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Melody (student names are changed) is a friendly, out-going student. However, it’s clear that her self-confidence is struggling this year. Her mom shared that her weight has become an issue recently and her peer interaction isn’t great. Progress reports indicate that she’s a couple grade levels behind in literacy (typical for most of my students). 
Melody’s grasp of English is also continuing to develop. She compensates for this by raising her hand anytime she thinks a question potentially could be asked. She might not know the answer, might not understand the question, and might not even have a thing she wants to say, but she firmly believes that a hand in the air is better than nothing. She’s willing to do just about anything to have her voice at the table, but it’s clear that she feels frustration with her comprehension and communication. 
A simple interaction with her taught me a lot about the power of direct feedback. I’ve been told over and over to not just say “Great job”.  “Great job” connected to a specific action carries much more weight.  My co-lead teacher exemplified this beautifully earlier this semester:
Melody: I noticed there are right angles in all our classroom’s windows and doors.
Teacher: Melody, that comment was very smart. Thank you for sharing it with the class.
Melody: That was the first smart thing I’ve ever said!
What a heart-warming moment. Such a genuine response.
Defining moments happen when we directly connect our praise to specifics. I’m working on developing this skill in the classroom and relationships.