Remember back to your school days.
Most Mondays through Fridays were the status quo – text books, quizzes, group work, etc. But there were other days, too. Greater days. Days filled with fun and celebration – field trip day, movie day, and the ultimate student celebration – the pizza party. No doubt, now that you’re a teacher, you’ve at least thought about pizza party day even if you haven’t actually had one. But I want to challenge you to think beyond the dough. How can you celebrate your students in other ways? What can you do to acknowledge and praise their accomplishments? If you have Dominos on speed dial, read on for some other ideas for celebrating students accomplishment.
5 Ways to Celebrate Student Achievements in the Classroom
Student accomplishments happen all throughout the year, so don’t put off celebrating what they have accomplished till summer break. Take a few moments at the end of each month to celebrate what students have achieved with a top ten list. Ask students to think back on the month and the things they have done. What are they most proud of? What do they feel is their greatest accomplishment? Have students write down between three and ten accomplishments for the month. It doesn’t have to be something big, like perfecting the passive voice. Even small things can feel big, such as ordering your first meal completely in English.
If you like, start the year by having students set aside ten pages at the beginning of a notebook, and then make a list each month on one of the pages. That way, at the end of the year students can look back on their list and see at least thirty things they accomplished throughout the year. Even better, have students transfer their list onto a piece of construction paper cut out in a decorative shape to coordinate with the month (Sept. fall leaf, Oct. pumpkin, Nov. turkey – you get the idea). Designate an empty bulletin board in your classroom to post these papers. Then keep adding student lists each month. Students will not only be able to see what they have accomplished, they can also celebrate the accomplishments of their classmates.
Roll Out the Red Carpet
How would your students feel about a red carpet event in the classroom? Not one to celebrate movies or television but instead one to celebrate their personal achievements. Toward the end of the year or perhaps as midpoint, plan a red carpet event where you hand out awards to the students who have performed best. You might have awards for most improved pronunciation, best in class presentation, most vocabulary words learned, etc. Choose your categories and then decide who will get the awards in your class. Invite your students to dress up and then hold an Oscars type ceremony in class. You can even do red carpet interviews with your students at the beginning of the event to get a little speaking practice in.
Write Your Students a Letter
To celebrate specific accomplishments of individuals, consider writing a letter to your student. Make it a personal letter, and in it share where you have observed improvement in your student and that you are proud of the accomplishments. This may take more time on your part than putting a star next to their name on the board (a great way to recognize outstanding performance on a daily basis) but it will mean so much more to your students. Not only will it show them that you recognize their accomplishment, it will also encourage them to do better and serve as a reminder of success when they encounter times when learning doesn’t come quite as easily. Try to write each student at least once or twice during the year to spur them on to greater achievements.
Have a Party on Test Day
Accomplishment isn’t always about the grades, so to celebrate your students’ milestones consider having a party on the day of your test rather than waiting to see what the grades are before you celebrate. Learning a second language is difficult, and it is easy to look at all you haven’t learned or what you don’t understand rather than how much you do. To keep students focused on their efforts rather than their outcomes, plan a party for test day. Put up decorations, set out food, and perhaps even play music in the background as students take a unit end test or final exam. Your students will feel good about having made it through the unit, and they will be encouraged by that success. Most likely, that will translate into higher grades on the test in the process. Todd Finley, professor and researcher, did an experiment with his college students and found that setting up the party before students took the test actually improved test scores.
In the Spotlight Moments
Give your students a visual at the front of the class that shows them how much they have accomplished. Get a glass or other see through container for your classroom as well as a collection of small glass pebbles. (You can find these in the floral department of your local craft store.) Once a week or however often you choose, invite students to come to the front of the class and share an achievement they made this week. Student tell their accomplishment to the rest of the class and then put a glass pebble in the jar. You can allow as many students as you like to share with the class. As the school year goes on, the pile in the container will become bigger and bigger, and your students will have a visual reminder of just how far they have come as a class.
You don’t have to wait till the last day of school to celebrate what your students have accomplished.
Make reflection and celebration a regular part of your class with these activities and see students fill with pride and motivation to do better. And don’t forget the pizza party, too.