Thursday, April 23, 2009

Motivating Good Grades

"Nine tenths of education is encouragement." -- Anatole France

My kids do well in school and are still at the age where it's exciting for them. The school certainly plays a part and does its best to keep them interested -- field trips, experiments, activities, you name it.

The school does a good job of motivating the kids to learn. For example, each month the kids bring home a calendar so they can write down how many minutes each day they read. If they reach a goal of 200 minutes in the month, they get a certificate for a free meal from a local restaurant. And now that baseball season has started, the kids each get a free pass to an Omaha Royals (minor league) game if they read four books in class. I took the kids to a game last year and I'll take them again this year.

The school hosts a lot of activities like Books and Bingo. If you get a bingo, you get to pick a book. The kids love that activity. There's also Breakfast and Books, where we get a donut and juice and get to read. The school has a book fair during parent/teacher conferences; a perfect time for the kids to extort money from the parents. :)

The teachers also have their own systems to motivate the kids, such as tabs: each time a kid brings home some homework signed, or does something good in class, a tab with the kid's name goes in a jar. At the end of the week some tabs are pulled and the kids get some prizes. Obviously, the more tabs, the better a kid's chance of getting a prize.

The kids are graded on their report cards as Not Sufficient (N), Satisfactory (S) and Excellent (E). My kids for the most part get S, S+ and E. I don't have to try hard to motivate them to do well in school because the teachers are doing a good job of that. For their next report card, which will be the last for the year, I did make them a deal: I will pay them a dollar for every E they get on their report cards. Nothing for S+, only Es. They had several Es already and many more S+s. The idea was to turn the S+s into Es. I will let you know how that goes.

So far I'm pretty lucky. My kids enjoy learning and it isn't a major chore for them. They don't bring home much homework, outside of spelling words and some reading for the weekend. They're only in elementary school so that will change when they get older.

What does your school do to motivate kids to learn? What has worked for you in the past, either as a kid or as a parent?

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