Teacher Tip – How to Tactfully Offer Constructive Criticism with a Poop Sandwich

Criticism is always difficult to deliver tactfully and constructively but Silly Fish Learning founder, Rebecca Humphries was given a great piece of advice by an old colleague that really stuck in her mind… thanks to the strong imagery!

As teachers, our main job is to help students learn and grow. When a student does something well we must praise, praise, praise that student to encourage them to continue. However, it can be tempting to only offer praise and this can be dangerous.

Mistakes are a part of life. If we aren’t making mistakes we aren’t really trying and we won’t make any progress. As teachers we must encourage our students to make as many mistakes as possible, but to do so we must be ready to highlight those mistakes. To encourage our students to grow we must help them to learn from their mistakes.

Criticism is a necessary part of teaching, but being overly critical can discourage students and especially children. How can we give constructive criticism without upsetting a child?

[bctt tweet=”‘Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.’ – Frank A. Clark” username=”@SillyFishLearn”]

The Poop Sandwich

A child smiling while holding a sandwich. Implied that it is a poop sandwich.
Please don’t eat that…

It was an old colleague of mine who gave me a great piece of advice… feed them a poop sandwich (though ‘poop’ wasn’t her chosen word). If you have a piece of criticism to give, lead in with a positive comment to disarm them, give your suggestion for improvement and then soften the blow with another compliment. Essentially – sandwich the poop between praise.

This technique provides a great solution with positive reinforcement outweighing criticism. It helps the student to feel that they are valued while still reflecting on areas for improvement.

This is also an effective technique when you need to speak to a child’s parents. Sometimes parents can find it difficult to hear criticism of their children. A poop sandwich assures parents that you are treating their child fairly which can actually make them take the criticism more seriously. If your criticism is related to behaviour this can help you secure an ally while addressing the issue.

What techniques do you use to offer constructive criticism?


Rebecca is the founder and chief executive officer of Silly Fish Learning Ltd. She is a children's playwright with a vast and varied career in education, primarily teaching drama and English.

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