2-Minute Strategies 3-MIN. READ

3 Fun Ideas for Keeping Students Invested in Learning

By: Faith Justice 01/10/2023
Here are three fun ideas to increase student engagement and keep students motivated throughout the year.
Two students high five at their desks.

As a former teacher, I know how hard it can be to keep students invested in their learning. Especially in the age of online learning, maintaining focus is getting harder and harder. How do you sustain momentum so your students continue to get excited about learning?

Celebrating student wins is a great way to increase engagement in the face of growing challenges and distractions. Whether you’re looking for ways to track student wins individually, as a class, or even on a schoolwide scale, here are three inexpensive and easy ideas.

1. Daily Class System: Fill the Jar

If you’re focusing on students meeting instructional benchmarks, establish a daily incentive that encourages students to work toward classroom goals.

You'll need:

  • Jar/vessel of your choice
  • Labels
  • Filler (e.g., marbles, beads, pom poms, etc.)

When your students complete specific tasks, like coming in prepared for the day, or whatever goals you set, they can add a token (marbles, beads, pom poms, etc.) to the class jar.

Label your vessel with a halfway benchmark and choose a small reward for the class once they reach it—maybe everyone gets a piece of candy or a few minutes of independent time at the end of the day. To earn a larger classroom reward, like a pizza party or game day, students will need to work together to fill the jar in its entirety.

Striving to achieve a common goal can inspire students to stay motivated.

2. Weekly Student System: Punch Cards

Try creating individual punch cards as a meaningful visual for students to see how far they have come in reaching their goals. Involving students in goal setting makes them active participants in their learning success and teaches them to celebrate their accomplishments.

This strategy works great for having your entire class track their progress or offering extra encouragement to students who need help staying on task. All it takes is a quick check-in once a day to mark their progress on the punch card.

  • Punch cards
  • Hole punch or stickers
  • Three-inch by five-inch library pockets or pocket chart

Once students fill their card (by successfully meeting their weekly goals), you can determine the best reward. While prizes and tangible rewards are popular, other tokens of appreciation like verbal recognition or a student spotlight can also be successful motivators.

Students will have the opportunity to be recognized with a fun prize while assuming an active role in their personal growth.

3. Monthly School System: Tracking Wall

What’s more exciting than a friendly school competition? Bringing students together to show what they know is an exciting challenge that will shake things up at your school. You can group students by grade level for a schoolwide competition or divide individual classes within one grade to compete against each other.

Use a centrally located bulletin board to display student achievements. Create a gauge to track their progress and be sure to keep it updated with timely results. Watch their excitement grow as they see their class’s gauge creep further and further toward the finish line.

The artistic flare and overall theme are up to you and your class. Use the resources at your disposal to create a design that’s exciting and encourages your students to participate.

No matter the goal, your students will enjoy contributing to the success of their team. You can announce weekly progress during school announcements and celebrate student wins at the end of the month.

Implementing Your Reward System with Ease

We know that finding new ways to keep students motivated and engaged takes a lot of planning time. To make your system work for you, it should be easy to plan and execute.

You can streamline planning by considering a few simple questions:

  • What would success look like in your classroom?
  • How does it connect to learning?
  • What materials or support do you need to implement this system?

Consider your end goals and what you are using to measure student engagement. Once you’ve established your metric, you can make a simple and actionable plan that will set both you and your students up for success.

If you’re not sure where to start, don’t worry. We have you covered with a one-page, easy-to-use template to make your own student engagement system successful. For more ideas, be sure to check out these podcasts with two of our Extraordinary Educators™: Engaging Students with Tracy Senf and Building Community with Sarah English.