A New Approach to School, which Creates Motivation

  • A CHALLENGING environment in the classroom, almost a game!
  • A BIG Reward, which ALL the students could earn!

The people who try to design ways of improving the American Public School System have clearly never spent any time in actual classrooms! Long ago, students were generally quiet and in their seats, but that seems rarely true any more.

Students see absolutely no REASON to stay quiet or stay in their seats or to stop annoying other students! They have learned that the Teacher cannot actually do anything to control even one of them, much less when a bunch of them are acting up. At most, the Teacher can send a student to the Office, but the Teacher has already learned that that never accomplishes anything, as the student shows back up at class a few minutes later! The students KNOW that THEY are in control! And that being the case, some of the students decide to DISPLAY their authority and disrespect, in every way they can manage. There is NO down-side for them to do so! And they think it makes them look BIG to other students.

Since Teachers are not allowed to have even a single tool to combat this situation, an hour class often tends to only include maybe five minutes where the Teacher can actually do any Teaching. And authorities then attack the Teachers for being incompetent, when the students cannot pass even very simple tests.

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I think I have a credible idea for Teachers to try, in nearly any Grade and any neighborhood.

On the FIRST day of school around September 1, the Teacher describes a system of Rewards. A poster-sized chart is shown which has spaces for the students' names and a number of columns for schooldays, resembling a blank multiplication table. The Teacher first explains that he/she plans a "Pizza Party" on the day just before Christmas break. THAT is to make sure the students' attention is focused! The Teacher points to the Chart and says that ALL students who have 50 points or more by that day will participate in the Pizza Party and games. Those students with less than 50 points will be sent to Study Hall that day instead.

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The students will ask how they get points. The Teacher says that he/she is awarding 10 points to start with, which will be marked on the Chart today. There are ways to both gain and lose points!

To GAIN points:

To LOSE points:

This system enables even very shy, quiet students to accumulate 50 points easily by Christmas. Even if a student has some disruptive incidents, some class participation and a generally following of the rules of the classroom will ensure getting 50 points.

This concept accomplishes several things. First, it gives most of the students an incentive to at least try to stay quiet and not be too disruptive, such that substantial Teaching can occur. Second, since the students can gain the most points by being the first one to see any errors the Teacher might have done or other students have done on the blackboard, there is incentive for the students to be constantly paying attention. After all, they have no way of knowing WHEN an opportunity for four points might happen! Third, the Chart would be displayed in the classroom, so there would be a competitive element to this program. Some kids would just want to make sure they got their 50 points, but other students would get into it as a competitive game regarding who could get the highest number of points. The Teacher could increase this by saying that the VERY HIGHEST score by Christmas would gain another Prize, even better than pizza! (It could be in being the one to fill in the Chart for January to Spring Break, when this would be done again, a great honor, or it could be some product or toy or game that is seen as valuable to the kids.)

OK, so it is two days before the Christmas break, and all the kids except for Nancy have gotten their 50 points. She has 46. So, as Teacher, I ask a rhetoric question of the class, regarding whether we should do anything about this! So I would go up and down every seat, pointing at the kid and saying "shut up" "shut up" "shut up" "shut up" "shut up". All EXCEPT for Nancy! Then I call Johnny up to the blackboard and tell him that I want a spelling done. I tell him to spell "prestidigitation" or "phenolphthalein". Obviously, he spells it wrong. Now, no one is allowed to talk, right, except for Nancy! So she raises her hand and says that he spelled it wrong! (she does NOT have to know how to spell it correctly!) I look at the class and ask if she had just earned 4 points! And everyone celebrates.

This last is an example of a BONDING that should occur between a Teacher and his/her students. The entire class would be cheering for Nancy to get her points, AND they would all realize that I just nearly guaranteed that she would get them! ALL the students would then realize that I was NOT the Enemy, but instead, a grown-up who was on THEIR side! That is immensely valuable, in both the short-run and their later lives.

This presentation is among several different presentations meant to provide ways of improving the American public school system's performance. Here are links to the presentations:

This presentation was first placed on the Internet in Sep 2007.

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C Johnson, Theoretical Physicist, Physics Degree from Univ of Chicago