Here we are again! Welcome back! We’ve been talking about what not to do; now let’s look at something positive. I’m going to show you the way I teach my students to focus on the learning. And, even if I do say so myself, I think you’ll like the idea. It’s not original with me—I learned from others; and I liked it the minute I heard it!
Teacher Sue, are you against rewards also?! Ooh, well, this newsletter isn’t going to dissect the pros and cons of rewards. I just want to answer that question by talking about how to focus on learning. So keep reading! You’ll see what I mean before I sign off.
I’m positive that everyone of you reading this, knows that yeast makes bread rise. Right? But have you ever thought about this: you can’t raise the bread on your own. You have to use the yeast to help you make it rise. …Yeah, that’s an odd way of looking at it, but my point is this: when you cannot achieve an effect on your own, you can sometimes use something else to achieve it with. That is the way it is with children and a rewards system. Now, I want to show you how I use rewards, and how it helps me achieve the effect I want—helping children to focus on learning. It can be abit obscure at first. You might be like, “What, I don’t get it.” But think abit, and you’ll see the way clear. Here we go~
Kayla is working on matching pictures and corresponding alphabets. She has eight different sets to match on her worksheet. “Okay, Kayla, let’s see if you know these. When you finish this section, if you learned well, we can put a Well Done stamp here.” Kayla starts working. “What is this?” (pointing to a picture of a box). Kayla says, “A box!” “Yup, you’re right! When you say box, Kayla, what is the first sound you hear?” Blank look. “What sound do you hear when I say box?” Blank, panicky look. “Okay, let’s say it together. Box. B-b-box.” What sound do you hear?” “/B/.” “There you go! And which letter says /b/?” “Letter B!” Great job!
And this scenario repeats itself for the first half of the exercise. After awhile, she picks up on what I’m asking and begins to give answers, albeit hesitantly. That is what I’m looking for. She is focusing well, willing to try and interested in what we are doing. Now, it may be that Kayla is new to onset (beginning sounds), or that she is still developing phonological awareness, or that she has just learned the sound for letter B. Whichever it is, she has a great learning attitude and deserves every bit of the pleasure she gets from stamping Well Done on her paper after the exercise.
Note, please, that I as good as gave Kayla the answers to the first half of the exercise, but that did not diminish the reward at all. Speaking of rewards, those I give aren’t always tangible, because I don’t want my students to start doing things just for the reward. Sometimes it is a sticker, sometimes stars (as many as they want, written with my red pen), sometimes stamps and most often, it is just sincere verbal praise—and they appreciate it too!
My rewards are never any nicer just because they get a 100% when I do an assessment. The children know that my rewards are based on their study attitude: if they did their best (and I know with certainty when they do and when they don’t), they get every bit of the full reward and shining approval from me… even if they did get 1/10 on the assessment.
What happens when you use the rewards like this, is that the child takes his focus away from “Did I get them 100% right?” and starts focusing on “Teacher Sue is working with me on this exercise. Let’s see if I can do this”—good focus, cooperative learning and a positive learning attitude. That is what you want. Once your child is geared towards learning, he will not need prodding. He will enjoy it and remember what he has learned. Do you see how different it is from counting up the marks and aiming for a number? So, to answer the question I posed in the title of this newsletter: should I promise a reward if my child does well? (“If you score above 230 on your PSLE, I’ll buy you an iphone”; “If you get perfect marks on your exam, we’ll go on holiday”).
I think you know the answer. NO. Rewards should not hinge on how well a child does. The reward should not be related to whether he does well or not—it should hinge on the child’s learning attitude. (“If you do your best, I’m going to give you a nice surprise”—it doesn’t have to be expensive material things, sometimes all a child needs is your full attention for a whole evening. Ever thought about that?) We’ll end here today, and I’ll be back soon!
Until then, thank you for reading! I hope this newsletter has given you some insight!