Motivation is such a key component of classroom management. Of course, there are those that argue internal motivation to learn should be enough. However, the reality is that that is just not how the world we teach in works.
There are some kids who NEED the outside motivation. I think intrinsic motivation is truly a developed skill. While some kids come to your class having already built that, others have not. It is your job to find a system that will help them develop it, but you also have to start the process from where they are. (Just because multiplication of two-digit numbers is in your standards doesn't mean you start there if a kid can't add, right?)
- Do It with Class – Set up a class-wide system. In my room the students can earn extra MadLib minutes when they've earned 100 compliments. After observing some colleagues using this strategy, I got myself a jumbo sized hundreds chart and started marking off boxes one at a time whenever the kids did something great. You can set up the “how” of the compliment system based on what you want, but the basic premise was a compliment from an outside source (anyone but me) was worth way more than a compliment I give. Therefore, behavior in the halls or when guests came was always in check.
- One Size Does NOT Fit All – One of the biggest mistakes new teachers make is thinking that equal is fair. Yes, 85% (or more) of the kids will have wonderful behavior with just the normal discussion and review of your expectations and classroom rules. Another chunk will have a little trouble but will keep it together because you've set up a good system to reward positive choices (like the one I described above). Then, there are a few kids who just need their own thing. These are the kids for whom your other systems just won't work. I bet you can already think of the kid in your class who matches that description, right? The one-size system isn't working for him (or her)! Take some time to think about what would work. Does the child need more movement? Maybe a new space…or opportunity to switch locations to work? Try to set up an individualized system that will fit that child's needs. For those kids who are really struggling, you might even need to set up a reward system.
- Make it Good! – There are some times you just have to transition to extrinsic motivation. I know, I know…I said it. When those kids do come around (and I believe they will, even if they don't end up in your classroom this year or the next), you need to gather some data before you start rewarding them. What do I mean? Brainstorm a list with the student about things they would find rewarding by focusing on things they would like the opportunity to EARN for their choices. When they've come up with about five things, have them rank the things. Place the highest value on the thing they most want, and work your way down. In other words, don't give away the milk for free! There is no reason to buy in to the benefits of making good choices if I can manipulate the situation to do the right thing for two minutes and still get what I want. (And yes, once a student buys in, I do believe you can transition toward more intrinsic motivators.)
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