I do this as well - praising those who are following directions, doing great work, etc. Amazingly, my 2nd grade class (which is one of THOSE classes!) was extraordinary this week. I asked them today what caused them to be such arty smarties all of a sudden - one of my biggest troublemakers smiled and said "cause you don't yell at us all the time, you let us have fun". What was the fun? Just art. :-) And Susan, I'll bet that little guy made you cry! I'd have been blubbering all over the place.
This is similiar to the "Proximity Praise Approach". You know, when table two is noisey and table one is quiet, you praise table one instead of scolding table two.
Sometimes when I notice that a child is following directions, working up to his/her potential, and showing effort, I hold up his or her art for all to see, ask the class to stop for a moment and to look at it. Then, I point out what makes the work successful, how this student had accomplished the goals of the lesson, or just simply how beautifully this student had followed directions (Such as, "I like the way John used his whole paper for drawing.") I might even bring it to each table for an example for all to see. The benefits are two-fold: Those in the class who need to improve discover what they need to do without direct criticism from me. And the child whose art I'm showing feels like a million bucks!
I didn't realize what an impact this had until last year. Under the photo of each graduating 5th grader was his or her most memorable moment . One very quiet, shy boy wrote,"When the art teacher held up my art as an example for the class." That response was even better than the six kids who said they wanted to be art teachers when responding to "Future Profession"!
Susan on Long Island