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Ten Ways to Motivate Students


Today's post is all about motivating students.

These are ten of the ways I motivate students:

Ten Ways to Motivate Students: ten ideas to get the children to WANT to learn, without having to rob a bank!


Ten Ways to Motivate Students: ten ideas to get the children to WANT to learn, without having to rob a bank!
1.  Pride!  Luckily, there are some students who take pride in themselves and just plain want to do well. They want to make the teacher happy. Don't you love these kids? Don't you wish there were more of these? Unfortunately, there are a lot of kids who don't have pride in themselves, or just don't have enough. Therefore, we need the other nine.


Ten Ways to Motivate Students: ten ideas to get the children to WANT to learn, without having to rob a bank! 2.  Stickers! Children love stickers. A hefty supply is necessary for most teachers of little ones. Personally, I usually only give out stickers for homework, but many teachers give out stickers for daily work. My students work pretty hard for one sticker for homework each day! On special occasions, I'll pull out the scented stickers!

Ten Ways to Motivate Students: ten ideas to get the children to WANT to learn, without having to rob a bank! 3.  Working with a partner!  Kids are social, and the idea of working with another child is super motivating. Let them choose their own partner, and you'll be their hero! They can read with a partner, write a story with a partner, or practice math facts. There's a whole world of possibilities.

4.  Let them earn an extra recess! I think this is a "win-win". We know that kids need to run and exercise and burn off steam. The promise of being able to do what they need to do is motivating for the kids to work! 


5.  Inspire them! I find if I say a few words about a book, the children all want to read that book. If I show them a sample of my writing, they want to try a similar piece of writing. If I make something look interesting or fun, they want to try it. I could never sell cars, but I sure can sell a book to a kid!



Ten Ways to Motivate Students: ten ideas to get the children to WANT to learn, without having to rob a bank!
A few desk decorations in my classroom!
6.  Let them put something cool on their desk for a while!  Personally, I use a collection of beanie babies that I've saved since my daughter was little. They can keep it on their desk for the day. If they do something quite spectacular, I let them keep a little flag on their desk for a week. They are mighty proud of these, and they can tell you what each little trophy is for!

7.  Play a game! There are so many possibilities for games. There are group games like Around the World, Scoot, and variations of Jeopardy, Hollywood Squares, and Family Feud. Then there are partner games, centers, and activities. Sometimes they have so much fun, they don't even realize they're learning!



8.  Group Projects!  When there is a product and a "performance" involved, the kids get moving! Most kids love working in small groups putting together some sort of project, then others are super motivated by the thought of standing in front of their class. They really remember these group projects for years to come.
Ten Ways to Motivate Students: ten ideas to get the children to WANT to learn, without having to rob a bank!
9.  Have a dance party! This works well for my group. You can work out the details, but if they reach a certain point, just stop for the moment, and turn on the music. My kids love this, as it happens to be a group that really responds to music and movement. It only takes a few minutes of the day, and they've had their exercise and burned off some steam. That makes a dance party another "win-win"! Other forms of this type of group reward can be a pizza party or a make your own ice cream party. (The dance party is cheaper, though!)


Ten Ways to Motivate Students: ten ideas to get the children to WANT to learn, without having to rob a bank!10.    Special recognition!  Single out a student for spectacular work. I often read examples of good work, or hold up examples of good effort on handwriting. We do Student of the Week. I have an Super Improvers Wall, where they get stickers and work their way up the ladder when we notice they have improved at something - it can be anything from remembering to pass in homework, to improvement in behavior, to improvement in knowing math facts. One of my students said moving on the improvement board was even better than earning a flag for a week!

This is just a small sampling of the possibilities for motivating students.  How do you motivate your students?


Ten Ways to Motivate Students: ten ideas to get the children to WANT to learn, without having to rob a bank!

Ten Brain Based Learning Strategies

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that I'm absolutely fascinated by the brain, and am particularly fascinated by the research that's been done to prove the best learning strategies. 
Research on the brain helps us know what helps children remember, and what doesn't. Here are 10 successful strategies for the classroom.


There's some great stuff out there! I read about the brain and learning daily, and just can't get enough. I've taught a few workshops about it, too. Even though I'm a second grade teacher, this stuff applies to all learners, from newborn babies to adult learners.

1.  Talking!  Research has taught us that learners don't learn much from sitting and listening. Sure, they need to listen a bit, but they need the opportunity to talk! The talking internalizes what they've learned. In my classroom, I'll give the children a few tidbits of information, then they have "turn and talk" time, where they discuss what they've learned. They love this, and it works!

