Motivation: Super Improver®

Rewarding for growth instead of attainment

As we describe in our new book, Whole Brain Teaching; Fast Track: Seven Steps to Teaching Heaven  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, year after year. Too often, our brightest kids skate by with minimum effort while less talented pupils bail out of a race that the system has taught them they can’t win.

For Step One in your journey to Teaching Heaven, create a Super Improver classroom display as described below.  (For free Super Improver Graphics, download WBT 3.0, here)

How do I set up my display?

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To begin rewarding for improvement, not ability, create a 14 level Super Improver ladder in your classroom. You can download printable level cards for elementary and upper grades.


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).

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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 number one goal is to meet students at their level and help them to continuously improve. From our most gifted students to our most in need, the sole focus is to help students grow. To do that, you need to change our goggles. You’re not looking for good kids.  You’re looking for improving kids. When you notice improvement, award the student with a star on their Super Improver card. Earn enough stars, as noted on each level card, move up to the next level.

Super Improver Goal

Transform your class into a living video game!

  1. Set a target for the class, in this case, Rule 1 (blue arrow).
  2. When a student improves in the Target skill (blue arrow), in this case Rule 1, give them a point on a clipboard roll sheet
  3. Also, award points for other improvements … indicated by the + (plus) sign.  (red arrow)

The goal is to set and break records all day. We should be praising for excellent effort more than excellent work. Play this game 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 having a vacay in Teacher Heaven.

Super Improver Goal

Change the Target as you change lessons

Sample Targets:

– Make neater capitals.

– Show your math work.

– Use indoor voices.

– Teach your neighbor with big gestures.

– Show Grit during the test.

In Upper grades you can start the year with targets for being in their seat at the bell or bringing required supplies to class.


Big Point 1: When making your lessons, find ways to embed growth opportunities into the lesson. Set and break records all day.

Big Point 2: 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.

Super Improver Dice Rolls

Eventually, add dice rolls to your game.

  1. Record Super Improver points on a clipboard roll sheet.
  2. During a break, transfer the points to the Super Improver Wall.
  3. 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! 
  4. 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?

Super Improver Goal


This display shows students’ ranks after a few weeks. 

Jack is a Blue Penguin. On the laddder it shows that Penguins need 5 stars to level up to Kangaroos. Since Jack has 2 stars on his Penguin card, he only needs two more stars to level up to Kangaroo!

Once he earns those two 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 communication home). His new card, green Kangaroo, goes onto the wall in the same place.

Important Points:

  1. The number of points needed to climb a level are beside the animal names (red circles).  
  2. When students advance a level, simply change the color of their name card.
  3. Never allow students to be more than three levels ahead of their peers. If students are three levels ahead, they can roll the dice for a bonus star to be given away to an improving classmate of their choice!
  4. 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!!!
  5. When students ask, "What is the prize for leveling up?' you can respond that it's the same prize earned when winning a basketball game. You don't need a basket of dollar toys or candy to celebrate your success - the prize for leveling up is Leveling Up!



Super Improver PowerUps