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Strategies for Motivation in the Classroom

‘The secret of education is respecting the pupil’
(Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Compiled by Kim Harrison, Derek Noffke, Julie Pappas, Louise Raye, & Allira Zangari

Alphabetical listings of strategies for motivating students in the Classroom

Click on crayons when you want to return to this page

Motivation – the moving force that energises behaviour
N.B Stages mentioned with activities are only a recommendation as every class and teacher varies.

Awards (all stages) Awards are a great way of motivating. Make your own awards and certificates on brightly coloured paper for al KLAs. Here are some examples:

Certificates for English Handwriting Public speaking Good listener News presentation Reading improvement Certificates for PDHPE Best and fairest Good sport Great helper Improving Kindness Consideration of others

Certificates for citizenship Cheerful student Playground behaviour Group Work Honesty Library helper Thank you – general Student of the week Beautiful behaviour Responsible behaviour Helpful student

Miscellaneous certificates Book work Homework Telling time Creativity Improving Originality

“Shake hands with student and say ‘you make me very happy’”

“I am a teacher. A teacher is someone who leads. There is no magic here. I don’t not walk on water. I do not part the sea. I just love children.” (Marva Collins)

‘Be in it Box’ (Stage 1) Tickets are given out to children that are obeying class rules, e.g. listening, sitting up straight, and not speaking. They put their name on the ticket and place it in the box (bright red). At recess and sometimes at end of day, their names are drawn out and they receive a lolly. Give hints to kids who the winner for the day is which gets the class guessing and excited.

“Extrinsic motivators are not used as bribes but as a tool to extend learning”
(e.g. Bandura & Schunk, 1981 as cited in Dolezal, Welsh, Pressley, & Vincent, 2003, p.260)


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The countdown method (Early stage 1-Stage 2) This involves the teacher counting down from 10 to 1, and in that time the students are to organise themselves as requested. It may involve the students dropping what they are doing and turning their attention to the teacher, or perhaps even moving from their table to a whole class focus (WCF) position. This method of gaining student attention appears to be very effective, so long as it is followed through. For example, one teacher, (a substitute) observed to use this method to move children from their desks to WCF position counted down to one, and then began the next lesson. However, various children still hadn’t reached the WCF and were not reprimanded in any way. Those children were well aware that this particular teacher did not take the countdown too seriously. Where as, with their regular classroom teacher it was taken much more seriously, as the children know that refusing to comply will result in negative consequences.

Clapping (Early Stage 1-Stage 1) Another method commonly used to gain attention involves the teacher clapping rhythmic patterns until the students join in and repeat the patterns. This method is also very effective and efficient.

“Use classroom management techniques that are positive, constructive, and encouraging towards students” (Dolezal et al, 2003, p. 261)



Chequebook reward system (Stage 2-Stage 3) Each child receives a chequebook in the classroom. You begin each week with a specific amount of money deposited into the chequebook (say $200). If a student does not get their homework finished they might have to write a check for $50 to you. If a student breaks one of your classroom rules, perhaps they will owe you $25. You can use any behaviours that you would like to encourage in your room. At the end of the week, the students are able to purchase privileges based on the money they have left in their chequebooks. For instance, they may pay you $75 to sit by a friend for a day.

h at e for w in r po s en a pu arn – expla hildr Give c about to le “ re they a value”

“Children are our most valuable natural resource”

(Herbert Hoover)

Teacher’s Desk arrangement (Stage 3) In a Year 5/6 class, the teacher’s desk can be found at the back of the classroom. When asked why it was placed at the back, the teacher responded by saying that it gives her the opportunity to monitor the students without the students necessarily being aware of when she is and isn’t monitoring, (as their desks all face the front.) It gives the students less opportunity to misbehave or disrupt fellow classmates, as they never know when their teacher is watching – and turning around to check would make them look suspicious right away! The teacher enforces the success of this technique by stating that her class is very well behaved when they work at their desks and she rarely finds herself correcting student behaviour.

“The object of teaching a child is to enable him to get along without his teacher”
(Elbert Hubbard)

Focus Point (All stages) This method is useful when the teacher needs to control the class quickly and settle them down. Write the word “Focus” on the chalkboard and directly beside the word you write a time that is near the end of that particular period, e.g. if period finishes at 1.00pm, you write 12:55pm beside the word “Focus.” Tell the students that they need to focus on that time and those last five minutes will be for them to fulfill their ‘talking needs.’ Everyone must work well in order to get their reward of five minutes. Appoint the most talkative student as time monitor. Free Day (All stages) During Free Day you might play board games, have a free recess, go for a walk. Those students who choose not to be a part of the team and play by the rules can be supervised by an aide or placed in another classroom during this time.

