Trying to motivate students in the classroom


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Abby Callahan, Editor-in-Chief

Teachers have always struggled with keeping students on task. Many students do not see the point of doing their work, but with the right motivation, they will do it. Teachers penalize students by actions such as taking their phones away and making them stay after class. These techniques are very ineffective and just annoying because it is a hassle for students, especially if they are trying to get to their next class on time. In most cases, phones can be very valuable for students to do their work.

Additional things that teachers use are homework passes and bragging rights. While this is a good way to save money because teachers do not have to buy anything, this ends up being unfulfilling for the student who earned the prize and it makes the other students feel bad about themselves. Usually, the homework that teachers give is important to reinforce the concepts that are learned in class, but when you are excused from doing it, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage. When students see their peers bragging about how well they did it puts them in a negative mindset where all they can think about is what they did wrong. This creates a toxic learning environment.

Prize boxes are a great idea, but most of the prizes are cheap and tacky, so students are not excited to pick something out of the prize box. Some things that students are motivated to find in prize boxes are food. Kids love fruit snacks, lollipops and goldfish. This is understandably hard for teachers to do because of all of the allergies.

An encouraging prize that is allergy-friendly are stickers. Whenever I see a teacher giving out stickers for students doing their work the kids have an incentive to actually do their task. Students of all ages love stickers. Just the other day, my classmates were competing to get the top five test scores in the class just so that they could get stickers with memes on them. Students also really love stamps. My math teacher uses stamps a lot and I have heard many times in that class people say, “I only did it to get the stamp.” There have been numerous studies on students’ behaviors when getting physical rewards. In a thesis that Angela M.Y. Choy wrote about classroom environments, she found that many teachers agreed that motivation was connected with physical rewards. When teachers gave out stickers and stamps to students for doing their work, the children continued to show a positive work ethic in order to receive another prize. This shows that students react positively to physical rewards like stickers and stamps.

Another finding from this study was that students have a favorable response to praise. When one teacher was working with a student who was able to count to 10 for her, she congratulated him and gave him a lot of attention and in return, he was able to show her that he could count to 11 by the next day. When peers and teachers create an encouraging environment and complement each other, students are more likely to continually do their work.

While many teachers struggle with finding effective ways to make sure students learn the material, many have found creative solutions. People may say that we should not be bribing our students to learn, but they should see for themselves how productive students can be when they get a sticker for doing their work.