January 29, 2012

Small Doses

In my first year, I struggled to get my students to complete their work. I tried every motivational strategy I knew, heard of or read about. I had never experienced students that weren't intrinsically motivated. It was difficult and their grades suffered, terribly. I want my students to succeed. I help them, as much as I can without handing them the answers or grades. But, I can't do that unless the student wants my help.

This was an on-going fight in my head for the entire school year. Until...

The best, most simple advice was given to me.

"Let students believe you are only giving them a fraction of the work you could otherwise be assigning," said our district behavior coach.

At that point, I was willing to try anything. So, the next day after my lesson, I told my eighth graders they needed to complete six practice problems and we would save the rest for another day. You wouldn't believe it. Their focus to complete those six problems was amazing. Plus, it was so much better for them to complete at least some of their work compared to none of their work.

I have used this strategy time and time again throughout the year, and I give it much of the credit for the overall improvement my classroom and I have experienced.

I have been focusing on this strategy very heavily the last week. My students will do just one part of a project a day, or only part of an activity or worksheet. When the students feel like they don't have too much work to do, they feel like they can actually accomplish the work and they don't become overwhelmed.

It really is just a tiny strategy that can make a huge difference!

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