One of the “Laws of Learning” is that students need positive motivation and encouragement when they are doing well, not just correction when they do not measure up. The ACE training manual pictures a donkey pulling a load as an illustration of a student accomplishing the necessary academic work, or load. The farmer may need a whip at the back, but he also should have a big juicy carrot out front within reach of the hungry donkey!
Similarly, students are often motivated by rewards and privileges that they can earn. There is nothing unbiblical about this, obviously, as God promises crowns in heaven and other earthly blessings for choosing to follow Him and obey his commands.
Stars on a star chart are a visible way to see progress throughout the year and the Gold Stars stand out as reminders of the 100% scores earned!
Praise and words of encouragement should be a regular part of the vocabulary of the monitor, supervisor, or parent on a daily basis. It’s easy to get into a habit of looking for the problems and errors and lazy habits and forget to consciously look for areas to praise. (Confession is good for the soul.)
Privilege Status is one of the most “motivating” tools we use in our Christian school. Every weekend I re-evaluate who has privilege and what level they have earned for the upcoming week. There’s so much to say about Privileges that I have a separate post just about that! (If you use the ACE Goal Cards you’ve seen the A.C.E. Privilege status check-box on them and maybe wondered that was.)
The Merit System is another top motivator. Students can earn merits for many different positive achievements or demonstrations of character. Merits can be redeemed in the merit store for snacks, school supplies, toys, and gift certificates for special privileges (like having a hot beverage in office for the day). Again, there’s so much to say on this topic, that I have a separate post about it.
ACE recommends a “Green Dot” treat at the end of week for students who had their goals done before dismissal time every day that week. That may work well in the elementary, but in the high school I found that almost no one was able to earn that reward, so we changed it to be part of what all Privilege Students receive on Monday morning. We call it the “Monday Privilege Treat” and a different family is in charge of providing the treat each week on a rotation basis. The students look forward to the treat, whether it is cookies, brownies, root beer float, donuts, or other “healthy” snacks.
Honor Roll is another “big carrot” that students work hard to achieve. The requirements are simple – a student must have 3 stars on their chart per subject, have an overall average score for the quarter of 90% or better, and have all the Scripture passages for that month memorized and quoted. Highest honor roll has a higher overall percentage score cut-off (95% in our school). We hand out a certificate each quarter to the students who have earned Honor Roll. We also plan a special event for the qualifying students within a short time after the quarter ends. One quarter is usually lunch some place the students will enjoy, like a pizza buffet. Other recent events were laser tag, bowling at nice family center, pizza-popcorn-and-a-Christian-movie night at school, and miniature golf. Students who struggled to make honor roll in other schools often find that it is within their reach in an ACE school since they are working at their level and supported in being prepared for their PACE tests. I have a 9th grade boy this year who for the first time in his life has made honor roll! It is exciting to see him energized and working hard to stay on honor roll!
The Thousand Club is a way to recognize those students who have earned 10 perfect 100% scores in their PACE tests. When they get another 10 they get moved to the 2000 Club. We have had students move all the way into the 5000 Club some years! One reality-check note, however – this Club system seems to work better at the elementary level than with the teens. The PACE tests for grades 7-12 are much tougher to earn 100%’s and it seems that some students (who don’t really need much encouragement, shall we say) earn the 100’s and then the students who need the encouragement never seem to be able to earn 100%’s no matter how hard they study. So, we have chosen to use the Thousand Club as a motivation only with the elementary grades.
In a school setting it is recommended that all of these “carrots” be used to encourage and motivate students. A homeschool parent could easily utilize some of these tools as well, maybe with some modifications.
In the comments below add some positive motivations you have found work well with students.