“Dangling awards in front of children are at best ineffective, and at worst counterproductive.” – Alfie Kohn.
Have you considered the merits of your school’s year end award ceremony?
The realization that I needed to think about trying to change the culture of my school, with respect to awards, hit me square in the face during one of our assemblies. One morning, in the middle of the school year, the principal was making her way through the staff asking them to announce their ‘Fintastic’ winners of the week. Fintastics are tickets given to students who are caught doing good deeds around the school, and are part of our school’s PBS Positive Behaviour Support System. The lucky student’s name was called out, and that student headed to the front of the assembly to be recognized, by the entire school, for being ‘Fintastic.’ Sadly, not a single explanation was given as to why we were recognizing each student, except for the fact that at some point in the last week they were caught doing something ‘Fintastic’.
This educational epiphany forced me into thinking differently about student motivation, which in turn led me to think about awards and student achievement at my school. Research and numerous studies conducted by social psychologists show that the act of catching someone doing something positive and rewarding them for it in the shape of a token, gift, prize, or ‘Finatatsic’, can actually be detrimental to the type of behavior you are trying to recognise. Thanks to Daniel Pink, Sir Ken Robinson, @chriswejr, Alfie Kohn, and @gcouros I have been able to develop my own educational voice in this area, which led to some conversations in my school about changing how we recognize students, starting with end of the year awards. It’s this experience that I want to share today.
In my school, at the end of the year, it is the culture to award a myriad of certificates, medals, and trophies to grade 4, 5, and 6 students in areas such as Athletics, Service, Citizenship, Abundant Asset, Proficiency, Academic Excellence, A and B Honours. I have come to realize that there are more beneficial ways to recognize student achievement. Ways that show appreciation for all students instead of a selected few. Ways that promote community building and avoid focusing directly on the individual academic achievement. During our end of year awards ceremonies I have noticed the same student’s names appear beside each award, year after year.
All students contribute in some way to developing and maintaining a strong and inclusive school community, and as educators, we should be able to recognize each and every student for their individual contribution to the success of the year. In essence, award ceremonies, like the ceremonies that happen in my school and many other schools around the world, say that we only care about high achievers. In a class of 30 children when four are recognized for achieving high academic success, how do the other 26 children feel? Probably like their year was a waste of time.
There exists an extensive amount of research which shows that extrinsic rewards, such as stickers, trophies, medals, and certificates can be damaging to students’ intrinsic desire to learn for learning’s sake. It has been proven time and time again in countless studies over the last half-century that when students are rewarded for achieving certain goals, they perform less efficiently than those who are not rewarded. The rewarded, tend to think less creatively, have a ‘reach the goal at any cost’ mentality, are motivated to work individually instead of collaboratively, and are often so focused on the prize they become closed off to alternative methods of reaching the goal. (Kohn, 1999) In a time when we are trying to produce collaborative and creative workers for the work force, it seems counterproductive to continue to offer rewards in ways we currently do.
My Experience With Opening Up Discussions Around Awards and Rewards
The Conversation and compromise:
Towards the end of the school year I sat down with my principal and explained how uncomfortable I felt about only recognizing a select few students at the year end award ceremony. I went on to explain that it felt disrespectful towards the rest of my students. Each and every one of my students had made a positive contribution to the classroom community, and I felt the need to recognize them all, individually. She agreed that the current method of celebrating selective students at the end of the year probably wasn’t the best. We discussed increasing the number of awards, expectations of parents, expectations of students, and the effort required to change the school culture.
In the end I agreed to participate in the regular year end awards ceremony with some minor alterations, but then recognise my students, after the awards ceremony, in a more respectful and holistic way. I felt confident, after our discussions, that together we could start to slowly change the culture of award ceremonies.
After the award ceremony, I invited all of my student’s parents to attend one last class circle, where I would recognize all my students, individually, for their contribution to the classroom community. Before I started the circle, I explained to everyone present that this was an appreciation circle; a chance for me to reiterate how much I appreciated each student’s contribution this year. When giving feedback, I tried to give specific examples to make the feedback more meaningful. After I had finished with each student I gave them a card which repeated, in writing, exactly what I’d said orally. The feedback I received from the parents that attended was overwhelmingly positive. Even those parents whose children had, earlier in the day, been draped in medals and presented with numerous certificates, understood the value in the process. More importantly, every student received a piece of oral and written feedback thanking them specifically for their contribution.
