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Building intrinsic motivation in kindergarten

  • 1.  Building intrinsic motivation in kindergarten

    Posted 09-22-2017 04:44 PM
    Greetings to each of you! I just left a K classroom where I am just beginning to coach/mentor a first-year teacher and she is looking for ways to intrinsically motivate her students. Her classroom links meaningful relationships, social-emotional learning, and classroom management as she uses a community model of discipline rather than a competitive model. What are some strategies she might consider to help her students motivate themselves intrinsically to be and do their best?

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    Kim Hughes
    Conscious Connections LLC
    Wake Forest NC
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  • 2.  RE: Building intrinsic motivation in kindergarten

    Posted 09-23-2017 10:05 AM
    The teacher is probably already using large and small group. She can then facilitate group discussions  ( with dictation) about motivation, "good" work vs. "not so good", personal satisfaction with good work and positive behaviors, etc. This could be enhanced with reading, writing and acting out stories. So literacy and social emotional learning at the same time!
    an extra thought is to remember that developmentally and temperamentally first graders need some external motivation to create an internal image of motivation. So differentiated
    strategies with the vocabulary of motivation such as affirmations tailored to each child such as: "you worked hard on this -task-and it turned out so well. You showed motivation! Good for you!"

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    Angele Sancho Passe
    consultant, writer
    BlueWater Associates
    Minneapolis MN
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  • 3.  RE: Building intrinsic motivation in kindergarten

    Posted 09-25-2017 11:11 PM
    In my experience, the amount and type of attention and feedback that adults give children in the classroom has a huge impact on their internal motivation.
    If you think about three types of attention, positive, negative and neutral-  when the majority of the attention in the classroom is neutral (noticing what the children are doing, without putting either a positive or negative spin on it)- children are most likely to be motivated to achieve things on their own.  If the majority of the attention is negative, some children's primary motivation becomes avoiding "getting in trouble", while other children decide that negative attention is better than no attention and develop disruptive behaviors that interrupt other children's ability to play and learn.  It seems like things should go best if the majority of the attention is positive, but in observing classrooms where this is the case, I've noticed that children tend to become focused on pleasing the teacher by doing the things they are being praised for. rather than independently pursuing their own interests.  Internal motivation is replaced by a focus on pleasing the teacher.  When the teacher is simply noticing the children most of the time, without assigning either positive or negative values to it then children focus on their own learning and motivation.
    For this to work, of course there needs to be enough attention.  If children feel there is a scarcity of attention, then they will focus on whatever gets the teacher's attention.
    A few examples of the three kinds of attention:
    Positive attention:  "Lashandra, what a beautiful painting".  Negative attention "LaShandra, we don't mix the paints, keep the blue brush in the blue paint and the red brush in the red paint".   Neutral attention, "LaShandra, I noticed you're using a lot of red and blue paint today..  Do you want to tell me about your painting?"
    Obviously, teachers will need to correct children's behavior sometimes, and some positive attention builds relationships.  But in the best classrooms I've seen the majority of communication is neutral, followed by positive attention with negative attention a distant third.  This seems to result in relaxed classrooms where children are motivated by their own desire to learn and solve many of their own problems.



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    [Meg] [Thomas]
    [Early childhood consultant
    [St Paul ] [MN]
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  • 4.  RE: Building intrinsic motivation in kindergarten

    Posted 09-27-2017 07:27 AM
    Margaret,  I really appreciate your comments.  The feedback for LaShandra reminded me of something I once heard a speaker say on the topic.  If we say how "beautiful" her painting is, LaShandra is going to look for that in the future.  Well, every painting we make can't be beautiful, or the teacher might say something different the next time.  But LaShandra is waiting to hear if it is beautiful and may take a small blow to her self-esteem if she doesn't hear it.  On the other hand, if we say something like your "neutral" comment, or "LaShandra, you have worked so hard on that, and I bet YOU are proud of your work," then we can always work hard, and you've let me know that it is important what I think of my work.

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    Joseph Appleton
    Dayton VA
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  • 5.  RE: Building intrinsic motivation in kindergarten

    Posted 09-24-2017 12:40 PM
    This may seem overly simplistic, but being intrinsically motivated means you want to do what you're doing. And, for young children, the thing that most makes them want to do something is if it's fun for them!

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    Rae Pica
    Rae Pica Keynotes & Consulting
    Alexandria VA
    www.raepica.com
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  • 6.  RE: Building intrinsic motivation in kindergarten

    Posted 09-25-2017 08:07 AM
    It depends of where the definition of fun goes:) The result of learning is the fun part. But  the process of learning is not always fun. That's where support for motivation is important.

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    Angele Sancho Passe
    consultant, writer
    www.angelesanchopasse.com
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  • 7.  RE: Building intrinsic motivation in kindergarten

    Posted 09-25-2017 09:59 AM
    I'm also of the belief that children are already intrinsically motivated, when they are choosing activities, books, pencil and crayon colors, etc., that are of interest to them. School must be about empowering students to make choices and act in ways that support their own goals, and the goals of a group, not what the teacher or others want them to do.

    A successful teacher is someone who recognizes the individual nature of each child, and that having fun - usually through play - is the primary motivator. Teacher must step back and observe more than lead, to get a sense of how to facilitate learning activities to support this.

