I am a strong believer that appreciation is one of the most effective student motivators. It’s amazing the impact when you celebrate student success and reward them for their achievements (no matter how small) can have on classroom management, student morale, and community.
Plain and simple, a student who feels appreciated will do more than is expected.
Below are a few simple, uplifting, and inspiring ways to intentionally celebrate your students and create a positive classroom community:
What English teacher doesn’t love a good pun? When I was in the classroom, I loved to stash my favorite punny cards in my desk to give to a student who needed a pick-me-up. Even though middle and high school students won’t admit it, they love receiving cards from their teachers. Each week, I would try to write out three cards per student, making note of something kind, impressive, or noteworthy they did throughout the week. This could be something as simple as recognizing a student for helping someone in class. It could be for improving a grade, or stepping outside of their comfort zone, or even simply improving a behavior.
I loved having a student of the week or month board in my classroom where I could recognize students for a variety of reasons. Having this set up allows you to honor students not only for their academics, but for their other strengths. You might award it to a student who follows all of the rules, to someone who is always polite and respectful, or a person who always gets their work done on time. I include a picture of the student (used with their permission) and fill in why they were chosen, a quote from the teacher, a quote from a friend, 3 words to describe the person, and a classroom memory.
Hosting an awards ceremony at the end of the year is one of my favorite ways to celebrate students. I am always very intentional about making each of the awards sincere and positive. I am not a fan of awards that are used as a means to light-heartedly tease students. Although they seem harmless, some students can be very sensitive and it’s best to focus on the strengths of each student and let them shine for a moment.
I’m a bit obsessed with creating awards, so I have quite a few options that I would choose from. Some of the awards I have used in the past are Most likely to Awards, Pun Awards, Metaphor Awards, Famous People Awards, Animal Awards, Hashtag Awards, Idiom Awards. and Alliteration Awards.
I also have have a huge bundle of all of the awards I have ever created which you can check out here: Student Awards Bundle.
When you teach middle or high school, it can be difficult to find an affordable gift to give to all of your students. One of my favorite gifts to give at the start or the end of the school year is a pencil and I package it with an inspiring writing quote (see picture below). To create this gift, you’ll need paper (preferably card stock), tape, and scissors– along with either pencils or pens of your choice. Download these for free by clicking here.
When students reach high school, we sometimes think that they no longer care about having their work displayed. In my experience; however, students still feel proud when they see an assignment they completed posted for others to admire. Also, I recommend that you try to be intentionally inclusive and not always post the same students’ work. Celebrate student improvement, not perfection. Use the opportunity to display work as a means of highlighting not only those who are academically gifted, but also those who have shown creativity, hard work, or improvement. Below is a my free Shakespeare Advice Column from my 10 Days of English Teacher Giveaways displayed in the classroom of @thekernowenglishteacher.
If you are calling or emailing a parent, chances are it’s not for a positive reason. Teachers often fall into the routine of only making contact home when there is an issue, but it’s incredible what happens if you carve out a small amount of time each week to intentionally make some positive contact home.
Pick one student each week and call or email home. Share something positive, especially for those parents who don’t often receive those calls. I can guarantee that only good will come of it. The parent, the student, and you will all benefit. One other thing – you will forget to do this. You will get busy, and it won’t feel as important as the other things on your to-do list. Put it in your planner, and make it happen. This 5 minutes will make all the difference.
Want some free positive email templates you can use? Grab them here.
There is nothing better than hearing that someone has spoken positively about you when you weren’t around. I encourage you to talk behind students’ backs…but only the good stuff. Notice someone in your class has improved their writing? Bring it up to that students’ friend by saying something like, “Have you read the short story that so and so wrote? Wow, I was totally blown away!” When you compliment a student like that, it tends to make its way back to them and fosters stronger relationships in the classroom
Is there any better motivator for teenagers, than treats? I loved bringing in something for students on a day when they had completed and handed in a major assessment. Celebrating a job well done and eating together can really improve classroom community. Students usually appreciate the kind gesture, and it’s a nice segue from completing one assignment and moving onto new content.
You can also use this as a class incentive or reward system. Students receive points for a particular action or behavior and when a certain number is reached, you celebrate as a class.
Take the time to notice your students. Notice when they do something kind, improve their work, or show strength of character. You never know the lasting impact that your appreciation will have.
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