For example, when working on increasing on-task behavior while sitting at the table, behavior-specific praise could sound like this: “Johnny, you did such a great job hanging up your coat!”
The above behavior-specific praise can be broken down into three components. The first is utilized when the behavior is specified, such as “hanging up your coat.” The second component can be seen when the specific student’s name is mentioned. This is providing 1:1 attention to the student engaging in the desired behavior of hanging up the coat. The third component is that only positive language is used when saying “great job” while providing additional descriptions. There is no negative language — such as “didn’t, no, don’t” — anywhere within the praise being given. It is clear that the child being addressed is engaging in appropriate behavior
For children who respond well to social interactions — such as clapping, tickling, or praise for completing tasks — behavior specific praise can be an extremely strong reinforcer. It clearly labels the desired behavior that they are engaging in, provides each child with 1:1 positive social attention, and can increase the levels of the desired behavior due to the specific reinforcement that the children are receiving. When you are being praised for something you said or did, you are more likely to engage in the behavior afterwards rather than engaging in off-task behavior or inappropriate behaviors to gain attention.
Villeda, S. T., Shuster, B. C., Magill, L., & Carter, E. W. (2016). Behavior-specific praise in the classroom. Tennessee Behavior Supports Project, pp. 1-4.