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Challenging My Students

December 11, 2012

In my class we have what’s called “Wise Time.” This is time when a student is finished with his classwork, but the period is not over. At that point a student can work on homework, study, or read. Still, there are times when I know a student has finished any other work and the book he (or she) is reading is not exactly stretching his brain. At those times I want the student to have something more to challenge him.

So, I’ve developed a new incentive program for my classroom. I took one of my bulletin boards and turned it into the Challenge Station. On the board I have nine file folders, each with a different worksheet or activity. It looks like this: Challenge Sheets

Each Monday my students face a new set of challenge sheets. I find plenty of free and inexpensive worksheets on sites like Teachers Pay Teachers. I also purchased a book of Mind Benders and 101 Activities for Fast Finishers from which I copy worksheets. The green ones are math-related, the red are grammar-related, and the purple can hold anything from brain teasers to Bible games. Doing the worksheets is not mandatory. However, those who complete all nine worksheets by Friday at 10:00 (snack time) get a prize.

I keep track of which students have done which sheets by putting stars next to their name on the file folder holding the worksheet. The students have slots on the wall just for holding their challenge sheets. This way the worksheets don’t clutter my inbox of the day’s work to be corrected. Challenge Sheet slots

For the first week’s prize I made giant chocolate chip cookies, timed to come out of the oven just before snack time. Rather devious, I know, but I wanted those students who hadn’t bothered to put the effort into the challenge sheets to be motivated to try harder the following week.

By the way, it’s an all or nothing deal. If you only finish half the sheets, or even most of them, you don’t get half a cookie. Harsh? Maybe. Real life? Yes.

Some of the students grumbled a bit at first. It seems some of them think that extra worksheets should always be fun, easy, and not require much thought. The first week I’d point to the board and say, “Look at the board. They’re not called Easy Sheets.” By the second week others in the class would say it for me if someone complained about the sheets being “hard.” I don’t let the students take any sheets home for homework on Monday or Tuesday, but if they want to Wednesday or Thursday, I will let them.

It’s been fun to watch students grow in their motivation to finish the pages. And, the sheets have been a great supplement to my lessons. If there’s something they need more work on, you can bet one of the challenge sheets will cover it.

The best part is that I no longer have students coming up to me and asking, “What should I do now?” They’re definitely more focused–especially those who are motivated by food! And, since I make enough treats for my own family as well, they’re feeling placated, too.

I call that a win-win situation.

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One Comment
  1. Now that’s cool. I may do this at home. Thanks.

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