We have trophies for really special moments in our lives and official documents with our academic accomplishments, but what about celebrating all of the other small moments that got us to these bigger achievements in our life? It's easy for kids to lose sight of everything they've accomplished, so make their first day of school special by tracking academic success from the beginning.
I'm a prime example of someone who hated all science classes, dreaded taking them, put off taking them, and waited until the last semester to face the last class credit I needed to graduate. Here is how I got through the class and how to help kids get through hard classes.
Mason Jar Stash
I found a way to make the dreaded science class more like an incentive program. I used a large glass mason jar and every time I did well on a quiz or even if I went to class when I was sick, I'd write the accomplishment on a piece of paper, date it, and stick it in the jar. At the end of 15 weeks, a lot of papers were stashed in there and the reward of reading them was even better than receiving the A (the only A I've ever received in a science class).
This incentive for kids is a great way to help them think outside-the-box to go above and beyond the classroom expectation. I started to really enjoy going to this class because this simple incentive gave me a reason to find out all of the unexpected challenges I could add to my jar. This incentive for myself also gave me perspective on how much I could grow over only 15 weeks.
10 or under: Use an old board game with a journey of some sort already printed, like Ladders or a monopoly-like game. Put it up on the wall and have them write a new challenge on a sticky note that they had to face each day or during the week. Give them a visual how they are climbing the ladder toward a reward at the top or at the end of the game.
Cookie Jar of Prizes
12 or older: The mason jar idea is a great idea for those who don't want to necessarily display their achievements throughout the year. At this age, money becomes a huge incentive for kids. A great idea is to use a cookie jar and fill it with "surprise prizes," such as two tickets inside an envelope to take a friend to a movie or a $5 bill inside another. Each time they achieve something big, whether it be on a test or finishing a book for class, they are allowed to choose one envelope out of the jar.
When kids are able to track and actually see their success, they're more likely to try harder. Make their first day special by making their success feel special. These incentives will help them keep their thinking caps on!