2.  Emotions rule!  If you think about the strong memories you have from your past, I'll bet they are closely related to strong emotional experiences, both positive or negative: your wedding, your child being born, a death... strong emotions. This works with children, too! Hopefully, your teaching won't bring out too many negative emotions, but there are ways to get to the positive ones! Kids love games. Some children are very competitive, and thrive on that stuff! Getting up in front of their classmates brings out plenty of emotions. Of course, different kids feel different things, so just be careful about playing with the emotions of children.  What works for one might traumatize another. (Yikes, don't want to go there!)



3.  Visuals!  Vision is the strongest of the senses. Talking alone isn't enough. Make sure the children have plenty to look at in addition to what you say. Use posters, drawings, videos, pictures, and even some guided imagery with the children to help them learn. 



4.  Chunking! The typical attention span is the child's age plus or minus a couple of minutes. That means that many of my second graders can't attend past 5 minutes. Again, proof that typical "lecture" type teaching just doesn't work. That means they need a chunk of information, then an opportunity to process that in some way. Here's where "turn and talk" works, as well as an opportunity to write, draw, or even move. 



5.  Movement! Combining movement with the learning almost guarantees stronger learning. Here are some ideas: Counting by tens while doing jumping jacks, touch three desks while naming the three states of matter, and this one, from a blog post I wrote in the fall.



6.  Shake it up!  If you do exactly the same thing, exactly the same way, it becomes boring and the brain tunes out. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of good things about sticking with a routine, but once in a while you need to shake it up! Have a backwards day, turning the whole schedule around (within reason, of course!)  change the seating arrangement, do one part of the day completely different. We need this in our own lives, too, don't we?



7.  The brain needs oxygen! They say 20% of all the oxygen used in the body is used by the brain. That means we need to get the kids up out of their seats regularly and moving!  I particularly enjoy the Brain Gym exercises. I recommend the book, but there are also plenty of Youtube videos on brain gym that will model the exercises for you and tell how they help learning! Of course, there's nothing better than old fashioned jumping jacks or running in place. And the kids love it!



8.  Make connections! We talk about connections in books a lot, but connections are important for the brain. It can't hold random information, it needs to connect to something else that's already there. Did you ever hear a kid say, "I remember that because I know...." You can make connections through your own experience and stories. I often talk about my daughter, my cat, or some other thing they know of to make something else come true. 


9. Feedback is essential! Practice doesn't make anything better unless the practice is accurate. Students need to hear they are on the right track. I use a color code to let the children know if they are on track, which I described in this blog post from September. It works pretty well for motivation, as well.



10.  Music is magical! Tell the truth, how many of you know all the words to a television commercial?  People my age know all the words to the Gilligan's Island Theme Song and the Brady Bunch Theme Song.  Did we work hard to learn those?  Nope, never even tried!  Because they were put to music, we learned them.  There are many studies on music and learning. One way I use music is that I often play "happy music" first thing in the morning. That way the children enter feeling good. Now this brings us back to #2 emotions!


These are some books I recommend if you're interested in Brain Based Learning:   


                        

       

      

Research on the brain helps us know what helps children remember, and what doesn't. Here are 10 successful strategies for the classroom.

Developing Writing Fluency

I was struggling with my Writer's Workshop time, thinking about how I had children with fantastic ideas, yet their writing wasn't flowing. I knew they had it in them, but I was struggling to get them past that hesitation... the fear of it not being "just right". A lot of writer's workshop time is being wasted because their writing isn't fluent. 

Developing Writing Fluency: Do your students have great ideas, but struggle to write down those ideas? A writing warm up might help!

After much thought, I remembered a writing exercise I'd done in the past at seminars and training on writing. I also thought about how I believe in a need for a warm up in all areas... reading, math, even singing and sports! 


I've used discussion as well as graphic organizers for a writing warm up. Although these definitely have value, they didn't quite do the trick, so I made these booklets. They use these booklets, and write anything they can think of for two minutes. The only rules: No erasing and they have to keep the pencil moving. If they can't think of anything, they simply write "I can't think of anything". The purpose is to get the thoughts flowing from their brain, through their fingers, onto the paper.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Writers-Workshop-Warm-Up-Booklet-192620?utm_source=Developing%20Writing%20Fluency%20Blog%20Post&utm_campaign=Writing%20Warm%20Up


Here's a bonus: we have been finding that these booklets are helping the children come up with new ideas for writing!


