Carrots and Sticks … or the little tricks we use to keep our teens on track

June 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

Carrot and Stick

These are ideas from different teachers from IH schools around the world. All of them are participating at the moment in the IH workshop ‘Motivating the unmotivated’. The focus of the workshop is on teaching teens and how to get and keep them motivated. I designed the workshop after I ran a successful seminar on the topic at this year’s P.A.R.K. School International Conference for Teachers in Brno.

1. James Harland

As for limiting L1 use, I had a real problem with this in a pre-intermediate teens class, where L1 was stopping them from using English. My ADOS advised me to use a system which I now see from the reading is behaviorist like the money, but is very much stick instead of carrot. The basic idea was that if someone used L1 they would get an object (in my case an eraser, but it could be anything). If someone else used the L1, the object would pass to them. Whoever ended up with the object at the end of the lesson would get extra (boring) homework. This homework was displayed on the board at the start of the lesson.

2. James Pattinson

Basically the official IH Opole system is a ‘points system’ where each student has 3 points to start with and if a student has 3 points left at the end they get a sticker. This worked well at the beginning of the year but then we had some really bad problems with ‘rebellion’ against the system where some students started to not care about it anymore. In fact the boys started rebelling on purpose and it became a kind of ‘macho’ thing to have points coming off so we decided to start trying something more positive.

… I bring in a small cuddly toy every lesson and call it the ‘… of shame’. The most popular one is currently the ‘hedgehog of shame’. We have ‘the rhino of shame’, ‘the ball of shame’ and so on. Anyone who speaks any L1 in upper intermediate and above gets the toy and has to sit with it on their desks. When they hear someone else talking Polish they have to throw them the toy. For levels lower than this I use it at my digression. When I first introduced the system I said ‘the person who holds it the longest has to come to the front of the class and do a little dance!’

3. Anette Igel

Another idea which I use with my teens is that I write 1-10 on the board. When they work hard they can start in class with homework and will have a max of 10 min at the end of the class for it. On the other hand they can lose minutes when they play up and/or speak L1. I found this worked quite well, as none of them is keen on homework, so they try to keep as many minutes as possible.

4. Shay Coyne

At our school we have different reward systems set up for teens. Some teachers reward their students with DVD time, they earn minutes each class that go towards a DVD at the end of term. That way it is not an instant reward, but something that has to be maintained over the term. It also encourages co-operation on a whole.

Another idea is to have “lives” on the board and if the lives are still there by the end they can choose the final activity. Once again this is aimed at the group. It also gives the students a sense of control, because it isn’t the teacher deciding what they are doing all the time.

To focus on the individual, you can reward students who speak English by letting them bring in a song for the class (checking appropriacy beforehand) and working on that. The student gets their moment to shine in the class.

Regarding L1 in the class, one thing that I find that works quite well is if you think they are going to speak a lot of L1, then give them 2 minutes to speak L1 and check understanding / ideas. After the 2 minutes is up they are to speak in English. Some students will automatically use English, but those who need a bit more time or confidence tend to use L1 first and then switch to English with greater confidence. I don’t do this for every speaking activity though.

5. Lisa Phillips

We have an English only policy here and I use either carrot or stick, depending on the individual or class. Some things which I’ve either tried personally or heard used successfully are:

• Explaining the benefits of speaking English only.

• Spanish corner – 3 strikes means extra homework.

• Stickers or sweets for those who don’t speak L1.

• Keeping behind the repeat offenders to ask them why they continue to behave in this way and that they aren’t maximizing their time and are in fact wasting others.

• Making it a full class punishment so that their peers become monitors, not just the teacher.

• Penalty systems, where the offender draws a task of some kind that the students have chosen e.g. sing a song.

• A minimal fine which is collected (like Homer’s swear jar. I find that using the Simpsons as a context never fails!) and given to a charity at the end of term.

• Repeated nagging and/or pleading!

6. Zoe Page

There are two things I have tried. When we are doing revision, e.g. before an exam, I go through all the topics we have covered and do a game for each. Rather than win points on the board to tally at the end of class, they win chocolate after each game. It´s nothing much – either mini bars or mini footballs / eggs, but it´s crazy how competitive they get (in a good way) to win these. I always do it so they´re not against each other – if they all get their questions right, they all get chocolate. Obviously I can´t do this every class! If that´s the ´carrot ‘then my ´stick´tends to be that they won´t get homework that day IF they go the whole lesson without speaking in Spanish (L1)…the problem is, once they slip up then they stop trying for the rest of the class. And it is tough since it´s a 4 hour class with just one break.

7. Julia Ivanova

I’m using a money system as well. I’ve printed 100$ banknotes on green paper and at the beginning of our lessons my students get 300$ each. If somebody uses Russian or their mobile phones in class, they give me 100$. That means everyone has three chances. If at least one student gives me all 300$ in the course of one lesson, all the class does a writing task in class (they’ve chosen it themselves, as usually they get writing for homework).

When mobile phones become a problem in my class, I bring an empty decorated A4 paper box with me at the beginning of the lesson. I start with switching the sound off on my phone and putting it in the box, then all my teens do the same. They get their phones back at the end of the lesson.

8. Mark Hutchinson

Another option might be to take the phone/iPod and switch the set language to English.

9. Andrew Scott

A little trick I use to reduce L1 is to penalize the learner who LISTENS to someone using L1, rather than the learner who uses it! This is a very effective way of introducing peer correction and it’s also entertaining to watch a learner shouting to his classmate, “Nooo! … speak to me in English!”

10. Ian Threadgill

I found this year that the end of term tutorials after the first exams were very helpful. First I made them fill in a form with their estimate of their exam marks in each section, plus their idea of what I should write for their reports. (This exercise is amazing, because they want to display self-knowledge and be correct, so they seem to just write the painful truth without any hesitation) Then just a chance to talk to them individually in an adult we’re-all-in-this-together kind of way: “You don’t really want to do this year again, do you?” Or “I know you enjoy being funny, because you’re good at it, but you can see how it distracts the others, can’t you?” I found that they can be quite different people talking 1-2-1 and my relationship with the class improved thereafter

11. Rosie Hilder

I find that full class punishment works really well, my advanced class have 3 lives and if anyone in the class speaks Spanish then a life is lost. It means they get really annoyed at anyone who does speak Spanish, as if they lose all 3 the whole class gets extra homework. You could turn it around though and do it as a full class reward system, if no one speaks Spanish for the whole lesson then they get a 5 minute chat break at the end, or sweets or something.

12. Darshika Saxena

Full class punishment really works. I cut a minute each from their break time if I hear anyone speak in Vietnamese. After the break, I add on a minute each if they speak L1 in class which depicts the number of minutes they have to stay back after class. It really works and they tell off students who use L1.


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