Challenges Encourage Outside of School Day Math Work!

Funny Math CartoonAfter the initial burst of excitement is over, the inevitable lull comes on for my sixth graders.  Students find it more difficult to work from home and become less enthusiastic about completing lessons.  When this period occurs, I have created built-in motivators to get more students working from home.

One of my key strategies to encourage more work from home are “Challenges.”  In these challenges, I message the classes on Think Through Math after school and inform them, “Anyone passing two straight lessons will get a ring pop.”  The first time I do it, I may only have one or two students that reach the reward.  Since many students never signed on to see the challenge, many are wondering why classmates are getting a reward.  I usually make a big deal of the reward and acknowledge the accomplishment in front of the entire class.  When asked, the other students inform them of the message they received the night before.  The next time I plan on doing it, I may hint to it in class to encourage more at-home usage.  Many will remember the last time I rewarded students and are more likely to check that night.  The “Challenge” concept does work, and I will change the challenge each time to allow for more students to succeed. Each time, I change the reward thanks to my Swag Bag from Think Through Math and helpful parents that contribute small rewards to use for incentives.

Another key strategy I use to encourage more home usage involves my own home usage and how I communicate with my students.  I check my activity feed at least once or twice a night.  By using the activity feed, I can directly message a student words of encouragement, praise, or helpful reminders when attempting a lesson.  Not only do students see the messages, but parents have also acknowledged the communication as they sometimes work with their children.  I know, if I can get parents involved, the students will follow.

In an effort to encourage work over a break, I try to set up a small pathway that reviews key concepts previously covered in class.  I will create a specialized sheet that students can record the questions from the Post Quiz.  Students will be required to complete the lessons on the pathway which are usually 4 to 6 lessons in length.  The recording sheet is required when we return from a school break and high scores will be listed on our class leaderboard that is displayed in our pod.

When attempting to motivate students, each student requires different methods.  Some students need external rewards while others work for self-gratification.  However, every student deserves the chance to be recognized for their effort and hard work.  By rewarding my students, checking their progress daily, and communicating words of encouragement and praise are just a few ways I attempt to motivate my students to work more from home.  By creating easy to use recording sheets, students can display their hard work on Think Through Math lessons and get recognized on our class leaderboard for points, lessons passed, or high accuracy.  And so far, it is working!

THINK Blogger Mr. Joseph Goodwin, Fernwood Avenue Middle School, Egg Harbor Township, NJ