SOL16, Day 14: What Motivates

Incentives are an interesting thing. What gets us going and doing. What motivates.

Contests, prizes for completion of something mundane, tedious, or difficult motivates some. The extrinsic stuff to get it done. I never respond to those kinds of incentives. Not because I’m virtuous.  When I don’t value it, I ignore, procrastinate, I forget.

That’s just me. But the rest of the world isn’t necessarily like me. And I probably wasn’t always that way. There was a time when a little acknowledgment or prize mattered and got me to do something.

I have to remember that.

I resist giving prizes. I have this issue with external reward systems. The majority can’t win, and the winners are the usual suspects: those that always do things right and get awards.

This year I decided to offer prizes for participation in the Slice of Life Classroom Challenge. In the past, I felt like it wasn’t fair for those who didn’t have access. But this year, all have the opportunity to blog every day. In school.

This year, I have more posting than ever before. Is that due to the prizes or the access? .

The other day,  W asked me, “Am I one of the top bloggers?”

I told her yes, in fact, she was.

“Good! I really want that prize.”

A prize (I don’t even know what it will be) motivated her to get on the blog every day and write. She stays in at recess. She talks about what her writing is making her realize; about how it’s hard to write every day, but somehow it happens; how it’s so cool to get comments from people all over the country. All those writing experiences I found on my blogging journey, she is finding on hers. I’m surprised the prize motivated her.

Would W have attempted the challenge without the prize?  Is that just an added benefit?  I’m not sure. I’ll have to ask.

Thank you, Two Writing Teacher Blog for the March Slice of Life Challenge. To be in the presence of so many writers is prizeworthy. Read more slices here.11454297503_e27946e4ff_h

12 thoughts on “SOL16, Day 14: What Motivates

  1. I am anti-reward as well. I tell the kids when they ask, “the reward is you get to be smarter.” They groan. But now you have me thinking. Do anything it takes to get them writing and reading? right? If the prize was the catalyst and W learned what we both learned about blogging, wasn’t the prize ok? It was just the catalyst not the the process. Right? Great thinking and post.

  2. Lots to think about here, Julieanne. I was thinking along the same lines as Kimberely. If the prize got her going, but she learns the rewards of writing every day, wasn’t it worth it? She really wins twice, and her daily writing habit will stay with her much longer and take her farther than a prize could.

  3. It seems that every time we play a game, even a simple one, a student will ask, “What do I get for winning?” My reply is a simple, “You get the satisfaction of knowing that you won!” That usually comes with a puzzled look on their face and we move on.

  4. I hesitate about prizes, too, but in the end, the motivation it offers is worth it to me and ultimately to my students. I talked to a parent yesterday who pays for reading. I never would have done that with my kids, but when you think about it, it’s a win/win.

  5. Julieanne,
    Such a conundrum. External prizes don’t seem to build the habits that transfer to life, but YET if it gives the students that first real glimpse into a readerly or writerly life? Conundrum, indeed!

  6. It may start with the eye on the prize, but hopefully it plants a seed within and the prize will not always be needed. I’ll be curious on her response.

  7. Always interesting to consider the motivation. You’ve brought up several things to think about, Julieanne. When I blogged last year with my class, everyone who made it through the month without missing got a prize. I didn’t show them the prizes until that last week, didn’t really want them to be motivated by them, but by the writing. I don’t know if it worked just like that, but all but three did it. Every one is different, just as you shared about yourself.

  8. I, too, have mixed feelings about rewards as mine was the kind of childhood with few rewards. I just had to plow through life on my own steam. But we all respond to different things, and I have my own motivators. She may have her eye on the prize, but the real reward she will only realize down the road, thanks to you.

  9. Your struggle with awards is familiar to me. I don’t like to give them but they matter a lot to the students. Learning slowly to get around my feelings to bring joy to the kids.

  10. I have this same problem with the Accelerated Reader program which we have in our district. There is so much research that says extrinsic rewards do not make for lifetime readers. I am working on a presentation against the program, and your post has me thinking. Is giving short term rewards worth it? Great jumpstart to thinking here!

  11. I always go back and forth about prizes for my writers! This year I de-emphasized them, and we have more time in class to write, but some kids are starting to lose their momentum, so I think it may be time to hype the prizes a little now… such a conundrum!

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