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 Intrinsic/Extrinsic Motivation-- for behavior 
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When I was reading Dani's post on intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation for reading, it reminded me of a conversation my mom and I had when she was preparing for this school year.(She teaches third grade.) Her school had a meeting and told the teachers they needed to increase the ways in which they positively reinforced students' behavior. Many of the teachers were thinking about offering extra play time, candy, or "prizes."

Mom and I both aren't big fans of rewarding students for things they are supposed to do. For example, a student brings in his/her homework and thus gets a Hershey kiss. A) it encourages materialism/consumerism to reward with things and B) When you grow up, you don't get rewarded for doing things that are expected of you. It's kindof a sticky subject because there are students with crappy home lives and obviously that affects their performance, but where do you draw the line in terms of when and how to reward?

We discussed saying positive things or giving the students more freedom/responsibility- being the line leader, etc. One idea I like that my mom has been doing for a long time is the good citizen's jar. Every time she catches a student doing something good, she recognizes them orally and puts a marble in the good citizen's jar. This is a community effort; the entire jar must be full and the entire class will get the reward. In a way it still rewards the things you are supposed to do, but it is a group goal and it takes a while to earn the reward vs getting something every time a good action is done. She does not do it on a individual reward system because she thinks it isn't fair. Another kid may be doing the same thing but because she didn't see them, they don't get the reward. As a class, it works but it could become harder on an individual basis.

What are other ways to encourage kids' behavior and participation intrinsically and positively without dangling candy and prizes in front of them?

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Emily Mackie


Sun Oct 12, 2008 8:54 am
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I agree with Emily that rewarding students for things they should be already doing can be a hinder. They can become dependant on that reward and real life doesn't offer you Hershey kisses. However, extrinsic motivation can be a good thing IF DONE RIGHT. While tutoring at a children's home last year, I tried to help my students develop intrinsic motivation. I tried to help them promote their confidence in their work. However, for one student, she didn't even have the motivation to TRY learning her spelling words because she thought she was the worst speller in the school. I had to use an extrinsic motivation- giving her extra tokens- to make her try. Then, once we worked through it, she did very well. Once she realized for herself that she could be a good speller, she had no problems putting forth the effort in the following week's spelling words WITHOUT extra tokens. Sometimes I believe it takes extrinsic motivation to give students that push. However, as long as you fade the extrinsic motivation out and do NOT create a dependence on it, it can be used to create an intrinsic motivation such as in this case, developing confidence in herself.

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Jessica Placke


Mon Oct 13, 2008 11:30 am
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I love your mom's idea of the "good citzen jar" Emily! I also read about one system that I really liked, it was either in Dangerous Minds or Freedom Writers. The teacher would, at first give rewards for any student who tried to do their homework and turned it in, and slowly raised the expectations. This got the kids interested in doing the work, but they realized that they constantly had to step up their game. Eventually the rewards had become obsolete and the students were doing above and beyond the teachers expectations just because it made THEM feel good.

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Amanda Klinger


Mon Oct 13, 2008 2:02 pm
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I really like you mom’s idea; I think that rewarding students as a class creates a more supportive classroom environment rather than a competitive one. I have one reward system that I can clearly remember liking from elementary school. My first grade teacher rewarded students on both an individual and classroom basis. She had designed a ladder for each student and one for the class. She also had a jar with slips of paper on it from which she would draw the class prize. For individual rewards you had to do things like turn in your homework, be kind, read books, ect. If these things were done then both the student who completed them and the class got to move up the ladder leading to a reward. When an individual student reached the top of the ladder than they and another student who completed the track (we had to wait for two people) got to take a trip to my teacher’s house for the afternoon after school one day. I can clearly remember being so excited to get to go to my teacher’s house, and I still remember the activities I did, the friend I went with, and how my teacher treated me. For the class reward when the top of the ladder was reached, my teacher drew a reward out of the jar and everyone got to participate in it. I remember one of our rewards being fifteen extra minutes of playtime or recess, and another big reward we got was a class pet. I really liked this reward system because it rewards both group and individual effort and responsibility without creating a competitive spirit in the class.

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Kerry Crosby Smith


Mon Oct 13, 2008 3:14 pm
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I know in physical education one thing that we try to do to motivate stuedents as well as hold them accountable is that we use a point system. Students are in teams and they can earn points for attendance, participation, being on time, etc. The points determine a champion so that it is not always the best skilled teams that win. One of my professors also uses a point system in one of my college classes this semster. We get points for being in class, being on time, and being prepared. We can also earn bonus points certain days. The points add up until the test. The place your team finishes in determines how many bonus points you get on the test. A point system is something easy to implement and can work at any age.


Mon Oct 13, 2008 7:41 pm
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I think that Emily's mom had a good idea with the jar as well. I think it helps the students to recognize good behavior and see that they can be an important part of a community. It can also help encourage others to do well so that they can get a full jar. I have experienced a similar situation while working at a day camp that didn't go so well. We had a point system. If the students got so many points, they would get an ice cream sundae party. They would get points for cleaning up after lunch and things like that without being told. The problem was, the students would pick up one piece of trash then come running up to a counselor asking for a point. Also certain counselors would give points randomly just so they could get the prize as well. The counselors also told the students if they would be quiet, they would get a point. In my opinion, this defeated the purpose; the students were supposed to do well without being told in order to get a point. But this was a very different setting than there would be at school and it honestly wasn't set up the way it needed to be set up. I think it can work, like the good citizen's jar, if used correctly. My sister is a first grade teacher and uses a prize box. She has little trinkets in there that kids usually love. If the kids do well for the, they get to individually pick something out of the prize box on Friday to take home. I do think though that children should know that there are other "rewards" they can get by showing good behavior and citizenship, other than something material, such as praise or self-worth.

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Brittany Norman


Fri Oct 24, 2008 1:07 pm
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