Sunday, January 19, 2014

Student Motivation

I instituted the 3P grading policy for the second semester of the school year, with my principal's blessing. I truly believe that student's should have some input into their final grade. I also believe that when a student feels that they are valued they will perform better. So, all that being said, I thought that this approach to grading might help to motivate my current 8th grade class. I was wrong. They certainly seemed excited by it when I explained it to them, but their work performance did not change. The same students that did not do their work before, continue to not do their work. I don't know what else to do!

We do much of our work in class because I know that they go home to environments that are not conducive to study. Many have parents who do not speak English or parents who do not arrive home from work until quite late. If anything does become homework, it is only what was not finished in class AND it is ALWAYS something that any one of them could complete independently. I NEVER ask them to do anything, with which they might struggle, without me. And still, I get nothing.

I have a good relationship with the class. I do not belittle them or scream at them or even nag them about work (I have colleagues that do all of this and more!). These students come to me with their problems, their hopes and dreams, and they tell me repeatedly that I am their favorite teacher because I understand them and my class is fun and interesting. So WHY CAN'T I GET THEM TO DO THEIR WORK!!

I know, some of you are thinking my work it boring! But it isn't. I am not a drill and kill worksheet lady. I turn grammar lessons into songs and use a story approach to teaching. We have LOTS of discussion, turn and talk, work with a partner, and hands-on activities going on all the time.

I really feel like this class is an anomaly, but I know that the upcoming 6th grade class is like this 8th grade class so I am wondering if this is what the future holds. Is education not valued anymore? What can I do to make sure these students will be successful in life?


  1. You sound exactly like me last year when I was working in the charter school in Louisiana. The 3P system, from my understanding, works best in a workshop style classroom. It gives you the opportunity to meet with individuals or small groups while the rest of the class is independently improving their own writing/reading because they want to prove to you that they are growing in order to validate their grades. Some students just don't do well with this kind of unstructured environment. I was actually told by my administration that I SHOULD be doing skill drills and such because the kids like to be able to complete tasks and get immediate feedback. I know it's not best practice, but have you tried any of that at all?

    1. I have tried it all. I find that the drills do nothing for motivation and even if they are completed, the students don't remember anything after a day or two. I actually keep my classroom pretty structured, but my students are setting their own goals so they know if they are making progress. I give constant feedback without the drills. We do quite a bit of turn and talk and while they are discussing I am making my way around the room and listening, commenting where necessary and making notes on my clipboard. I have a sheet with each child's name and I can note if they are understanding or not and I can quickly correct any misunderstandings right there. This is my first time trying this and I have some kinks to work out, but I definitely think this way of assessing my students is better than just taking a bunch of grades and averaging. I am blessed to have a very supportive principal as I work all this out!