Class Motivator: The Infinite Scoreboard
The Infinite Scoreboard is your class motivator, a team game in which your kids earn points to advance to higher and higher levels.
Astonishingly enough, you don’t provide material rewards for positive behavior. Forget lottery tickets, play money, candy, weird stuff you bought from Oriental Trading Company. Throw away that Treasure Chest!
When kids ask, “What do we get for winning?” You grin and reply, “Just like a video game, win enough times on the Infinite Scoreboard and you climb to a higher level.” When students inquire, “How many levels are there?” You respond, “How high can you count?”
When your class is doing a good job, following classroom rules, performing transitions quickly, staying focused on tasks, mark a positive tally. Kids clap their hands, a One Second Party, and exclaim, “Oh, yeah!” When students are off task, not focused, breaking class rules, mark a negative tally. Your students quickly lift their shoulders and utter a Mighty Groan.
Repeatedly practice the Mighty Oh Yeah and the Mighty Groan. Student response must be instantaneous … as fast as humanly possible … otherwise, Scoreboard marking becomes nothing but disruptive noise making.
Keep the following in mind:
- For the initial levels, the difference between positive and negative tallies should not be more than 3 points. Reward too much and students become lackadaisical. Over penalize and risk rebellion.
- Use the Scoreboard in place of scolding or redirection. Chastising kids never works. If it did, we’d give scolding seminars. Ten to 15 total Scoreboard marks per hour is a reasonable target. The Scoreboard works to the degree you work it.
- Never make a negative tally for individual misbehavior. The class should not penalized for an off-task student. However, do record positive marks for individual kids who are performing superbly … or, even better, showing improvement in behavior.
- At the end of the day, more positive than negative tallies scores a Class Win. Ten Class Wins moves up to the next level.
- To introduce the incredible power of Uncertain Reward, the element of chance, occasionally introduce a dice roll. Ask several improving students to pick a lucky number. If the lucky number comes up, mark, with fanfare, a “bonus” positive mark.
- All the Scoreboards in this series are set up for third grade. Mark the positive side two grades higher than your grade; the negative side two grades lower. Every kid is motivated by trying to perform like students in upper grades and avoid the behavior of lower grade students.
It’s taken us 15 years to create this edition of the Infinite Scoreboard, the ultimate classroom motivator. Amazingly enough, every Scoreboard level is more exciting … and there are endless levels. The larger, and more attractive, your Scoreboard, the more powerful. Take time to make an engaging display; you are designing a year-long class motivator. About halfway through the year, circle your Scoreboard with twinkly lights.
Say, “When I turn on the lights, then we’re playing Twinkly-Board … and I’ll be looking for INTENSE EFFORT!” Even better, early in the day, say, “If you kids work really, really hard … maybe we’ll play Twinkly-Board.” Do you understand Teaching Heaven? It’s the place where students energetically strive to earn the privilege of working far harder. As you will see in the following, every Scoreboard level is more exciting then the last … that, and creating infinite levels, is what took 15 years. You won’t believe students’ excitement as they strive to ascend to a higher level. You won’t believe the excitement, until you realize how hard kids work to ascend to higher levels in video games.
Achieving 10 Class Wins to ascend from Level 1 to Level 2 should take about two weeks. Don’t move up too fast … or too slow. At Level 2, assign Bonus behaviors like those suggested in the illustration. Change the Bonus daily, or hourly if you wish. Continue to mark positive and negative tallies, but pay special attention to the presence or absence of the behavior you’ve selected as a Bonus.
Excitement increases. Pitting Girls against Boys, or Left side against Right side (or whatever) introduces a lively, compelling, team competition. Note: at the end of the day, if either team has more positive than negative marks, a Class Win is scored. If both teams have more positive than negative marks, two Class Wins are scored! As before, 10 Class Wins are needed to ascend to the next level.