Goals For The Upcoming School Year:
My goal for this year is to continue to have meaningful and productive conversations with admin, PAC, parents, and students around more effective ways to celebrate student achievements, particularly at the end of the year. As I did last year, I will host a final year-end circle in my classroom and invite all parents to attend.
Develop A School Culture That Recognize Every Child For Their Contribution and Their Efforts:
In the future, it is my hope that the culture of the school begins to recognize all students for their individual achievements throughout the year, and we no longer use the last official assembly of the school year to recognize a selected few.
I would welcome the opportunity to continue learning about how others recognise and celebrate student success, so please feel free to interact.
1. Edublog’s Student Blogging Challenge
This is a 10 week challenge facilitated by Edublogs and is designed to improve the quality of your student’s blog postings, give a framework for leaving quality comments and offer an opportunity for students to connect with other students from around the world.
The challenge occurs twice a year in September and March.
Steps to participate:
- Register your intent to participate.
- Register your email address with Edublogs here so you can receive weekly blogging challenges directly to your (or your students) inbox.
- You can do this by entering your email address in the top right hand corner of the Student Blogging Challenge website under the heading, ‘Subscribe For Free.’
Students who use class blogs (teachers blog) are just as welcome as well as those who have individual blogs.
Quadblogging is designed to increase the amount of traffic to your student’s blogs, enabling them to write for a wider audience. It also enables students to connect with teachers and students from around the world. Opportunities like these really open up your classroom to global perspectives.
Steps to participate:
- Sign up here.
- Keep up with tweets @Quadblogging.
- If you choose to lead a quad, then once you have been assigned your group, you will need to contact the other three schools and arrange a start date.
- If you choose not to lead a group, once you been assigned a blog, wait for the quad leader to contact you.
If you chose to take part, then please feel free to let me know how the project(s) went for you. Also, if you are aware of any similar projects please leave a message in the comments section.
This post is the start of a series of postings which are designed to create conversations on a variety of educational topics. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section.
I have been thinking about this topic for a couple of years, because I have yet to hear valid reasons for segregated our students when they play on school sports teams? Is it really necessary to separate girls and boys for team sports, at the elementary level?
Developing co-ed sports teams at the upper elementary level can create more harmonious classroom relationships between girls and boys, and may even lead to a deeper sense of gender equality later in life. Those that play together learn to live together. I have often been dismayed by the lack of respect boys and girls show each on the playground, occasionally in the classroom, and frequently on the field of play. These offences are usually gross-generalizations passed down through generations. I have lost count how many times I have heard these quiet murmurings on and around the soccer, “They are just girls,” “We should score lots of goals today, they have girls on their team,” “You can’t skip with us you’re a boy.”
I have heard the argument that the physical differences between boys and girls should be reason enough to separate them, but I disagree. In my experience, boys and girls aged 10, 11, and 12 (the age which students in my school district typically join sports teams) are very similar in bodyweight and height. Sure, there are times when the opposition towers over my smallest boys and girls, but they know its safe to play and nobody will intentionally hurt them.
Playing on co-ed teams teaches children to be more socially responsible. One of our school’s goals is social responsibility. We learn social responsibly in different ways throughout the day, and one way is through play. What better way is there to learn these skills, in a truly authentic way? The power of a great play between a boy and girl on the soccer field cannot be understated, especially when that moment of mutual respect is later transferred to the classroom in terms of working together in harmony. I would even go so far as to say that later in life that single moment could lead to a deeper sense of gender equality.
Our schools should mirror society’s move towards greater gender equality. We don’t have public schools for boys and public schools for girls in British Columbia. In fact, we activity encourage our students to work in mixed gender groups in the classroom, so why not on the sports field? Working and playing with the opposite sex is a skill and a necessity in life. The sooner we close the gap by developing co-ed teams at the elementary level the better.
Is it really necessary to separate girls and boys for team sports, at the elementary level? Co-ed teams foster a sense of mutual respect, they teach social responsibility, and they mirror what happens naturally in the classroom.
Further reading on gender bias’ in education:
1. The Progressive Story Project: My teaching partner, @missbartel, stumbled upon this project last year. Both our grade 5/6 classes participated with enthusiasm in the spring, and engagement levels were high throughout. The Progressive Story Project was developed by Karen Ditzler, an instructional technology specialist, from Pennsylvania USA. Groups of 5 classes, in schools around the world, work together to write a complete story. Here’s how the project works:
- The first class brainstorms and writes the intro paragraph(s).
- Then the next class reads the paragraph(s), brainstorms and decides how they want to continue the story.
