Motivation: Super Improver®
Rewarding for growth instead of attainment
As we describe in Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids: 2nd Edition our primary goal in WBT is to reward students for improvement, not ability. We praise excellent effort more than excellent work. We nourish growth rather than innate talent. Thus, every child, special ed to gifted, can be equally successful.
In traditional education, rewards for ability result in the same students winning recognition. Too often, our brightest kids skate by with minimum effort while less talented pupils bail out of a race that the system teaches them they can’t win.
Create a Super Improver classroom display as described below. (For free Super Improver Graphics, download the Complete Collection of WBT graphics.)
Join our Super Improver Facebook group to watch these outstanding Facebook Live Tutorials:
How do I set up my display?
In PreK-5th grade we suggest the animal levels, beginning with Turtle (0mph), the slowest animal and ascending to Peregrine Falcon (240mph), the fastest animal. AlphaHawk stands above them all as the highest level.
In 6th-12th we suggest the sports themed levels, beginning with Scrub and ascending to Living Legend. AlphaHawk also stands above them all as the highest level.
Each level is a different color, showing the level name and a number. This number shows how many stars a student needs to move up to the next level (read more about that in the next section).
Don't forget to add your own name to the Super Improver wall! At the end of the day the students can rate your improvement to decide if you earned a star!
How do I reward students for improvement?
As a teacher, your primary goal is to meet students at their level and help them to improve. From our most gifted kids to those most in need, the sole focus is to help students grow. This requires changing your goggles. Don’t look for good kids. Look for improving kids. When you notice growth, award the student a star on their Super Improver® card. When kids earn enough stars, as noted on each level card, they level up.
Transform your class into a living video game!
- Set a target for the class, in this case, Rule 1 (blue arrow).
- When a student improves in the Target skill, give them a point on a clipboard roll sheet.
- Also, award points for other improvements, indicated by the + (plus) sign. (red arrow)
The goal is to set and break records all day. We praise for excellent effort more than excellent work. Play Super Improver® about three times a day. Everything in-between games is “Practice.” Kids will beg you to play again. Enjoy it. You’re not teaching. You’re on vacation in Teacher Heaven.
Change the Target as you change lessons
– Make neater capitals.
– Show your math work.
– Use indoor voices.
– Teach your neighbor with big gestures.
– Show Grit during the test.
In upper grades, start the year with targets for being seated at the bell or bringing required supplies to class.
Big Point: No amount of negative behavior can take away the improvements a student made to earn a star. Never take stars away after they are earned.
Eventually, add dice rolls to your game.
- Record Super Improver® points on a clipboard roll sheet.
- During a break, transfer the points to the Super Improver Wall.
- Roll the dice. On a 1-3, kids who just won a SI point, earn a bonus point. On a 4-5, kids chant, “We’ve got Grit! We don’t Quit!” A 6 is a re-roll. Players can keep their bonus points or give them away to an improving teammate!
- In the morning, a green dice is worth one bonus point. After lunch, the blue dice is worth two bonus points. End of the day, when energy tanks, a red dice is worth three bonus points.
How do students level up?
This display shows students’ ranks after a few weeks.
Jack is a Blue Penguin. The ladder shows Penguins need five stars to level up to Kangaroos. With two stars on his Penguin card, Jack needs two more stars to ascend to Kangaroo.
Once he earns those stars, his card comes off the wall, the class celebrates, and the card goes home with Jack (parent notes to explain his outstanding achievement are great home communications). His new card, green Kangaroo, goes onto the wall.
- The number of points needed to climb a level are beside the animal names (red circles).
- When students advance a level, simply change the color of their name card.
- Never allow kids to be more than three levels ahead of their classmates. When students are three levels ahead, they roll the dice for a bonus star to be given away to an improving classmate of their choice.
- A few players will climb to AlphaHawk, 240 improvement points! Display their photo on your classroom wall for as long as you teach. As AlphaHawks, players give all the points they win to improving teammates.
- When students ask, "What’s the prize for leveling up?,” respond that it's the same reward earned when winning a basketball game … the joy of victory. Kids don't need candy or a cheesy trinket to celebrate success - the prize for leveling up is Leveling Up!
Ultimate Super Improver
To transform your classroom into a living video game, place locks over the Super Improver® levels. Say to kids, “I’m sorry that you have to play video entertainments on those little tablets. In my grade, the game is as big as our classroom!”