“I just can’t motivate them to work hard!” “I don’t know what to do!”
Those two thoughts definitely ran through my head when I first started teaching. Students were either distracted and unfocused on work, or they were too shy/quiet to participate in daily activities. So I started wondering how on Earth I could motivate them to participate.
During my education classes, I had learned the power of positive and negative reinforcement. But how could I implement this knowledge in my own classroom? I decided on the star system.
It’s quite simple: When students do well in my class, they receive a star. “Doing well” means a lot of different things: the student is listening when others aren’t, the student has completed homework, the student did very well on a test, the student listened to directions, or helped a friend, or actively participated during an activity. When I give a star to a student, I make sure to announce that I’m doing it and, more importantly, WHY I’m doing it. For example: “Keisuke gets a star, because he’s sitting correctly in his chair.” or “Minako gets a star because she did very well during the game.”
When I announce one student’s success in this way, it motivates other students to imitate the desired behavior, so that they, too, can get a star.
But what exactly does the star mean? Why do students care so much if they get one or not? Well, because in my classes, I keep track of who has how many stars. Once a student gets to 10 stars, they get to choose a present from my “magic box” (make sure they do this AFTER class, or else they’ll be completely distracted for the rest of your lesson). It’s full of cheap little goodies you can pick up at the 100 yen store. I have rubber bouncy balls, suction cup balls, rubber snakes, mini sumo wrestler figurines, pencils, fun erasers, keychains, stickers, and many more little trinkets that would make any kid’s day.
Now, this system is by no means perfect. However, if you give it a shot, I guarantee that you’ll see the difference within a few classes! It really does motivate students to do their best!