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Student Motivation: One Size Does Not Fit All

Posted by Guest Teacher Blogger on March 10, 2016 at 8:09 AM

Contributing Author: Lindsay Helman


As teachers, our goal is to have students own their education and have a desire to improve. We often think that this will happen naturally. Or, we divide students into two groups: those who are motivated and those who are not. My belief is that all students can be motivated and it is up us, as teachers, to create diverse opportunities to try to spark that desire to improve. I firmly believe that if you are willing to try different things, eventually one of them will click for each of your students. One size does not fit all. A classroom is filled with diverse needs and personalities. You cannot expect one or two ways of trying to motivate students to work for everyone.

The goal is to figure out what makes your students get excited and to continue to provide different opportunities so that everyone can find their “spark.” I have students who thrive on personal attention from me. I have students who love competition; I have students who love to see their names on a bulletin board; I have students who love getting certificates; I have students who love verbal praise. Ultimately, each student will be motivated by a different set of factors, and I make it a goal to reach and motivate ALL students.

Boosting Student Motivation With Front Row:

This is one of the reasons why I love Front Row. Not only is it an impressive and successful program to improve math skills, but it also provides me with opportunities to motivate my students. The program itself provides different ways to get students excited. You have the leader board and the Piggy Store that provides instant gratification for students with seeing their names and earning coins to spend. I did find that for most of my students, this was motivation enough. For some of my other students, it was good for them but I still found that I needed to provide more. As a result, I created a Coin Club and the Most Improved Awards.

Front Row Coin Club

The Coin Club:

The Coin Club recognizes students for earning coins. They get to move their “piggy” to each club benchmark once they’ve earned enough coins. They get their picture taken, we clap for them, and they get a certificate. It seem simple, but it’s incredibly effective.  Once students get close to the next benchmark, they beg to work on Front Row because they want to reach the next level!  

Piggie Coin Club Bulletin Board  Coin Club Close Up

Most Improved Awards:

Other students feel motivated by being most improved. I pass out certificates weekly based upon the email report from Front Row. I have found that often, the most improved are the ones that struggle with math. They may work through the program slower than their peers, but with the awards, their effort is recognized. These extra motivation strategies, in combination with what Front Row has built in, has made my class more goal orientated and passionate about improving their math. I don’t have to beg them to work hard because they want to work hard. They want to improve.

Motivation + Growth Mindset:

Growth Mindset means that we are helping students own their education. It means that they understand the connection between their effort and their results.  Students know that they may not “get” things right now, but it is within their power to improve by putting forth effort.  Students think learning is like working out. It works their brain and overcoming each struggle and all their effort is seen through the results of their improvement. Students don’t develop this naturally. It takes teachers explaining this and then providing opportunities for students to work on it through goal setting and hard work. Providing different ways to motivate students goes hand in hand with Growth Mindset. It provides an opportunity for students to figure out what motivates them and then work towards that goal. Once they begin working to reach their goals, the concept of Growth Mindset comes to life because they experience the end results.

Whether it be a Coin Club, Most Improved award, or another creative idea, these motivational strategies will improve student engagement with and enthusiasm for their practice. For me, building my student motivation toolkit helped me build a strong class culture that celebrates growth and achievement. And I’d still love to learn more! If you have any tips for motivating your students as they use Front Row or any other EdTech tool, please comment below to share!

Me (1)Lindsay Helman is a 3rd grade teacher in the Penn Harris Madison School District in Indiana. She began her teaching career later in life, after working in sales, the radio/TV industry and event planning. Lindsay started teaching 5 years ago and is a teacher leader. She often leads PDs for other teachers in her school and her district, and she is a beloved member of Front Row’s Ambassador Team (#FrontRowATeam). Lindsay loves trying new and innovative methods to help her students grow and love learning.  In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband, Aaron, and three children; Dawson (14), Colton (5), and Addison (2).  

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