- This will continue until the last class on the list writes the ending and gives the story a title.
- Classes can edit their section of the story on the Wiki.
- Once your class has finished the writing part, students can choose scenes to illustrate from their writing.
- Once all illustrations have been submitted, a VoiceThread is created of the entire story.
2. QuadBlogging: The primary goal of QuadBlogging is to increase the flow of traffic to a class blog or a number of student blogs in a particular class. The project creates opportunities for classes, in different school across the globe, to develop their blogging and commenting skills. If you are familiar with the Twitter hashtag #comment4kids, then QuadBlogging achieves a similar outcome but in a more formal way. Here’s how the project works:
- School A becomes the focus school for an entire school week
- Schools B, C, D spend the week visiting school A’s blog(s), leaving comments and interacting with the content of the blog(s)
- In the second week of the project, school B becomes the focus school
- Schools A, C, D spend the week visiting school B’s blog(s), leaving comments and interacting with the content of the blog(s)
- During the third week of the project, school C becomes the focus school for the week
- Schools A, B, D spend the week visiting school C’s blog(s), leaving comments and interacting with the content of the blog(s)
- The cycle continues until all schools have had the opportunity to be the focus school.
Throughout the whole of the previous school year, I often wondered how to reach more of my student’s parents and engage them (directly) in classroom concepts. I wanted to somehow have the ability to connect parents with what was happening in the classroom, and at the same time offer parents the opportunity to practice fundamental math concepts with their children, based on materials I had created for them.
Originally I had planned to video myself explaining math concepts such as place value, number sense, addition and subtraction, multiplication and division. When I first tried to video myself I had to consider things like lighting and position of props. It turned out to be time consuming and somewhat difficult.
Recently, I found a solution, and want to share it with you. I use the iPad app, Explain Everything to create math review videos. Explain Everything is an easy-to-use design tool that lets you annotate, animate, and narrate explanations and presentations. It’s like an interactive whiteboard for your iPad! You can easily create dynamic interactive lessons, activities, assessments, and tutorials using Explain Everything. It is possible to record your voice, add images, change pen colours and vary the thickness of your pen lines. Not only that, but you can easily edit your video, and export to several different formats including, YouTube, Evernote, and email.
The intermediate division of my school is going to be focused on improving math skills this year, and it is my goal to email or host these videos in a place for my student’s parents to view before school starts, during the first few weeks or school, and at any time a review is needed. So, the next time a parent of one of your students asks, “What can I do to help my child with math?” send them a link to one of your newly created math review videos. It’s that easy!
Here’s a couple I made today. Feel free to tell me what you think:
Updating your WordPress.com blog on your iPad, while travelling, has never been easier with Blogsy. There are many applications you can use to manage your blog on the go including, WordPress, Blogpress, Evernote, but I really like Blogsy and its ease of use.
Before you begin blogging, you will need to purchase some additional hardware if you fo not plan to use the iPad’s built-in video and camera. If you have an additional camera you use to take pictures for your blog, or a video camera with more options you’ll need to purchase the Apple iPad Camera Connect Kit. This allows you to connect an external micro SD card or a USB device to your iPad. Once you connect the camera kit, the iPad will automatically import all video and images based on your preferences. It’s as simple as that. Once your media is stored on the iPad, you are ready to blog. It is also possible to add media via cloud picture albums such as Picasa Web Albums and Flickr without the camera connect kit. I’ll explain this later.
Once all the media (pictures and video) which you intend to use in your blog posting has been transferred to the iPad you can begin to interact with Blogsy. Before you create your first blog you will need to customize Blogsy. It doesn’t mater which of the three main blogging platforms you use, WordPress, Blogger, or Posterous. You will be able to use Blogsy’s easy to use interface to post content to your blog. Here is a useful video that explains how to complete Blogsy’s ont-time set up for your blogging platform:
Assuming, when about to blog on the go, that you don’t have access to cloud photo albums, Flickr and Picasa Web Albums, you will to transfer media (both still pictures and video) from your SD card to your iPad. This short video explains how to do this with the aid of Apple’s Camera Connect Kit:
Once you have transfered all your media to the iPad, you can write your post in full and publish to your favourite blogging platform. This short video explains how to add media to your post, apply appropriate categories and tags, and publish to the Internet:
I recently created a blog on the iPad using Blogsy. It’s as easy to blog on the iPad as it is on a laptop or desktop. By clicking on the link you can see the quality and variety of the postings on my summer cycle tour along northwestern coast of the U.S.A. All posts were created and published on the iPad.