Have you ever encountered a group of students that just don’t seem very motivated? Maybe they just need a little extra incentive to be awesome? I think I’ve found the answer!
For the past two years we’ve used an incentive program that our kids absolutely love. They get so excited that they are eager to answer questions, participate in class activities, pick up after themselves, and be just all-around awesome kids. Sounds too good to be true…but it is. Want to know what we’re doing?
I have to take just a minute to give credit where credit is due. We stole this idea from Sydney Cooper, a totally awesome and creative band teacher in our region! She gave us this idea a few years ago, and we’ve made it our own, so I’m not exactly sure if we’re still doing the same thing, but I wanted to give credit where it’s due. Thanks, Sydney! Now on to the awesomeness (apparently that’s the word of the day today…).
Based on Sydney’s idea, we created a house system similar to the houses found in the Harry Potter series, but instead of creating Gryffindor and Slytherin, we created Bach House, Mozart House, and Beethoven House.
All of our students are divided into these groups at the beginning of the year. We split each class period evenly between the houses which makes separating the classes for group activities a breeze. All students in our Junior High, 6th – 8th graders, work together to earn points for their houses. This has really built a sense of unity and teamwork throughout the entire program.
We award points based on correct answers to questions in class (all of them at first, then maybe only 3 or 4 times throughout the class period when someone answers a difficult question), or if someone follows directions the first time when nobody else does. We also award points for taking initiative, such as when students go above and beyond what we ask of them.
We are not afraid to give more points for an awesome answer. We usually do something like 25 or 50 points per correct response. But if it’s a very detailed higher level answer, I might give 200 points.
Points can also be taken away. The students know that if they don’t act as they are supposed to, we will deduct points. As you can see on our leaderboard, there are more than a few points subtracted (all of the deductions seen below were for misbehavior).
As the year progresses, the kids get really excited by the incentive of more points per answer. I gave one house 1000 points today because only one student in the trombone section was ready to play when I raised my hands. You better believe the next time my hands went up every single horn in the room did as well!
Houses are rewarded a few times throughout the year at random. We don’t tell the students what the activity/reward is, and we don’t tell them when we’re planning to give a reward. But on whatever day we decide, we give a reward to the house with the most points. This gives all houses incentive to be in the lead every day because they never know when the reward is coming. When we give a reward, we reset all points to zero so it’s a clean slate again, leaving equal opportunity for any house to earn the next reward.
Some of our rewards have included:
- a free day playing outside during our class while the rest of the group continues normal class activities,
- candy giveaway (after school of course),
- getting to be teachers for the day. They can pick whatever line in the book they want to conduct, select tempos, etc.
- anything a student might think of as fun.
This program has taught our students that hard work, good behavior, and responsibility will be rewarded while anything else will not be tolerated. The students have begun to appropriately police their own behavior as students remind each other to pick up after themselves and not play at inappropriate times.
Some tips for making it work for your music program –
- Be spontaneous in assigning points. If the students come to expect rewards every time they do something right it develops an entitlement mentality.
- Don’t be predictable in giving rewards. Make it something different every time so students who aren’t motivated by a previous reward won’t give up on the whole program.
- Amend as needed. We started out giving rewards every Friday, but the students acted terribly during the first part of the week, then cleaned up their act at the last minute. This is why we went to random intervals, but do whatever works for you.
- Keep points posted in a public place. Students love contests, and they love the visual reminder on the board at the front of the room. They are constantly talking about how to earn more points and why points were lost.
If your program needs a little incentive program to take things to the next level, try the “House Program.” It’s worked wonders for our students and I have no doubt it can do the same for you.