SEL Tip: Deep “puts-ups” can build relationships

Encouraging students to use put-ups can improve the climate in your classroom. But many put-ups are about surface qualities. (I like your shoes!) Help students craft deeper put-ups with these simple steps.

At Morningside Center, we explicitly teach kids about put-downs (negative comments about a person) and their opposite, put-ups. We create time for students to practice crafting and delivering put-ups instead of put-downs.
Any put-up is a step in the right direction. But not all put-ups are alike. For example, consider:

  • “Your hair looks great!”  vs.  “You have a great sense of humor.”
  • “I like your sneakers.” vs. “I appreciate that you always keep a secret.”

Both adults and young people are often more comfortable giving “surface” put-ups (about what someone has or how they look, for instance) than they are giving deeper put-ups (which describe someone’s behavior or personal qualities).
And yet “deep” put-ups have more power to build relationships and shift classroom climate. Deep put-ups let the receiver know that the speaker has really thought about who they are and about the positive impact they have in the classroom and the world. Since they are the kind of words we usually hear only from people we are close to, they can build relationships in a way that surface put-ups cannot. Deep put-ups also help the giver by cultivating their empathy and appreciation, two habits that bring joy.
Follow these simple tips to support your students in crafting deep put-ups!


The How

Since deep put-ups require us to reflect on and analyze our own observations and experiences, we need to provide some scaffolding to help students craft and deliver this kind of put-up.
Give students some thinking time before asking them to share deep put-ups. You might assign students to write a put-up letter for a peer. Or ask them to write a description of someone they don’t normally socialize with by gathering deep put-ups from people who know them better.
When asking students to think of put-ups for their peers, try using these prompt questions. Look for answers like the ones below.

Question Example Answers
What is something that your classmate does that you admire or wish you could do?
You are a fast runner!
I wish I could draw like you!
You are great at math!
What is something that your classmate does that helps the class? You always help other people at clean up time.
You always share your snack.
You ask good questions in class.
What is one of your classmate’s positive personal qualities? You are kind to everyone.
You are a good listener.
You have great ideas when we do group work.
What is one reason you enjoy spending time with your classmate? You make me feel appreciated.
You will stand up for me.
You like to have fun!