MAT Blog

What motivates students? It’s worth your time to find out.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Feb 4, 2012 5:32:00 AM

Blogger/teacher Charity Preston offers her Miracle Motivation program for elementary teachers.Student recognition in the classroom is a necessity to keep students working their hardest. It becomes easy to overlook the student who is always doing what is expected, and to always notice the child who is misbehaving. But consciously recognizing students as they achieve great things is vital to motivating children throughout their school career.

Think about the last time you were praised by your superior. How did it feel? Were you then more likely to continue working at that specific something in order to improve it even more? I know I am always grateful when my boss takes notice of something special I have been working on. Make sure your students also have these experiences. Without them, they may be less likely to continue working as hard. Children, in particular, work to please you.

Know your students!

After chatting with some students one-on-one last year, I realized that while a small piece of candy would motivate a few, it would do nothing for others. It was just about that time that I stumbled upon the book The Motivation Breakthrough by Richard Lavoie. He points out that everyone falls mainly into one or two of the following six categories of motivation: 

  • Prizes (small treats like candy, stickers)
  • Prestige (having a student’s name announced, or photo posted)
  • Power  (teacher’s helper, line leader)
  • Projects (student can choose favorite learning activities)
  • People (extra recess, working in a group with friends)
  • Praise (verbal recognition)

If you have not read the book, I highly suggest it! It also has a great section for parents about their child's motivation for household chores and work ethic. In the book, Mr. Lavoie states that in order to find out the child's motivation, you should use anecdotal records and informal observation. However, I wanted something more concrete.

Prepare a quiz to find out what motivates individuals.

So, I created a simple quiz that would at least help me figure out individual motivations of my students. And it seems to work! Since every child is individually working on a separate goal, they can be refocused much more directly. And it doesn't take a ton more time, just more organization. I call it the Motivation Miracle Program! If you know the child’s motivation, life at school (and at home) can become amazingly easier for all! 

Basically, I have developed a simple template from the six motivational styles that Lavoie details in his book. First, I ask students to take the quiz, which asks them about their preferences. This allows me to track how each individual child would like to be rewarded. I then make a punch card for each student. When the student has a completed punch card, he/she earns the agreed upon incentive that was chosen and written on the back.

Now, I use punch cards for each student and customize their goals based on their personal motivation. Once the punch card is filled up, they earn their chosen goal and choose another. By keeping all the punch cards hung up on a bulletin board with o-rings and push pins, the entire class gets a visual reminder every day to work toward an individual goal.  Now, it is much easier to get homework returned, and stay on task.

For a printable version of her Motivation Miracle Program, Charity Preston offers it free to all newsletter subscribers  

Join Charity live at our MAT webinar “Overcoming Organizing Obstacles,” a 30-minute session for teachers on mastering organization in your classroom. It can be done! Register now to reserve your spot!

Register for the Webinar Today!

Charity Preston, MA is the editor and creator of several websites, including The Organized Classroom Blog, Classroom Freebies, and Teaching Blog Central, among others. She received her undergraduate degree in early childhood education from Bowling Green State University, OH and a Master in Curriculum and Instruction from Nova Southeastern University, FL, as well as a gifted endorsement from Ohio University. She taught third grade in Lee County, FL for several years before relocating back to her hometown as a gifted intervention specialist. Charity is currently taking time off to run her online businesses and spend time with her toddler. She is married with two children, ages two and 14 and has two cats and a dog. Life is never dull in the Preston house!

Tags: classroom management, behavior, motivation

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