Joy Kirr is a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. Her 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts) classes are working to improve their lives through student-directed learning - without marks throughout the year. This is a log of their learning experiences... Want to have her speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is Joy's PORTFOLIO.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Sticky Subject

Stickers.
I'm not a fan.
Other teachers use stickers - even at the middle school. I hear it works for them.
I made a mistake last week, and then it turned out to be a great lesson for the entire class.

When students ask me for "extra credit" or a "pizza party" or some other reward for doing something they SHOULD be doing, I cringe. Then I share all my sticky note tabs from Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn. I let them know I've done my research, and I'm done giving rewards to motivate them.

I wasn't feeling the best, and Millie (pseudonym) wasn't reading. She wasn't doing the ONLY homework I assign - read for 20 minutes. In class, she pretends to read. She has openly admitted that reading is difficult for her and she doesn't like it. I've sat one-on-one with her, explaining how practice reading will help it be not so difficult. I've informed her that in 8th grade and beyond, she'll be asked to read teacher-choice novels outside of the class... if she's not reading what she could ENJOY, she will have a rough time reading what teachers assign. She continued to pretend to read.

So I regressed - I offered her a sticker for each night she read. A few other girls heard, and suddenly they wanted stickers, as well. I sighed, and acquiesced, dusting off my years-old Ziplock baggie out of a bin from up on a shelf.

The next day, EVERY student who read the night prior received a tiny leaf sticker. (There's no snow on the ground, and the Sycamore and Oak trees are slowly letting go...)

The next day (Friday), students were not adding to our student-led reflection for the week, so I suggested using stickers for participation. (Hit head against wall now.)

Suddenly, students started asking for (then demanding?!) different COLORS of stickers. "I got the yellow one yesterday!" It started getting crazy. The reflection for the week became all about stickers instead. I thought this was a terrible way to end the week! I was so surprised at what happened next.

Realizations...

Lightbulbs went off as they started realizing what was going on. They saw my point about rewards - the more people give them, the more they want. They had been completely satisfied and participating prior to me pulling out my (very) old bag of stickers.

How did this activity and the week end? The students themselves added to their reflection - No more stickers.

Now....... what to do with these??


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