See here: Writer's Workshop Warm Up Booklet or explore the image to download the freebie or design your own booklet!


I've been noticing a difference in their writing fluency!


Developing Writing Fluency: Do your students have great ideas, but struggle to write down those ideas? A writing warm up might help!



Lessons Learned

This is a story I often repeat to parents of my students. It's about my daughter's first ice skating experience. 

Lesson Learned: I had a valuable lesson when I brought my daughter ice skating for the first time. This is a story I share often with parents.

When my daughter was 6 years old, we went ice skating with a couple of friends. My daughter had never skated before, so I was a little nervous about how she'd take to it.  We both laced up our skates, I took her by the hand and we both stepped onto the ice.



She started skating right away! A couple of times she started to lose her balance a little bit, but I was right by her side and helped her find her balance every time.


After a while I noticed something odd: she was no longer trying to keep her balance. That's when I realized I was doing exactly what I frequently advised parents not to do. I was catching her every time she lost her balance! I knew what I had to do.



Of course, I backed off. She fell a few times. She got right back up and skated. By the end of the day, she'd gotten her balance and had a nice rhythm in her skating stride. She was a skater!


It was a nice reminder to parents how we sometimes need to let our children fall. It's definitely not easy, but it's not in the child's best interest to constantly be there to catch them. Sometimes we have to let them fall.


How do we know when to step back and let them fall?

Lesson Learned: I had a valuable lesson when I brought my daughter ice skating for the first time. This is a story I share often with parents.

Martin Luther King Jr. Books, Videos, and Resources


I love teaching my students about Martin Luther King Jr.  

He was an incredible man, and stood for peace.


Martin Luther King Jr. Resources: This great man represented solving conflicts in a peaceful manner. Here are several books and video suggestions to help your students learn about Dr. King.


Although I'm giving away my age, I remember when he was shot. I was a little too young to understand the impact at the time. (I was far more interested in the boys than the politics of the day.) Today I can't watch his speech without tears rushing down my face.  It disturbs me to think that a peaceful man who worked so hard for non-violence was killed in such a violent way.

I find literature to be a valuable part of my teaching. I've read many books about Dr. King, and they always keep the children engaged.  He was clearly a powerful man.  Here are some good ones: (Each image is a link to Amazon.)
                                    
Explore each image for a link to Amazon to learn more about that book!  A video also grabs the attention of the children. Check out this one from Brain Pop.





Or this one from YouTube:




Although his speech is kind of long for the little ones, this is the last part of that famous speech, and it's worth showing at least part of it to the children. This video from Youtube is the last part of his speech, and I think the children will understand Dr. King's passion:


Dr.  King taught the world about peace.  Here are some children's books that help with the concept of peace. 




 Martin Luther King Jr. Resources: This great man represented solving conflicts in a peaceful manner. Here are several books and video suggestions to help your students learn about Dr. King. 


I also recommend this video:

It certainly tells the story of peace that I want children to learn, and I suspect it's the peaceful world Dr. King dreamed of. Plus, the lyrics are right on the screen for the kids to sing along... over and over!

Here's one more video, a song that warms my heart! It goes right along with the teachings of Dr. King, and something children will understand:

Finally, here's one my own resources - it's a freebie sorting activity that's sure to get the kids talking! And their conversations defending their opinions are amazing! See the image for the activity Just or Unjust?

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Just-or-Unjust-a-Civics-Sorting-Activity-190743?utm_source=blog%20post&utm_campaign=Just%20or%20Unjust


Speaking of activities, I have a couple of MLK activities in this resource: Science and Social Studies Activities for January




It includes a close read about Dr. King.
Martin Luther King Jr. Resources: This great man represented solving conflicts in a peaceful manner. Here are several books and video suggestions to help your students learn about Dr. King.

A mapping activity, based on important places in Dr. King's life.

Martin Luther King Jr. Resources: This great man represented solving conflicts in a peaceful manner. Here are several books and video suggestions to help your students learn about Dr. King.

And making timelines based on Dr. King's life.
Martin Luther King Jr. Resources: This great man represented solving conflicts in a peaceful manner. Here are several books and video suggestions to help your students learn about Dr. King.

See any of the images above to see Science and Social Studies Printables for January! (There is other fun stuff in there, too!)

I'd love to see your ideas for MLK too!


Martin Luther King Jr. Resources: This great man represented solving conflicts in a peaceful manner. Here are several books and video suggestions to help your students learn about Dr. King.

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