Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Adventures in Motivation

My volunteer job at Emlyn's school consists of having two kindergarteners use a computer program to help their fluency in English. The program is pretty good but the kids started to get very bored with it. All you do is listen to a sentence and then choose which of four pictures matches that sentence. I struggled for a few weeks, trying to figure out how to motivate them to do this program. I couldn't force them (of course) so I had to make them want to do it. I tried various things, and some things worked tolerably well.

Finally I was just frustrated. I knew that they knew the words, and they knew what they were supposed to be doing. They just didn't want to do it. I had discovered that they love just as much as Emlyn does. Starfall is educational as well, and could even be construed as teaching English as a Second Language because it is very simple. So with the okay from my supervisors I went ahead and started using Starfall as a motivator. Once they did a certain amount of time on the other program, they were welcome to go on Starfall. This also helped with the management of two children because one could be on Starfall and one could be on the other program. I could supervise the official program while the other child was on Starfall.

This helped somewhat but the kids were still not excited about using the other program, and they certainly weren't doing those questions fast.

Eventually one day I drew some empty lines on a paper. I think the first day I drew 10. And I told the child that after he got a question right I would draw a star on a line, and when all the lines were filled up he could go on Starfall.

If I had known in January how excited a 5 year old would be about stars drawn on a paper, I would have jumped on it immediately. Today, about 2 weeks after I started with the stars, the first child who wouldn't do the official program at all did 25 questions in about 6 minutes. The other child did 40 questions in about 8 minutes. Then they both got free time on Starfall, which is also learning (just more fun and not as overt).

The lesson here? Try stars on a paper. You might be surprised at how excited they are about filling those blanks.

Also, if you haven't taken your child to look at I encourage you to do so.

(I am not paid by Starfall. I really just love it that much.)


Alyson said...

Thanks for the suggestion! I'm going to try it out with Caroline this afternoon. The only letters she REALLY knows are the ones that start her name, those in her class, and her sister. And then she doesn't necessarily know the name of the letter... for instance, when she sees an "E" she'll say "that's Evan!". She's only three of course, but I'd like her to be more familiar with her ABCs than just being able to sing them. :)

Angela O. said...

good idea.

Mandi said...

We also love Starfall! Glad you found a good motivatoe for the kids.

BP said...

You're doing a great job making a difference in the lives of children!

Chris said...

My kids love Starfall, too.

It seems to me that if Starfall is educations (and it is) then you should ditch that other program the kids are not interested in all that much, and let them do Starfall the whole time.