Resolving Dissonance

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Motivating Students

on January 29, 2013

One of the teachers in my school has her classes compete against each other.  they get points for negative behavior and the class with the fewest points at the end of the term gets a class party.

I like the idea of classes competing but there were a couple of things I didn’t like about her system.  The first is that I’d prefer to reward good behavior instead of punishing negative behavior.  There’s not much I can do for consequences.  They loose participation points (which are only a tiny part of the grade) or go to the office eventually (which doesn’t bother them.)  So I want to reward good behavior instead of punishing.

The second weakness I saw was that when one class gets too far ahead of the others, the others become discouraged.   Considering the HUGE behavioral difference between my classes, I could see that becoming a definite problem.

While I was considering how to overcome that problem – I found a game of Chutes and Ladders in the copy room with a paper taped to it that said “free.”  Problem solved!  Someone who gets more turns is more likely to win, BUT with this game, there is always the possibility that your position, or the position of another class could change drastically.  So, even if someone is ahead, you can stay motivated and still have hope that you might win!

I originally wanted to use something with variable interval reinforcement, so about every 5 minutes a timer goes off.  If everyone in the class is doing what they should be you get a point.  But it’s a variable interval, so sometimes it might be after one minute, sometimes not for 8 or 9 minutes.  Or I could do a variable ratio schedule – maybe reward them for approximately every 5 examples of showing the desired behavior, not after exactly five as it is set up now.

I’m sure there’s a way to set that up, but I tried an easier solution for now.  I let each class give rule suggestions, then we voted on them.  We decided that you can’t lose points.  You need 5 points to  take a turn.  A turn consists of one roll dice roll.  I decided that points start over each day (IMO – 1 point each for 5 days is not enough to earn a turn.) Each class voted on what they want their prize to win (my guidelines: has to be allowed by the school and I’m not spending any money.)

Our rules:
– 1 point for starting power up (bell ringer) as soon as the come in
– 1 point for asking a really good question
– 1 point for everyone working during homework time
– 1 point for catching me making a mistake (they love this one!)
– 1 point for doing extra work.  (If I see someone going really in depth on a problem)

Each class gets a different color.  I laminated the paper before writing the rules.  They are written with wet erase markers.  I use dry erase for the daily tallies.

class game

My 6th and 7th period still struggle a little, but the game is helping!  6th period wasn’t even on the board yet when I took the picture.  They finally are now though!  I thought when we started that 5 points might be too easy.  But it actually seems about right.  Most classes get 4-9 points during the period.  Twice a class has had 10 or more.

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4 responses to “Motivating Students

  1. I was writing a post on motivating students when I saw your post! I love this idea! I did something similar but not classes competing. Instead I used Classroom Dojo and both a variable interval reward along with a static goal. The points they earned could be traded in for extra credit opportunities. I included this strategy in my post – http://teachmary.com

  2. […] have noticed in class that students notice their own mistakes more often (and mine, which they get points for!)  Their conversations are related to math a little more often than before.  they are asking […]

  3. Misty says:

    I finally had a class win the competition! I had planned to have everyone restart when another class wins. Should I do that or should I let them keep going? It took almost 6 weeks for someone to win. I am still strongly leaning toward starting over again because I want to encourage them to work harder in class, not earn points at their own pace and eventually get a reward for it. But it did take a long time for someone to win. Maybe I should still start over but revise some rules so that they earn points faster.

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