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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

"What do I get?"



I hear that all too often.  "If I do it, what are you going to give me?" Whether at church, at home or at school, our kids have been programmed to ask this.  Why?  Because we give them prizes and treats for everything! :) It is hard to motivate without them, but we don't want to create a mentality where kids ONLY do something in order to GET something.  So, what are we to do as educators to motivate?  Because, let's face it...some of the things we want the kids to learn aren't exciting enough right now for them to want to learn :)  Let's use the example of Bible verses - because many churches do that.  Children don't understand that years from now, when things aren't going the way they want, that those verses they memorized will help get them through those difficult times.  Kids live in the here and now - they can't fathom the future.  So...they need some motivation.  Again I ask, as educators, what can we do??  BE CREATIVE AND ...

Sometimes we want to motivate a class, sometimes an individual.  Each idea that I'm going to share has an individual and group suggestion.  There are five ideas - surely one of them can be tweaked to fit your class environment!

Our kids, whether we like it or not, know how to use electronics (better than we do;) and they speak that "language".  Video games and apps know how to motivate and get kids playing and learning.  So let's learn from them and use their language!  The kids understand it so why not?  Here are two words that you hear in almost every kids' game/app - "upgrade or level-up" and "unlock".  Every game/app, once a child gets to a certain point, let's them "upgrade" something, go to the next level or they get to "unlock" something.  I just downloaded a Bible memory app for kids and the motivator?  Every time a child learns a verse, they "unlock" an animal sound.  That's it.  As simple as that.  They get to push a button and hear an animal noise.  I don't think we need to get any more complicated than that! :)

So how can we apply these two words to church?  Easy!  Here are 5 ways you can motivate your kiddos by letting them "level-up", "upgrade" or "unlock" something!  Almost all of them lead to something they can do together - and I'll give ideas for that at the end.

1.  Puzzles - I don't mean crossword or word search...I mean actual puzzles with pieces.
         group:  If you want to motivate the entire group, buy a large blank puzzle from somewhere like oriental trading or amazon.  Or make one.  My suggestion - make it extremely easy to put together.  Number the pieces or draw the outline so the kids only have to match the shape and leave the puzzle blank.  Why?  Write a secret message on it.  You can get UV pens and lights from amazon for pretty cheap :)  Once they get a few pieces up there they'll start to ask why it's blank.  You could give them a little teaser and let them use the light to see what they can read.  You will need to figure out how you are going to measure each piece...when 5 kids memorize a verse, a piece goes up? (they "unlock" a piece)  or, when a class memorizes a verse...or some other way of measurement.  When the whole puzzle is complete (make sure the last few pieces contain the surprise!), shine the light and reveal your surprise!

         Individual:  Amazon has a pack of 24 small blank puzzles for $12 and they work pretty good.  You could get a small puzzle for each child.  For each verse they learn, the put a piece together.  you could draw the outline into the top of a shoebox and have them glue the pieces in.  Again, you could either write on them with sharpies so they can see it right away...or you could write with the UV pen.

2.  Marbles! - Many teachers have marble jars.  This is the same kind of idea as the above, in that when a child memorizes a verse, they put a marble in the jar - or, they "unlock" a piece.  When the jar is full, the group gets something.  You could make it more individualized for a class by giving each child a different colored marble...and they have to have at least 3(?) marbles in the jar in order to get to participate in the surprise (or something like that).

3.  Level - up!  Reach the ceiling!  Somewhere in your room create a measuring device.  Maybe put up a number every time ten kids learn a verse (?) - or whatever works for your group/class.  Once they reach your goal, they "level-up" and you put the next number up.  You could use a picture of anything or any kind of shape.  The point is, make sure it is a visual "climb" from the ground up to the ceiling, progressing in value.  once you reach the top, you get the "surprise".  This could also be made for individuals.  You could make it smaller on a bulletin board - as long as they know where the starting and ending point is.  Right now our theme at church is "kick-off" for the beginning of the year and our hallway is decorated like a football field.  I could make a bulletin board with pictures of the kids with a football helmet on their heads at one goal line and give them each a "football" in the endzone.  Each time they memorize a verse, their football moves ten yards (or, the move up another level).  When they score a touchdown - they get the surprise :)

4.  Apps - I have found two apps that help keep track of rewards.  "Stickerpop reward chart" and "rewards express".  Keep track of their progress (as a group or individually) on the app.  When they reach their goal - they get the surprise!

5.  Wheel of Fortune :)  Whatever your surprise is going to be, cut out the letters that spell it.  Every time they reach a goal, they unlock a letter.  Don't let them figure it out too far ahead of time because then it won't be as motivating!  Maybe put the letters in the wrong order ;)  Once they spell the surprise...they get it!

Ok.  So now you have LOTS of ways that the kids can visually track their progress to their surprise.  Now you have to decide - what is the surprise going to be?  Well, here are a number of options.  But please, please, please with sugar on top and a cherry on top...don't fill them with treats and sweets.  Don't let your surprise be cupcakes or a party with punch and cookies.  I'm begging you!  Our kids are more obese than in any other country, we have diabetic kids and special needs kids with special diets and we have allergies like never before.  Please stay away from treats.  I feel like my kids get cookies and candy shoved at them every day from somewhere - don't let it be the church!  Teach them how to take care of their bodies - that includes eating healthy!  So here are some non-candy/treat rewards :)  If you would like to buy ($3) my reward tickets (called "Blessing tickets") to have something tangible the kids can see/hold, they are on my teachers pay teachers store.  There are 11 for individuals and 11 for the class/group and one blank for each to write your own.

1.  Getting together after church for lunch - this could be something like a potluck where everyone brings something, or you order in (like pizza or subs) or you meet out at a restaurant.

2.  a group outing - laser tag, bowling, bounce place, etc.

3.  Change up your sunday school for one sunday - have a movie morning with popcorn and water, have an organized game morning where you play games or go outside or go to the gym if you have one.  Or, have rotations and let them spend 10-15 minutes in each room playing with legos, or crafting, or games or a short program (something for every type of child).  Have a technology day - if your church has ipads or computers let them have some freeplay!

4.  Make it even simpler and make the goal easy to obtain so that they reach the goal every month.  Do they have a favorite song they like to sing?  Or favorite game they like to play?  Or a dance or a video?  Whenever they reach their goal, they get to do it!

5.  Take a page from the Bible memory app that I mentioned above.  Find 10 silly videos on youtube that would make them laugh - they could be biblical or not...just something that would get them laughing out loud :)  Put the list up somewhere but cover up the pictures/words.  Every time they level up they can watch a video, or whenever they reach their "goal" they get to watch a video.

And did you know (I just found this out!!) that amazon sells scratch off reward cards that you actually make and write your own reward on them?  And the kids scratch them off?!  It's genius!!! Here's the link :)  24 cards for $7.

I could keep going, but by now you probably are thinking about your kiddos and what they like and what would work best for them.  Hopefully, this has gotten your creative juices flowing :)  If you come up with another idea that works for you, list it in the comments so people can get even more ideas!

Enjoy your kids and God bless you in your work :)

-L