“What the pupils want to learn is as important as what the teacher wants to teach” (Lois E LeBar)

• • • • • Happy Ball (All stages) For this activity you will need a soft ball, up to a basketball size, that has a smiley or happy face painted on it. Children are to sit in a large circle on the floor facing the center awaiting the game to start. The teacher starts the game by rolling the ball to a student and the following areas can be investigated. Learning student names: a student rolls the ball whilst saying the students name that they are rolling it to. Self-esteem activity: a student says something positive to the student that they are rolling the ball to. News activity: saying something positive about what activities the student may do over the weekend. Getting to know you session: a student rolls the ball to another student and says something that they have learnt about that person, e.g. Tom has two brothers. Children are discouraged from rolling the ball only to their friends. House Points (All stages) When a student learns something new, behaves or does something correctly, they will receive a point towards their school house Team. E.g. Bass, Flinders, Cook.

“One of the most important things a teacher can do is send the pupil home in the afternoon liking himself just a little better than when he came in the morning”
(Ernest Melby)

• • • • Student Line-ups (Early Stage 1 –Stage 2) In groups of approximately ten, students are asked to line up in various orders. These may include: Tallest to shortest. Shoe size. Month of birthdays. Alphabetical order of first names. The list goes on, however this can be modified by directing the students not to talk whilst undertaking this activity, making them think about how they are going to communicate their answers.

“The teacher has devised rules and routines for her students that are useful and provide smooth transitions within lessons and between activities”
(e.g. Evertson, Emmer, & Worsham, 2000 as cited in Dolezal et al,2003, p.261)

Classroom Money Auction (Stage 1 – Stage 3) Teacher creates fake money vouchers (class dollars) which are given to students for good behaviour, performance or improvement. The child takes responsibility for their own accumulated dollars and at the end of the term a class auction is held where students can bid for small prizes such as pens, notebooks, balls, McDonalds vouchers etc. Prizes can be shown to the students throughout the term as an incentive to work towards. 100 Minute Club (Stage 1 – Stage 3)

“If they finish early let them listen to music they like”

All students are expected to read 100 minutes weekly. Parents sign weekly verification slips. They should either read 20-30 minutes nightly during the school week or spread it out to include the weekend as long as it equals 100 minutes. Students are read to by family members to earn their minutes at the beginning of year. All students who have completed this weekly requirement are awarded at an awards ceremony (held every 6 weeks). They receive certificates and usually something additional such as pencils, ice cream from canteen etc.

Talk with the students about the importance of learning, and using the mind, overcoming adversity, having a dream and working for it

Personal Incentive chart (Stage 1 – Stage 3) Students could have a personal incentive chart on their desks, where they fill up little squares with tiny dot stickers when they bring their homework in. After five spaces are filled they get a reward. After the entire chart is filled they get a "bigger" reward. Some incentives that children like include decorated pencils, pens, candy, homework passes (teacher made), scented stickers, use the teacher's desk (or a special table) for a day, lining up first, teacher’s assistant. Some companies (e.g. McDonald’s) give out free coupons, which can also be used as rewards. Teacher Payback (Stage 1 – Stage 3) Have a class points chart, whereby exceptional behaviour by the whole class is rewarded with a point. Set a class goal to be achieved by the end of the year e.g. 500 points. Agree upon the teacher payback prior to commencing the point score e.g. teacher has to wear a spider man costume for a day. If students reach the goal, the teacher pays the price!

“Every student can learn, just not on the same day, or the same way”
(George Evans)

Tips for Using Rewards ( • • • • • • • • Keep the reward system simple. A complicated behaviour system is difficult and time consuming to manage. Make the reward meaningful to your students. Opportunities for student choice can be particularly effective. Use rewards to get students off to a good start with a specific behaviour. Focus on one behaviour at a time, and have your students help select it. Begin by rewarding students often, and then gradually reduce the rewards and maintain expectations. Raise the expectations that must be met for the rewards as the students progress. Think in the short term. A system that is no longer needed after a few weeks has done its job! Modify behaviour systems for students with extreme problems. Frequent smaller rewards given to these students may have more benefit.

Consistently find ways to compliment and encourage students for their good behaviour, learning success, and helpfulness in the classroom (Brophy 1981 as cited
in Dolezal, et al 2003, p.259)


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Singing (Early Stage 1-Stage 1) A teacher can also gain attention through singing a familiar song that the children will be inclined to join in with. So long as the song is familiar to all, this technique is once again extremely effective. However, it has the potential to take up time, as one song leads to another Speak softly (Stage 2- Stage 3) This is a helpful technique when you walk into a classroom and there is a loud chatter going on. Stand directly in front of class and begin speaking in a low soft tone of voice. First one student will notice you are saying something, and then several others. What occurs most often is one student will tell the others to be quiet. Classroom Star of the Week (Early Stage 1 – Stage 2) Explain that each student within the classroom has the opportunity to be Star of the Week. Make a poster of a large star with the child’s photo in the middle; this is then surrounded by classmates’ positive comments about the student. Each student should check with the teacher about what they are going to write to get approval, eliminating the possibility of negative comments being written. This exercise is a powerful way of helping children build self-esteem and identity.

