GEARING UP FOR THE SOLSC: Classroom Prizes

I wanted my students to be intrinsically motivated to write daily when I was a classroom teacher.  When I began  teaching I naively thought my enthusiasm for writing would be contagious.  While my enthusiasm was enough for some students, it didn’t cut it for some of my reluctant writers.  Working with reluctant writers means getting creative without resorting to bribery.  It means providing motivation without mentioning grades.  Creating enthusiasm is hard when a child doesn’t feel s/he has anything to write about.  It’s hard to get kids intrinsically motivated to write when they don’t want to, isn’t it?

While some of my students were completing daily entries in their writer’s notebooks, not all of them were doing it with gusto.  Further, some of them claimed that their lives were boring and therefore they had nothing to write about.  Hence, I knew something had to change… and it did.  I proposed a month-long writing challenge to my kiddos back in February 2008.  When I challenged my fourth graders to write for the entire month of March (in 2008), I knew I had to offer them a little more than a little sticker on a grid of names.  Therefore, I promised students who completed 25 – 31 days of the first-ever Slice of Life Story Challenge writerly gifts.  (Click here to see what they received.)  I also promised to hold a party (with slices of cake, of course) for the students who completed 31 days.  While my first year of the classroom challenge was successful, I don’t think it was because of the prizes I offered.  Rather, it was successful because the level of enthusiasm about sharing stories increased.  Suddenly, we devoted time to sharing writing during Morning Meeting.  Furthermore, they were excited to read each other’s writing as soon as they turned-in their homework.  And while some kids didn’t complete slices for all 31 days, the volume of writing and enthusiasm for sharing slices of their lives increased markedly during March 2008.

If you’re planning to implement a Slice of Life Story Challenge in your classroom this March, then consider whether or not you want to offer prizes to students who complete a given number of entries in their notebook.  The prizes don’t need to be lavish, but if you decide to give prizes, then I think they should be writing-related.  Finally, instead of prizes, consider hosting a special lunch for students who complete the challenge.  This is also a meaningful way to celebrate the hard work that takes place during the Challenge.  (Click here to view some pictures from my second Slice of Life Story Challenge Party.)

Have you led a Slice of Life Classroom Challenge?  If so, have you given prizes to students who completed the Challenge?  What did you do to celebrate the slicers in your class?  If you have decided against prizes, please share how you celebrated with the writers who completed the Challenge.