Freedom (and a little fun) is a Powerful Motivator

Author: Chris Hull | Blog |

At the core, student engagement is buy in. In my experience, this can best be done through relationship building.

1. I allow my students to play games and explore the internet

After a student has completed the daily problem at the outset of class, students raise their hand and honestly request what they want to do next.

I check their understanding of the daily problem question but also listen to what they want to do with their ‘free’ time. This allows me to learn about my students, build a relationship based on trust (as they have to be honest on what they want to do), motivate my students to complete the daily problem, and have students feel more comfortable raising their hands. I am amazed at how motivated students are for these few minutes of freedom.*

2. YouTube Video Fridays

Every Friday I play an enjoyable video or two from YouTube if my students have been engaged and productive throughout the week. This is a small incentive for the students that keeps them on task for the ability to watch and laugh at a video together. But I also encourage my students by providing them the opportunity to submit videos they want to see. These videos are displayed for all my classes and when a student submits a video I am able to learn what they find ‘funny’, plus the students’ love to be the ‘one’ who found and submitted the video for that week.

*My students would want me to note that sometimes their request is denied if we are moving more quickly into a group PBL demonstration. Also, some students will do homework or move on to the tasks we are working on to get a jump start so they do not have future homework. Seeing the growth of choices throughout the year is amazing. Some students will read a book, complete homework, or play games.


Otus co-founder and Chief Product Officer, Chris Hull, spent 11 years as a middle school educator. Find him on Twitter @OtusHull.

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