“Our life is what our thoughts make it” (Marcus Aurelius)



Success every day (All Stages) At the end of each day, have the students briefly share with the rest of the class the success they have experienced during that day. Some students will find this hard at first, but as others begin to share, they too will realise they have had some of the same successes. The sensitive teacher will also look for successes to be pointed out to the child with extremely low self esteem. A variation of this is to have each child share with the class what he feels he has learned that day. In addition to a great form of reflection and review, it provides students with a sense of accomplishment. Without recall students are often not consciously aware of all the learning they are accomplishing. Knowing that they are learning adds positively to a child’s self concept and motivates them to continue learning.

“The people who influence you are people who believe in you” (Henry Drummond)


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Classroom Tree (All stages) Display a tree on the classroom wall or bulletin board with a box of blank leaves at its base. Encourage students to write something nice that another student might have done during the week. E.g. Jessica helped a younger student after she had fallen over in the playground and was crying. At the end of the week the teacher reads these reports to the class, giving positive feedback to the actual ‘good deeder’ and to the person who noticed. Time-out for ‘thinking time.’ (Early Stage 1 – Stage 2) The student is asked to sit in chair if they’ve broken a classroom rule. While in chair, they are still engaged in lesson. They return to the learning situation when they feel they are ready to participate appropriately or when the teacher asks them to. If an instruction is given to the whole class, and an individual decides not to conform, the ‘three warning’ approach is usually implemented. This involves the student being warned three times, progressively more severe. By the third warning, if the student still is refusing to comply, a ‘timeout’ is called. This involves the student being sent outside the classroom, or otherwise to their desk to reflect on their behaviour. In one circumstance observed, the ‘time-out’ method was welcomed by a student, who made the connection that ‘time-out’ equated to no work. However, in other cases the ‘time-out’ method has been successful in that the student involved has in fact recognized the error of their ways. This may even lead to a whole week of good behaviour on behalf of the student.

“The kids in our classroom are infinitely more significant than the subject matter we’re teaching them” (Meladee McCarty)



Skill Tickets – A positive behaviour management strategy by Peter Thompson. (All stages) When a student is displaying desirable skills and behaviour, reward them with a skill ticket. Students are often rewarded in order to reinforce positive behaviour and achievement. They keep track of the tickets they are owed which periodically are given out each week. There are weekly, monthly, term and yearly draws from the prize bag. Teachers can blend this system with a merit award point system in which the students keep track of the merit points they earn each day building up towards a class end of term reward. A skill ticket is also an automatic merit point. Ensure all students are found deserving of earning skill tickets.

“Don’t tell them how to do it, show them how to do it and don’t say a word. If you tell them, they’ll watch your lips move. If you show them, they’ll want to do it themselves” (Maria Montessori)

Welcome Sign (All stages) The class is to design and make a sign that can be placed on the classroom door for visitors to see and admire. The only condition is that all students are involved in the various stages of the project.

“Mak tact e lesson i s feel le – touc hands on ing” hing and –

“The quality of teachers’ instructional messages affects pupil’s involvement in academic lessons. Emphasising higher-level thinking – analysing, synthesising, and applying ideas and concepts – promotes participation and Learning”
(Stephen Marks as cited in Berk, 1997)

These ideas and quotes came from various student teacher’s school experience observing classrooms as well as other sources, these are: • • • • • • • • Canfield, J, 1976, 100 ways to enhance self concept in the classroom, Prentice Hall, New Jersey. Dolezal,S E, Welsh, L M, Pressley, M, & Vincent, M M, 2003, ‘How nine third-grade teachers motivate student academic engagement’, The Elementary School Journal, 103, 3; 239-312. Eddleston L, (n.d.), Awards for everyone - Blackline masters, Dominie Publications Bafile, C, 2000, Classroom Rewards Reap Dividends for Teachers and Students, Education World, <> Utilizing Classroom Rewards for Students, (n.d.),, <> McGrath, H. & Noble, T. 1993. Different Kids, Same Classroom, Making Mixed Ability Classes Really Work, Longman Cheshire, Melbourne, Australia. Warrawong Public School, Term 2, 2003, Positive Behaviour Strategies for the Classroom, (booklet). Watson, G, 1996, Teacher Smart: 125 tested techniques for classroom management and control, The Center for Applied Research in Education, New York.

“I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a persons life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humour, hurt or heal. In all situation, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a person humanised or de-humanised” (Haim Ginot)