How do we get them going?

6th January 2006 at 00:00
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Praising the small achievements builds a good relationship. Some of my pupils will never reach the lofty heights of a level 5, but praising them for handing in neat work or for finishing a piece in class or remembering homework can mean a lot. For others, a simple "well done" or "I'm pleased with your work behaviour" can motivate. Displaying every pupil's work, no matter their ability, also boosts confidence. Scout the cat

Praise. Praise. Praise. But targeted praise! If students have a clear idea of what is expected, both in terms of behaviour and attainment, then they will recognise when they have achieved. If we mark that achievement through stickers, merits, letters home, or a simple "well done" they will be motivated to keep on working towards targets. LadsNR

My department uses raffle tickets. The kids are rewarded with a ticket that goes to a draw for the end of a lesson. They then pick a prize from the box (sweets, pen, etc). They love it. Even some of the more difficult Year 10 and Year 11 boys get very upset if they don't get something. lizzy25

In my Year 1 class we use a combination of the marble jar, which is a whole-class reward system, and "superstar tickets", which an individual can earn for good behaviour, listening, excellent work, and so on. These tickets go into the "superstar box" and a winner is picked out at the end of the week. This "star of the week" receives a special certificate and a "star" pencil or a badge. The children love earning as many tickets as they can as they know they have a better chance of winning.

We use the marble jar when they walk to assembly really well - and sit well during it - and for lining up sensibly at lunchtimes and playtimes. We discussed rewards when we introduced the jar and they chose 15 minutes extra playtime - which they love.

Creating a positive, caring ethos in the classroom where children feel valued will motivate them. AyshaL

I was lining up my Year 7s outside the classroom last period on a Friday afternoon when I realised they were rather hyperactive and loud. I got them in, sat them in "teams" (groups, for the group work I had planned) and told them they could have "behaviour points" and "work points" for their team by being the first to settle, to complete the work, and so on. They would lose points for going against the classroom rules.

They responded so well; they didn't want to let each other down, and they wanted to "win" the lesson. It ran over on to Monday, where the groups presented the work they'd done. I also managed to get in a bit of assessment for learning (AFL), with other groups awarding points to the group whose presentation corresponded with the levels of info I'd given them.

At the end of Monday's lesson, the winning team were given a Take a Cake voucher each (vouchers for a healthy cake from the canteen).

For my older students, I like to show that I go out of my way to make an effort for them. My low-ability Year 10s had to complete a Shakespeare coursework, which we did in chunks. I made them a huge batch of biscuits on the first day of the coursework and told them that if they worked hard and got in all the essays on time, there would be another batch at the end. I also arranged a trip to London to see the play we studied. It made them feel really grown up, and they turned in brilliant coursework.

Above all, the main motivation tool is getting to know them all as individuals.

My classes understand that if they do as they're asked to the maximum effort, they could potentially get all sorts of rewards. If they don't, they're clear on the sanctions and know exactly where they stand.


I'll never forget the reaction of one bottom set Year 11 troublemaker when I told him I was writing a letter home because of how he'd turned his attitude around. He pestered me every lesson - "not had my letter yet Miss"

- until he received it. Priceless, and very easy to do. yayornay

We use reward postcards, full colour illustrations of good work for that module (art and design technology). They're quick to fill in and they motivate both student and parents - and we all know how much we need parental support.

I also try to tie in praise to learning objectives; for example, praise a well thought out argument rather than neatness and good presentation.


I give a raffle ticket to anyone who has done well, and at the end of the week I draw one from a hat and someone wins a small prize. The prize seems irrelevant; they want the tickets.

In a small group, ignoring bad behaviour is very effective, and it means you have a good lesson with those who are co-operating.

For some groups the promise of some free time in the computer room is hugely motivating, despite the fact they then complain they are bored. For the brighter classes, an overview of what we are learning and where it is leading is motivating. lilachardy

My P4 pupils are given a card (easily made in MS Publisher) each to collect their stickers on. On one side it says "Primary 4 Club" and on the other there are spaces for 10 stickers. Cards follow the colours of the rainbow, starting at red and progressing through to violet. After violet come bronze, silver and gold. When they fill 10 spaces they take something from the treasure box, which has bits and pieces left over from fairs, a few new things, freebies from cereal packets, and so on. Then they go on to the next colour. When they achieve gold they get a special certificate.

They know they can be awarded stickers for effort, improvement, kindness and general good behaviour, not just for good work. If anyone is getting behind - that is, still on red when everyone else has reached orange - we appoint a sticker buddy who helps me to notice when they are deserving a sticker. The colour progression also keeps me aware of which pupils are getting lots of recognition and who is quietly missing out. Archimedes

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