This blog will probably not make some people happy and I apologize right off the bat.
I used a carrot. I did. And I feel bad about it. Kind of.
As the school year was finishing up, I read any number of blog posts about ways of keeping the “summer slide” to a minimum. Whether it library programs, visits to the library, reading to your kids, or something else, it seemed like everyone had an idea on how to keep the learning going. It all got me thinking: how do I keep these kids going? This class since third grade hasn’t made a ton of growth. Sure they move forward, but for the strugglers, it’s never enough to bring them to grade level. So I pulled out the carrot.
It’s a three pronged idea that my wife and I came up with. I had these students for two years, so I knew them a little better than most classes, likes and dislikes. So, I gave three things they had to do during the summer. First, they had to use TenMarks, an online math program, an hour a week. Their data said this would keep students moving forward throughout the break. My thoughts, any math is better than no math. Plus, they take a pre-test and it levels the math for them so they would be working at place that wouldn’t frustrate them. Second, read six books. I gave them the benefit of the doubt that they’d take two weeks per book. If they are like me, they take two days. Either way, for my struggling readers, six books in twelve weeks would be challenging for them. Finally, a blog a week. They could write about whatever they wanted, but they just needed to keep writing.
The carrot, three pronged. If they did all three things they would get: a dozen of my wife’s Snicker-doodle cookie, a loaf of my bread, and a $15 gift certificate to the local independent book store. If they did two of the three: choice of cookies or bread and a $10 gift certificate. And finally if they did one: a cookie (singular) and a $5 gift certificate. Now, I have a class of 15 students this year, so it’s a perfect test group. If they all do something, it’s not a huge cost, but if three or four do all, that’s a good percentage. Now, I know some of you are thinking “Snicker-doodles and bread, are you kidding me??” No, I’m not. That’s the blessing of having a group two years, you get to know what they like, and this group LOVES my wife’s cookies and my bread. 🙂
Right now, I have five students who are blogging, so 1/3 of the class is making some kind of attempt to keep their writing going. If this plays out, I’ll be very happy with that! My problem, I just finished Daniel Pink’s book Drive and feel bad about offering up the carrot. I feel bad to a point because while it may not be the best way to motivate, I’m pretty sure if I don’t offer something like this, that 33% goes to close to 0%. Am I getting the students I really need? No, and that’s another disappointment. I cannot monitor their reading or math usage, but if they aren’t writing, my guess is they aren’t doing the other. We’ll see.
If this works, I’ll continue to do this in upcoming years. We cannot always use the carrot, but sometimes, the prize at the end of the race will motivate, and if the thought of a book, cookies, and bread motivate a student to read, write, and practice math over the summer, I need to give them that chance.
And yes, it’s silly, but when I went through the prize list and saw their eyes light up, I knew I had some of them. 🙂