Creative Incentives for Online Learning
On the first day of lockdown, learning from home was a fun and exciting challenge for everybody. We could spend a little bit more time relaxing in between lessons and using our computers to go to class was a cool new experience. Fast-forward several months and I think it is safe to say that we have all got a little bit tired of this new routine. Teachers, parents and students are all missing their old routines and the physical benefits of going to school. It can be especially hard for students for stay motivated to keep giving their best effort during this time, particularly with uncertainty surrounding their normal study goals such as exams to aim for. As a result, it has never been more important to find the fun in learning and make it as rewarding as possible while staying online.
While teachers may not be able to physically give out their usual gold stars for good work, or hold their special lunch-time pizza party as an end of term reward, there are still lots of ideas you can use for rewarding good behavior, creative ideas and hard work while staying safe and virtual.
Digital stickersThough you can't stick a physical sticker in a physical book, you can still award them online which is just as fun, if not more so! There is a huge selection of different ones available to use via Google Slides or Google Docs, and a great app called TeachersPayTeachers. You can give simple stars or animated furry friends, as well as personalized badges that tag students with their particularly good skills.
EbooksFor particularly amazing achievements, gift your studious young workers a relevant e-book that you know they will enjoy or will help them further understand a favorite subject. These are very easily available to send on Amazon and don't cost much either.
Zoom Filters & ThemesHave a little fun with your class at the end of a long lesson by allowing everybody to change their zoom look to something silly. You can easily jazz up a dull day by allowing the highest performer to wear a virtual cat face or set their background to a dreamy holiday destination. If you want to reward the whole class for good behaviour, you can even set a group theme for the whole day, and let everybody share their home-made costumes and backgrounds which should definitely get the creative juices flowing and have everybody eager to come to class.
Points AccumulationA very popular reward system is known as the 'Class Dojo' points system. Set up a tally where children can build up points towards a reward and redeem it for something of their choice once they reach it. This is a great one for longer term motivation, although it does require a little bit of cooperation from the families involved who will be in charge of dishing out the rewards. These should be things that all children can do at home, such as getting to choose their favorite meal or picking which movie to watch.
Music & DanceIn a time where lots of us are not getting out of the house as much as we would like to, rewards that involve physical activity are really enjoyable. There isn't much more of a feel-good reward than having a sing and dance along to some music with your classmates, so schedule some time for this when your pupils need to let off some steam.
Personal MessagesSmall tokens of appreciation such as a personal message to their parent or to the principle to share your appreciation of their achievements go a long way, and are such a simple thing to do. Never underestimate the power of praise in words alone.
Guest AppearancesIf you can find a special guest to appear on your classroom zoom calls, then take full advantage. This can even just be a friend or family member. Your students will love a surprise addition to their class and a new face to ask lots of questions and provide a new perspective on life.
Student-takeoversLikewise, many children are missing their social interaction at school, so make sure you reward their hard work with periods of play in which they are in (supervised) control of activities and games.
So stick at it everyone, and make your online classes a joy to attend. Not only can you teach your pupils lots and help them feel good while stuck at home, but your parents will likely notice a difference too and feel very proud of their children's attitude.
Lauren Groff writes regularly about educational issues at Big Assignments. Her current topic of choice focuses on exploring the possibilities for virtual reward systems in online classrooms.