Points: A Tale of Bribery...or Motivation

Good Morning!  Before I go to Zumba (to prove that old swimmers should stick to the water and not dance), I wanted to link up with Joanne of Head Over Heels for Teaching and her Saturday morning Motivation linky.
Earlier this summer I shared my table point system and point keeping sheet.  At least I shared what I intended to happen with my table point system and point keeping sheet, because we all know what happens when we actually start using a "new" system.
Well, we are really using the points.  Not in the million pencil boxes that I bought to keep them in, but rather the $1 plastic coupon envelopes from Office Depot that I bought for something else entirely.
The "perfect" table point chart is being used, but we haven't gotten to all of the computation portions of it yet.  They are keeping track of On Time, Agenda, HW, Classwork, and HW Club.  They can tell me the totals, and we just started with the percentage portion.

What I didn't think I would use table points for was as a reward for passing quizzes and tests.  I started off by rewarding their bravery for sharing their Interactive Notebooks under the document camera.  Then I gave the three students who passed the 1st Order of Operations quiz 5 points.  I didn't say a thing, just put 5 points on top of their quizzes in the pile on their respective tables.

When we took another quiz, I passed out their corrected quizzes into piles on their tables.  This time, I just put the points on top of the whole pile.  They came in that morning, and acted like it was Christmas morning!  They were so excited with their grades and their points that they earned for their table.  All but three students passed the last quiz, and they have been informed that they can earn their table points by coming in after school and retaking it.  One did just that on Thursday.

This is not a road I have gone down before with my students.  I have held firm to the belief that certain things are expected, and therefore, not extrinsically rewarded.  However, the last few years it seems as if my students were okay with failing, because "everyone else does too."  Lecturing to them doesn't work - I tried.

It almost feels like bribery, and I am not sure how this experiment will end.  Hopefully, this subtle nudge with points will continue to foster a classroom culture of achievement. 

Don't forget to go link up with Joanne and stop other blogs to see what they do to motivate their students!

p.s.  The hysterical thing about the points is that so far, the only "reward" has been for the top table to go to lunch a minute earlier than the rest, and a few erasers.  I love it!


  1. I have had classes that I have needed to "bribe" to motivate...sometimes it just works that way. :)
    How was Zumba? I've never done it before. Did you enjoy it?

    Hunter's Teaching Tales
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    1. I have done points for behaving before, but not for grades. Maybe it just isn't that different.

      And Zumba...I can't say I enjoy it, but I keep going and keep moving. I have a "genetic mutation" (as my "little" brother puts it) in my lower back, and it makes Zumba challenging since I can't do the fast turns and twists. I just modify and watch in total amazement at some of the moves. Zumba is only 2x a week, the other 2x the workouts are the kind I love - exercises with weights, the ball, and bands.

  2. Your opening paragraph cracked me up! :O) I haven't used table points this year, but after reading your post...I need to. I love giving points for being on time and on task. It motivates you to work harder when others are counting on you! Do you collect those point cards each day? Thanks for sharing and linking up Susan!
    Head Over Heels For Teaching

    1. Me attempting Zumba would crack you up too:). They keep their table points in a plastic coupon envelope, in their table basket. I made them in money denominations (so hopefully we can work on counting back change throughout the year) and I just trade them a 20 for some "change.". When we switch up the seating chart at the quarter, then I will collect their points and give a big treat for the top table.

  3. Oh, Friend,
    You must know I am a fan of any teacher who believes in rewarding bravery! I love that you try to motivate kids to share their notebooks on the doc cam. Yay, YOU!
    As for "bribery," life is full of lots of extrinsic rewards. As you said, you are establishing a culture of achievement. I work for rewards each day: Sometimes I think I only go to school because Starbucks is a few blocks away. And getting coffee means I have to continue the drive...

    Finding JOY in 6th Grade

  4. I am the first to admit that I am not above bribery. I'll do whatever it takes! In fact, I still have to bribe myself as an adult to get out of bed some mornings. "If you get up now, you can stop at Starbucks before work!" See how that works! :)