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Low motivation


c green

The kids! I'm talking about the kids!

I've been going over a bunch of 'student engagement' ideas, (thank you very much MDM, and also my classroom management mentor, who's not on this list.) All of them sound fun and engaging, but here's my question. I'd like to hear how people deal with this.

Basically, my classes have a high proportion of kids who, like Rhett Butler, don't give a...so what happens when you, say, have each kid write something on a whiteboard, and hold it up, and six kids aren't?

"Oh, I don't have anything."
"My marker doesn't work."
"You didn't give me enough time."
"I didn't understand the assignment."
"I don't know what to write."
"What? We were supposed to do that?"

It seems to me that the accountability is functionally no higher in this case than in the case of me calling on kids. They didn't do it. Now I know it. But I knew it already! What do you do then? I mean that literally, what do YOU do then? Let it go? Try to force the kids to write something?



game I tried

I found this game and it's worked well with my students. It's an excuse game. I give a situation, such as 'she punched me because' or "i didn't do my homework because' and they give me as many excuses as possible. We time the game, and students get points for how many excuses they give. (We play in teams). At the end, we talk about if students ever used any of those excuses. All of their hands go up. Then we talk about being honest, and how using excuses disrespects the student as a human being. After we play - they listen to each other like a hawk and the excuses have gone way down and they do what they need to do.


Rhett Butler - Ha! Ha!

I have several of those, too!

That is one reason I like the a,b,c,d cards. They eliminate a lot of excuses. I also have preprinted cards for author's purpose (persuade, inform, entertain - PIE), fact/opinion, text structure (cause/effect, chronological, flashback, compare/contrast), etc. The cards work very well especially for my very low, unmotivated kids. They don't have to do anything except hold up a card. I see right away if they understand or not and I can explain the concept if they don't get it.

The cards do help with the kids who are not doing the work in the first place. I do state before the lesson that everyone will have to participate. Since we trade and grade, slackers always get busted by the people who receive their papers. ("There's nothing on here!!")

I tell the correctors to correct everything and explain that the slackers (I don't call them that in class) will receive a much lower participation grade that everyone else (0 or 50 - the kids might participate in the correction process). If I am not taking a grade I sign their planners.

I do use white boards occasionally, but I run into the same things - especially when the marker isn't working. I find white boards take more planning sometimes than I want to deal with.

I do make the kids buy their own markers at the beginning of the year. I buy a few extra for those who really can't afford them, but most of the time I tell the chronic moochers that they can borrow from anyone but me. I make them check markers before we start the lesson and if the marker doesn't work and they can't borrow, then the kids get out a sheet of paper and a pencil.

The erasing part can be a pain in the ... neck. I found some little colored pom poms in the craft dept. at Wal-Mart that fit perfectly into the bottom of the cap after you attach the cap to the pen. Squish the pom pom in there and wha la.. you have handy dandy little eraser! I keep them in a little basket and collect them after the lesson. I also use dry erase markers on my OH and I use the pom poms myself.

Anyway, good luck to you tomorrow. Let us know how everything goes.

If you need anything else, just let me know.


Full Member
What grade do you teach?

I know that with my second graders, the are still eager to please me. I have to give positive feedback constantly. "I am glad that Jenny knows the answer" or "I like how Tommy answered so quickly." As teachers, I think that we also have to be quick on our feet and have eyes like a hawk. So, as the kids are working to write the answer on the white board, I am walking around and can notice who is and who is not writing. Do you have a reward system? I have behavior slips and I will pass these out as I see someone doing the right thing. I will continue to think about what you can do.


Senior Member
white board idea

all of my students have white boards (in a 2 gallon ziplock) inside their desk with an eraser--really crappy cheap one, so if it's missing oh well, and a pen. of course, my class is self-contained 6th grade, and somewhat motivated to do stuff--but there are those who wouldn't if certain perameters didn't exist....but i also recognize that your parents aren't that supportive and you don't have recesses to take away.

(i can't wait to hear what you are doing next year!)

sometimes i have students do independent response, but when i want them sharing knowledge, especially with difficult information, i have them do group responses with white boards--which means they get to talk! (and argue, hopefully---i don't want the one smartypants in the group to say A and everyone writes A.)

sometimes i make it a game and have prizes for the winning team. just last week, i did this with vocabulary review--one team got 1 word right more than the other groups, so they got to pick out of the prize basket (mostly stupid stuff from $1 store or books from book orders, pens, picture frames...) they love it! to make sure that everybody was (somewhat) involved, for each answer, someone new had to raise their board with the answer on it (only one answer from each group).

if i were you (ha ha...i'd already be in the loony farm!) i would create a letter on school stationery and take it around to area businesses for donations for your "way out of hand class" okay, don't call them that--call them students with little internal motivation---to get your point across--and have business (that they care for) donate items like free burgers, art supplies, movie tickets, comic books, tans.......

i know, i know...it SUCKS to have to bribe kids to do their work! i hate to award kids for doing what they should be doing....but sometimes it's what works!

the 5th grade class coming up next year to 6th is a class from ****. i've watched them wreck havoc since they were a bunch of first grade hooligans! sure, there are about 8 kids in the entire group who aren't low and can follow a direction, but 80% of the group cannot walk 10 feet in the hallway without major noise/disruption. they are a real mess---in a way, i can't wait to get my hands on them and see how i can mold them (knowing that i am only adding my tiny bit onto what everyone else who has come before me has done!); but i also know it's going to be an insane year. friends in 5th and 4th who taught them tell me about having to have a drink every night. huh. i don't really drink, so i wonder what my "drug of choice" will be.....anyway, my point is, i'm already planning to supplement my prize box/drawer with some really good stuff because i know this next group will need it.

good luck! :)