Serving the praise sandwich

Sandwich criticism between two slices of praise, suggests Mr. Foteah. For example:

“Johnny, you obviously took a lot of time to write your letters really neatly, just like we have talked about doing. Now, I also noticed when I was reading what you wrote that maybe you could add some more details. I know that just like you’ve started writing neater, you’ll do a good job learning to add details to your writing.”

The praise has to be honest and specific.

I’m helping first graders with reading again this year.  One child is having lots of problems, but she has learned more sight words. I pointed out her progress, very specifically, and she glowed. An aide, who was sitting nearby, smiled her approval. The other child, who’s slightly behind the class average, would have been an advanced reader by the standards of yesteryear.

About Joanne


  1. As a child and teen, I would never have heard the criticism in the sandwich and seen that it was important. I would have heard it, felt a pang about it, and then forgotten as the speaker moved on to more praise. I would have felt happy with the praise, and there would have been no need to think about the criticism.

    Children and young adults need clarity. Sometimes adults see things and think they are obvious. Children don’t yet know all of the social conventions by which adults try to not state the obvious, and don’t know what is being said. If there’s a problem that a student needs to address, don’t hide it between to things that make them feel good and assume they understood what needed addressing.

  2. Michael E. Lopez says:

    Little psychological manipulations like this are only necessary when the student doesn’t trust the teacher… and if you are genuine in your praise and your criticism, the student will trust you and the “praise sandwich” will no longer be necessary.

    The trust and the genuineness are what are doing the work here, not the sandwich.

    • Of course, Michael, when criticism needs to be levied before trust can be built, the established trust you say is necessary will not be there – nor will it have a chance to build because all the child will hear is negativity.

  3. Michael E. Lopez says:

    You don’t build trust with children by offering praise.

    You build trust by being competent, interested, and honest.