Have you ever heard either of these from your students in class? “but Miss….. I don’t wanna…..” or “well, I didn’t think I had to do it.” You are probably nodding your head right now and totally get me because you have been there. Maybe you were even there this week. I feel you and I’ve been there myself and it sucks. It’s the absolute last thing you want to hear from your students because you know that you have taught the material, given the directions (as well as probably written them on the dry erase board and/or the paper in front of them) and have answered it for another student, or 10, already.
I get it. I truly do.
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So How Do I Motivate Students to Do Work?
It’s not an easy, overnight fix… it takes some figuring out but I’m going to share with you some things that I did in my classroom over the years that seemed to work repeatedly time and time again.
First, make sure that you are taking the assignment for a grade. Having a grade attached to an assignment holds students accountable and will make them more likely to do their work. If you are doing an independent work assignment within math workshop you know how much that a student can easily complete in the given time for the station. You should be assigning work based on that and make sure to differentiate assignments during this time for students because that will make it that much more aligned to their abilities.
Then GRADE THEIR WORK! Let the students see the assignment and put the grade in the gradebook. If they don’t do an assignment, or if they only partially do it, they will see how it can affect them. Take this time to follow up with your procedures and consequences that you have in your classroom. Do you make students redo below a certain grade? Do they need to get a parent signature? Do they get a detention if they don’t do an assignment? Do they have to schedule tutorials to then come in and do the assignment? Follow through is going to be your biggest factor in this area because you set the stage. And in the end, if you choose to drop a grade before submitting them for the grading period that is up to you.
Making it a Game
Another way to motivate your students is to make it a game. I did this by giving my students their assignment, let’s say that it had 10 questions. I would then place 5 of the answers around the room under a sheet of construction paper (taped at the top to hide the answers underneath). Once they have spent their time working they can then show the Team Manager of their group to make sure there is work shown and answers on all and when approved they can go look at the different answers to check some of their work.
If it was an even shorter assignment, 4-6 problems, I would have them go check their answer after each problem. It would take a little more time but it would also get them up and moving to keep the wiggles out while they are working.
And another great way to keep your students on task is to allow one group member to be the Teacher. This is a great task if you have a student in the group who has already mastered a concept, or even someone who might be struggling. Give them a green pen. Anything that they write must be done in the green pen so that you can see what they have done as well. They can answer questions (not showing them how to do something 100% but guiding them), students have have them check answers and they can put a check mark next to those that are correct, etc.
I started using this in my classroom when I was spot checking homework during the week (before I went to once a week homework) and I had 2-3 Student Teachers going around with green pens and clipboards with the answers for those items I wanted checked and it worked great.
With these three strategies I’m sure that you will find one that will work in your classroom, if not all of them. I will tell you I’ve been known to use multiple strategies in the same class throughout the school year because they don’t work all the time (and that’s okay). Have fun motivating your reluctant workers and let me know how it goes!