learning daily but are you meeting a ratio of 3-5:1? 
Choose a day and 2-3 children. You'll need a basic column chart for recording interactions
Aim to have 3-5 positive interactions with each child for every neutral/negative one in that day.
Note them down.
What did you say - did being aware of the need for positive interactions make you do anything differently? 
Consider your interactions to see which words you use regularly, then change it up.  
Try 3-5 different positive adjectives from the list every day/week and see how long it take you to use all 100.

Be sure let us know how you go in the comments - and if you have more adjectives to add!

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