Ten Points to Gryffindor! …I Mean, Alabama!

Some of my students love my English class. Others, not so much. Because my class does not give a grade, some students are not motivated to participate or do their work. To motivate my students, I decided to combine some popular classroom management tactics – competition, rewards, and group accountability – into one super-tactic.

Behold, the United States of Janine’s Classroom.

20150915_223519013_iOS 20150915_223510909_iOSI divided my 300 second-grade students into 51 groups, named after the 50 United States and Washington D.C. When students do their work and win class games, I give them “State Points,” which are recorded on the chart. The three states with the most points at the end of the semester will get a pizza party. NOTHING motivates students as much as food!

I’ve found that the “State Points” system has several advantages:

  1. It’s an easy way to put students into groups for projects or group work. I can just say, “Get into your state groups!” and the students know which classmates to find.
  2. It makes games much more interesting. Everything can become a mini-competition. At the end of class, I try to play a game to reinforce what we learned or to have students stand and practice reading their work out loud. Students are ten times more motivated to participate if I say, “Everyone who reads their work gets 10 state points!”
  3. It’s a good incentive for students to actually do their work. If I say that every finished paper gets 5 state points and every unfinished paper costs their state 5 points, more students will do their work (though a few states are still in negative numbers on the chart because they refuse to write their paragraphs).
  4. Students care about how they are doing compared to the other states, which lends accountability to the members of the group. When I walk into class at the start of each period, there are usually two or three students looking at the chart to see their state’s rank. If their state isn’t doing as well as they expected, the students can nudge their classmates to pull their weight in games and classwork.

I’ve noticed that this is working best with the classes that already had some motivation, though it has also had a positive impact on some of the students who were less motivated. The most apathetic students who sleep in every class are continuing to sleep in class, which has been frustrating. Those students will be the most difficult to reach.

Given class participation so far, I predict that the top three states will be South Dakota, Alabama, and Wyoming. I will give an update in December!


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