Aug 05, 2017

Powerful words to say instead of “good job!”

When one of the students shares with me something they have made or done, my automatic response used to be to say, “good job!” But, I have learned there are far more valuable things we could be saying instead of “good job” to our children.

What’s so bad about saying “good job?”  It makes perfect sense to say “good job” but, it doesn’t provide effective feedback to children – it doesn’t tell children exactly what he or she did that was good.

Think of it this way…

  • Saying “good job” is closed-ended – it simply ends the conversation rather than extends it.
  • Saying “good job” focuses on the product (or the end result) rather than the process (the effort).
  • Saying “good job” doesn’t give the child details or encouragement on what they did that was good.                                                                                                                                       
  • Saying “good job” doesn’t encourage the child to do better, take more time, think broader, consider other ideas, and so on as it seems that what they are doing is simply good enough.
  • Saying “good job’ without any specific feedback can give children a false sense of success.

I wouldn’t say that saying “good job” is bad as much as that it isn’t enough. There either needs to be more to the response or there needs to be a completely different response. Whenever a child comes to me and says, “look at my drawing Ms. Amanda,” I take the time to realize that the words I choose to say have the power to build confidence, foster growth, promote learning, and encourage thinking.

But Amanda, you might say, I don’t have time to give detailed responses to my child all day long.  Yep, I understand that and so in the midst of a very busy day, there will be times when all you can do in the moment is say “good job” but where possible, try to come back to the conversation later and expand on it more. What was it about the child’s effort that made drawing a picture a good job?

Below are some examples you may find helpful:

Experience Phrase
Child brings you a drawing “I see that you chose lots of different colors. The time you took to select each color shows you have a good eye for detail.”


“Wow, look at all the different colors you choose, tell me more about your picture.”

Pouring “You managed that glue so carefully.”
Engaging in an activity with others “I was admiring how you all read that story together.”
Using materials to create objects “Your invention is very intriguing. How does it work?”


“Your project is coming along nicely. What are you planning to do next?”


What do children really want?

When you genuinely respond to a child’s work by focusing on the process or effort, you are essentially saying “good job” only the response is more meaningful and useful to the child. There’s nothing more rewarding than to be acknowledged and to have somebody show interest in your work. That’s what a child really want.

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