Do your students suffer from a lack of motivation? In the midst of spring break and standardized testing, students may find it difficult to focus on their schoolwork.

One of the best ways to motivate students is to get them invested in their own learning. Because once students can see their progress, they are more likely to want to progress. Take a look at these tried-and-true ideas teachers across the country are using to motivate their students.

Graph Their Growth
A teacher in California had her students make graphs of their grades after every reading assignment. Though skeptical at first, she saw great improvement as the weeks passed:

Every time they read and answered questions, my students tallied up how many they got right and posted it on their personal graphs. They could see their scores improve and dip, and it was amazing to see their reaction to that. They went from being a very reluctant group of readers to achieving a very remarkable reading status. I did this for years, and it works.

Students of any age can graph out their scores, whether by bar graph, line graph, or even pictograph.

Stick to It
Stickers. You’ve used them to track progress before, but did you ever wonder if they actually motivate? A literacy coach from Ohio shared one teacher’s experience with her high school juniors:

I tried implementing a rewards chart using stickers. The first couple of weeks I could not see any response. Then one day, I forgot to update the chart. One of my “tough” guys came up and said, “Hey, where is my sticker?” Since then I have noticed how often the kids are actually talking about the stickers and congratulating each other. Works…even for the old kids.

Use this sticker template and 1-inch round sticker sheets (Avery 5410 work well) to print your own stickers from home or school.

Reward Good Behavior
An ESL teacher in Oregon used Imagine Learning as a motivator for one first grader.

In the past, he did not respond to disciplinary measures. But now, since he loves this program, he can be reminded that he needs to behave to use the program. A hyperactive student like Pepe, who is impulsive and has trouble sitting still, can still focus and learn. The pace of the program, the games, the music, the visuals all appeal to a very active student and keep him motivated to learn.

Though some students will do anything for candy, the best rewards are ones that continue to encourage learning. Rewards like computer time, unique learning games, and team projects add something new to the day and help motivate students to pay attention the rest of the day.

What techniques have you used to motivate students in the classroom? Do your students respond better to rewards or penalties?