What best honors & motivates achievement?

Recognition for real, tangible accomplishments, that not everyone gets.

What makes for a great award, or great recognition that really motivates?  In the final analysis, recognition, like an olympic gold medal, is not about what you receive–it’s about how hard you worked to get it.  If students worked hard, and accomplished something real and tangible, then the recognition they are given, regardless of its form, will be valuable and meaningful.  A paper certificate given out by an adult that represents weeks or months of effort, an honest accomplishment, will be highly prized.  Those are the certificates that are posted prominently in the bedroom or on the refrigerator at home, because it was hard to get.

Remember that when you want to honor student achievement at the end of the year.  If you give awards to every student, then an award means little or nothing.  If on the other hand, students know they had to work and put forth effort to earn the reward, then it is a real honor.  Rocket Math has many built in landmarks of accomplishment that are great to recognize publicly.  Certainly completing an operation is one of the most commonly celebrated achievements.

This student’s teacher tweeted this picture of the student and his Rocket Chart, proving his accomplishment.  This is something to be really proud of, because it represents a real, tangible accomplishment.  Another accomplishment is when a student beats his or her individual best in two-minute timings.  Yet another tangible Rocket Math accomplishment is being able to pass two levels in one week or ten levels in a month!

What motivates students to try to achieve is knowing what has to be done and believing they can do it. This is another reason why recognizing real, tangible accomplishments works so well. If the other students can see what their recognized peer did and they understand what has to be done to get there, they are motivated to get some of that glory for themselves. Getting through Level Z of Rocket Math is something students know they can do, if they just keep working at it. It is hard to believe you will become Student of the Month, if you don’t know what the previous recipients did to achieve that honor. But if you know that working hard and practicing your math facts every day can get you there–then you can believe it is possible.

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