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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Ten Ways to Motivate Your Students

Teach Bake Love wrote a post of her Motivation Top Ten recently, and I thought it was such a great idea. I did steal a couple of her top ten suggestions :) but make sure you check out her post, too!
What are the top ten ways you motivate your students?

But once I got going, I thought of 12, so... you get a bonus! :)

12. Have multiple ways to reward!
I have individual rewards (clip chart), group rewards (froggy below), and class rewards (cotton ball jar). This way, I can use the good kind of peer pressure, but I can also reward individuals who earn it.

11. Smiles.
Okay, it sounds too simple to be worth anything. But I find that making a point to smile at kids after they answer, or even when I'm reminding them of the rules, makes them more motivated to try.

10. Document data and share their growth.
Data-driven education makes a lot of sense for a lot of reasons, but showing students data when they're improving can be really motivating. Kids love to see their improvement! I am careful with this one, though- sometimes, if we're not seeing growth even when someone is trying hard, it can be discouraging. 

9. Give them chances to be social.
If I ask a higher-level thinking question, sometimes I'll have 3 hands up. Then I have them think-pair-share. Suddenly, I have 95% of them talking about the question- and usually, once they've shared with a friend, I'll have at least twice as many feeling confident enough to share in front of the class. Working with friends helps with motivation, too, as long as I'm careful they are working! :)

 8. Get to know your kids.
When I make a math journal problem, I put in a current student's name and try to make the situation involve an interest. It can be as simple as knowing that a kid likes LEGOs, but it's motivating. I also try to go to their events outside of school occasionally if they invite me (and I'm free), but I realize it'll be a lot harder to do that when I have a family of my own.


7. Show off their best work.
This can be in the hallway, to colleagues, to the principal, to parents... but I find that showing their work to their peers and complimenting them- or better yet, letting the students compliment them- raises the motivation considerably. I miss my ELMO for this!

6. Express confidence in them...
Especially in science, I feel like we dumb things down a lot for kids. I make a point of telling my class when something we're doing isn't officially "third grade" material, but that I think they can handle it. I work a lot at the beginning of the year to teach them that challenges are fun chances to make your brain stronger, so that they come to enjoy them and rise to them instead of fearing anything difficult. Behaviorally, when I give a reminder of the rules, I like to add, "I know you can do this!"

5. But let them know that you don't expect perfection.
My kids know that I don't expect them to get things right every time. I reward great thinking, not just right answers. (For instance, I might show the class a math journal entry that has a mistake and has the wrong answer, but used a really creative problem-solving strategy.) They have had ingrained into them that clipping down is okay because they can always turn it around. They hear me say- often- that I made a mistake or that I have things I'm still working on, too, so they know that my expectations for achievement are a little different for each individual, even though I always have high expectations for their effort.

4.  Positive notes.
At my last school, we had a prize menu sort of thing, and I was always amazed with kids turning down toys or candy if I would call their parents with positive news, or send a positive note home, but it was extremely motivating. I found these great postcards at Wal-Mart at the beginning of the year, and I use them to write random positive notes to my students. They get something in the mail, their parents get to see, they get to keep it, and it's a way to let them know that I see the little things they are doing well. I keep a checklist with my postcards so I can make sure I do this for everyone! 

3. Get to know how each student likes to be recognized.
For really exceptional things, my students can visit the principal for a special reward, and she will announce their name during our morning announcements. For most of our kids, this is fantastic- but I had one girl last year who deserved the recognition but asked that the principal please not announce her name because she was so shy and she would have felt embarrassed. Most students like positive praise in front of their peers, but others may want it shared with their parents, or even just privately, and it's important to know that you're recognizing the student in a way they are okay with.

2. Give positive reinforcement when it's earned.
My favorite thing about the clip chart system is that I say "clip up" twice as much as I say "clip down." Many times I can point out misbehavior in a way that doesn't shame anyone or even punish them in any way, while recognizing those doing the expected behavior. I love, too, that I can use it for anything. My kids know that clipping up rewards exceptional behavior, but that exceptional for one kid might be different than exceptional for another, based on what they are each working on. I use other strategies, too, but I love the clip chart for this! 

They also get a chance to be enshrined in the "Sparkling Hall of Fame" which they love, and for various reasons, my kids can be chosen to be a "Star Student" on the newsletter. The qualifier changes each week, so I get to recognize different kids.

1. Keep my instruction interesting and my students involved- especially through integration!
I was once told by a very smart teacher that the best management plan is a great lesson plan. If your students are engaged, they are less likely to be misbehaving or unmotivated. For me, integrating science and social studies into reading and math is one of the best ways to do this. I LOVE teaching in themes, and I find that my students are so much more motivated when they can see connections between what they are learning!

So, there you have it- my top ten 12 ways to motivate students. I know it's not perfect, though- so feel free to share what you do!

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