Compliment Game

“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

As the year comes to a close and I look around my classroom, I see the artifacts of academics. The Mayan Temple, the diagram of the solar system, the poster of geometric shapes. I reflect on the hours of planning and preparation that went into my instruction. At the end of year, I also always find my self reflecting on the students.

I think about a student who was incredibly shy. English is her second language and she was self-conscious about possible mistakes. At the beginning of the school year, her answers were only one word. At lunch, she would sit and listen, never directly responding to conversations.

Around mid-year, I gave her a journal. By the end of the month, she had filled every single page. One day, she asked me if she could share some of her writing. With a clear and confident voice, she read a poem she’d written. It was beautiful. I showered her with praise and through a smile she said, “Writing makes me feel brave.”

Reflecting on this student, I felt the need to give her a compliment and share with her what she had taught me. My thoughts began to multiply as I realized every student had somehow made an impact on me. We had all made contributions to each other. They needed to be recognized.

Starting with the Compliment Game

A great place to start is with The Compliment Game from the Yoga Calm® Curriculum. It teaches students how to give and receive compliments. We played this game many times throughout the year. I was ready to take the compliments to a deeper level. I launched a class-wide compliment challenge: write a high-quality compliment for each student in class. This got me thinking… what makes a good compliment?

Writing High Quality Compliments

I began by bringing the class to a place of stillness. Start with ringing the chime, and placing Hands on Heart and Belly with cuing language found in our Move Mindfully® Card Deck. We envisioned our community. The healthy relationships we had built over the year rested on communication, teamwork, and social engagement.
students support one another in tree circle

Working through the CASEL standards for social emotional learning, students were able to demonstrate their understanding of community. My students had background from our ELA standards on character traits. This was the perfect place for a practical application!

Compliments Using ACT

A is for ACTION

Think of a specific positive action you observed.
“I observed Nora return her library books.”


Think of a character trait that would describe someone acting that way.
“Nora is responsible.”

T is for TEACH Me

Think about what that action can teach you.
“This taught me the importance of staying organized.”

“Nora, I noticed that you always return your library books. I appreciate your responsibility and it has taught me the importance of staying organized.”

My students crafted compliments for each other using this technique. I encourage you to give it a try as a way to honor students. Take the time and make space to give and receive meaningful compliments. Life as a teacher begins the day you realize you are a learner along with your students.

My Compliment

I see before me a girl with a story to share. You are always listening. I notice. You are always thinking and aware of the world around you. When you shared your writing in front of the class, I connected with your bravery. You taught me the importance of sharing my story. I have rediscovered my love of writing. You taught me to be brave.
Love, Mrs. Kennelly

As I watch the bus pull out of the parking lot, I see my students’ smiling faces through the window. I am thankful for how much I have learned this year. The teacher in me, honors the teacher in you.

school bus leaving

Have you used compliments? How did you close the year? Leave a Comment!

Be Well,
Stephanie Kennelly

1 reply
  1. Sonja Wildwood
    Sonja Wildwood says:

    Thank you for this post. I am always looking for new ways of teaching social skills and I love this idea to help acknowledge and affirm specific behavior and traits. At my place of work we are gearing up for summer programming. We are an after-school program that goes to day time hours in the summer in downtown Duluth!


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