At the end of the school year, we could all use a bit of encouragement. It’s easy for both teachers and students to feel overwhelmed with last minute prep and wrapping up projects. Incorporating rewards for students is a great way to beat the end of year blues – whether they’re due to boredom or the impending last day bell signaling school’s out for summer.
Notes of Praise
Take a moment to write a note of praise for your students if you notice they’ve been doing well in a particular area. We tend to give verbal praise quite often, but sometimes an extra "Good job" through a note is something that will be more impactful for students.
These small notes make a big difference. Some students save them or even stick them in their scrapbooks. You may find yourself walking by a student’s desk days or weeks later and see that note still stuck to their notebook. Sometimes, students just need to be quietly recognized.
Whether it’s celebrating the end of a unit, or just celebrating that it’s Friday, this is a great way to give students something to look forward to when the end of the year seems to be dragging on.
A class was studying American colonialism. At the end of the unit, they had a re-enactment of what it was like when colonials would get sick. Some students would play the role of a person with a disease, and other students would help diagnose and treat them. They’d figure out that the sick student would need more fruit to heal the disease, and food was placed throughout the classroom, so the kids were able to find the correct fruit, eat it, and reinforce what they’d been learning about.
Speaking of fruit, Fridays are also great food days. Students love ice cream socials and pizza parties, or something specific like incorporating butterbeer and reading Harry Potter!
Teacher for a Day
Students enjoy being able to get up in front of the classroom and sit in the teacher's chair. It can be used both as a reward and as a way for some behaviorally challenged students to recognize how hard it is to have to keep things on track. This idea should be used sparingly so the students don’t take over the classroom, but it can be a fun option the last couple months of school. If having a student be teacher for the day sounds overwhelming to you, giving out free homework passes is also a huge hit at the end of the year!
How to motivate students to get the rewards
Goal setting can help students trigger new behaviors, guide their focus, and sustain their momentum. Setting SMART goals at the beginning of the year, goals for the summer at the end of the year or for next year, can be a good tool for motivating students. Most of us are familiar with SMART goals and how they can help the goal setting process. But just in case you need a refresher:
Specific: Instead of, "I want to do better at math" try, "I want to get better at multiplication."
Measurable: “I want to be able to multiply my 1’s through 10’s in 2 minutes by memory” or "I want to be able to read three books a month” are measurable goals.
Attainable: This is the realistic piece of goal setting. If one of your students comes up to you and says they want to read 100 books from now until Sunday, help them understand what they’re capable of. On the flipside, make sure the student isn't just giving themselves the simplest goal either. It’s not always about the overachievers. Sometimes a student may want to sneak in there with, "I want to read a book from now until next year." That’s not realistic either because you know they can do much better than that.
Time Bound: Help students give themselves a realistic deadline. When that deadline is up a new goal can be created. “I want to memorize my multiplication facts 1’s – 10’s by the end of the school year.”
Reflecting on the past year and helping students set SMART goals for next year can also help set them up for success when they come back to school in the fall.
Finding special ways to encourage students as the end of the year approaches is a great way to avoid end of year burnout. Introducing non-traditional resources and teaching methods allows students to try something new while putting all the knowledge they’ve learned in the past school year to work and helping them to end the year on a fun, positive note.
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