On a typical day with a lunch break and a morning and afternoon recess, the team with the most points is rewarded with lining up first. (As motivating as this is, we’d love for brain scientists to tell us why!) In general, the Scoreboard is the most energizing when played as “practice” several times a day and then as “the real thing” in the hour or so before school ends. Initiate a Scoreboard game before first recess, erase the results; play again before lunch, erase the results …
and so forth. In the last hour, announce, “Okay! This is the real deal. Both teams must earn more positive than negative marks for us to earn a Class Win. Play hard! Focus on the Bonus!” Whenever there is a lull in energy, simply toying with the dice, not even rolling it, increases student engagement.
After a few minutes at Level 5, you will understand the shocking power of simply picking up a green marker. The stakes, positive and negative, are suddenly, instantly doubled. Say, “Okay my friends. The next few minutes is a Green Power Game. Work hard on the Bonus on the board. Tell you’re neighbor … ‘Ai! Yi! Yi! Green Power!’” Don’t employ Green Power too much … or too little. We call this the Goldilocks Principle.
At Level 6, the game becomes even more thrilling. Occasionally, pick up a black, green, and blue marker. The class intensely stares, eager to know your mildest wish. Simply holding these Wands of Power is so intoxicating, you may be tempted to take them home … try them on your kids.
We bumped the Red Wand of Power up to five points, because kids were expecting four. When you begin to use green, blue, or red markers, it will be impossible to keep the difference between positive and negative marks within three points. That’s fine. Teams can gain huge leads and then see them disappear, or be far behind and stage a thrilling comeback.
The world turns upside down at Level 8. Say, “Let’s be honest my friends. Teachers want one thing, kids want another. We want to boss students around; we love to tell kids what to do. You don’t want to be bossed around; you don’t want to be told what to do. So, here’s the deal. When you are off task, break a rule, I’m not angry! I do what I love … boss you around, tell you what to do. Thanks very much … you scored points for my team!”
The last thing any challenging kid wants is to be on your side. Pretend to be frustrated when the class is well mannered, keenly focused, hard working. “Darn! You guys are winning! I wanted to line up first!!!”
To further amp up excitement, introduce the Double Dice Roll. Whenever there is a lull in intensity, or as a reward for great behavior, bring out the dice. Pick a few improving students and let them select two numbers each. If a lucky number comes up … you groan as the class cheers! Two points, not just one, for the kids! Maddeningly, occasionally say, “It’s Teacher Dice Roll time! Juan … pick your two unluckiest numbers … if I roll ‘em, I score double!”
This is the level it took us so long to discover. The beginning of Infinity.
Buy a spinner on Amazon.com … they range from a few dollars up to $50. Label the wheel as noted in the illustration; spin the spinner whenever you want. Roll the double dice whenever needed. Every heart, including yours, stops … eagerly awaiting Uncertain Reward.
Now, add another sector … more choices, more doubt, more Uncertainty.
Color coding the sectors (not shown here) makes the Spinner even more exciting.
Here is the weirdness. Your own heart flutters every wheel spin … if you’re behind on points, you breathlessly hope for a score flip. If you’re ahead, landing on Flip Scores genuinely hurts … except, for your secret delight in student celebrations. Your pain is their joy. In Teaching Heaven this is termed the Polarity Paradox.
Good news for the kids! Two points! Oh, what will the next level bring? If 10 Class Wins takes about 12-15 days, then Level 13 puts you near the end of the year.
If you have a challenging class, use the following Class Wins schedule: until Christmas, 10 wins levels up; Christmas to Spring Break, 7 wins levels up; after Spring Break, 5 wins levels up. With a crowd of Beloved Rascals, you want the game to become easier and easier, as their commitment to hard work declines.
Here is the magic level. Replace the oldest sector on the spinner with a new sector. At every level, keep replacing the oldest with a new option. Thus, the Big Spinner has infinite levels. Heart pounding, note the following illustration for additional spinner sectors.