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    Mary Russell
    Journeys Out Yonder
    Boulder CO
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  • 8.  RE: Building intrinsic motivation in kindergarten

    Posted 09-27-2017 10:46 PM
    It sounds like such an easy task - to support young children in being intrinsically motivated because that is one of the great things about young children is that they are so excited and eager to learn about so many new things.  I think some of the problems are arising now - especially in kindergarten - is because teachers are being forced to teach more advanced skills to these children who are not always ready to sit and focus in the way the instruction is being presented.  It's a very tough job as a kindergarten teacher to teach these more advanced skills in a developmentally appropriate approach.  When it is done though, the children can be engaged and having fun...and learning!  I taught kindergarten for 16 years and have just moved to preschool and I understand that struggle to make things fun for kindergartners while being sure to cover the standards with students who are actually learning the skills.  One of my favorite things about teaching preschool is that I feel so free to teach my students in a developmentally appropriate way.  Our standards ARE appropriate and allow us to teach through play-based activities.  My advice is to create as many play-based activities as possible for your kindergartners to learn through play.  If you can't think of the activities - SEARCH and ASK the digital world of kindergarten teachers.

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    Jennie Morrell
    Andover Elementary School
    Andover CT
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  • 9.  RE: Building intrinsic motivation in kindergarten

    Posted 09-25-2017 01:49 PM
    We were just talking about this!

    I run a smallish center (55 children) - with toddlers and preschoolers. Often children chant "Watch me, watch me!" "Look what I did!" We have noticed that this craving adult praise actually interrupts their concentration and focus.

    So we have been thinking and talking about this and also noticing how we (and the world) praises kids. Good hearted people (like us) often actually interrupt children's work and play with comments like "good job!" when they may not need praise to continue their task. And so we have decided that we are a huge part of the problem! We are unwittingly contributing to their need for external praise and creating the "watch me!" kids.

    Now we are trying to bite our tongue and simply watch when a child is working on something - we are fading away the verbal response - and if they look up at us we give a smile and a thumbs up. And if we do verbally praise them it's for "sticking with it till you finished!" or "that was hard and you worked on it for a long time!" or "you tried something new - good for you!" In other words we are praising effort - not the end result or how smart they are. We also praise for being kind and for being a good friend - but no more for "look what I did!"

    I hope it helps them become persistent and internally motivated. And I hope this helps!!
    Chris


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    Christine Giguere
    Lexington Playcare Center
    Lexington MA
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  • 10.  RE: Building intrinsic motivation in kindergarten

    Posted 09-26-2017 11:27 AM
    This is wonderful, Christine! It is so true that "Good job!" contributes to the need for extrinsic reward. Children become praise junkies!

    Alfie Kohn's article, which Joseph references, is an excellent and important read.

    One reason I object to children hearing "Good job" for so much of what they do is that it doesn't give them any information. But if we describe what we see -- "I see you've used a lot of purple in your drawing!" or "You landed very gently from that jump." -- we're providing them with language and feedback they can use.

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    Rae Pica
    Rae Pica Keynotes & Consulting
    Alexandria VA
    www.raepica.com
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  • 11.  RE: Building intrinsic motivation in kindergarten

    Posted 09-27-2017 03:28 PM
    Kim - great topic!

    Christine & Rae - I grew up hearing the "good job" and I concur with your statements.  I use a technique called "be a sports announcer" in my movement classes, especially during free play time with a prop.  It's all about describing what you see the children doing as their feedback.  Since they all still want us to look at and acknowledge their accomplishments: " I see Amir spinning the hula hoop in circles around his arm". " I see people rolling the ball with their feet towards the cone".  It doesn't stop seeking validation, but perhaps it redirects their thinking from external to internal validation by not generalizing it to "good job".

    Good luck everyone!

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    Mary Lynn Hafner, PT, DPT
    Sammamish WA
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  • 12.  RE: Building intrinsic motivation in kindergarten

    Posted 09-25-2017 03:45 PM
      |   view attached
    Dear Kim,  Hello friend and wonderful, incredible, amazing teacher and mentor!  So glad to see your face and name on here.  You know I've been a fan of yours for years!!  I hope this Kindergarten teacher knows how lucky she is to have you.

    Your question put me on a somewhat different train of thought that most of the other respondents.  I recently worked with a school in Charlotte where the founder/principal, as a "marketing" tool, PROMISES parents that their school is based entirely on intrinsic rewards.  What a great concept!!  If you want to email me privately, I will try to put you in touch with her.

    Meanwhile, I have been reading recently about "Mastery vs. Grading," because of a piece I THINK I heard on NPR, but cannot find it through searching on their website.  In the piece that I heard, children were interviewed talking about what skills they had mastered and what skills they are working on.  We all know that as part of high-quality formative assessment children should have a stake by knowing what the goals are and how they are doing.  But what struck me was how the children are confident in THEMSELVES and not worrying about a grade they got or what grade their best friend (or rival) got.

    I agree totally with the other respondents who say that children are intrinsically motivated and that our first job is to nurture that.  But the reality is that we wonderful, developmentally appropriate, nurturing educators won't be the only ones these children encounter.  A gift that we can give to them that will "keep on giving" is a tremendous feeling of self-worth.  My belief is that if we can encourage this in children and teach them to evaluate their own progress against a REALISTIC goal, that most times the sense of accomplishment with foster that self-worth and will carry them through the days when they have a teacher who is not so positive, and ones who rely on extrinsic motivators.

    I would also highly recommend an "old" article from Young Children:  Five Reasons to Stop Saying "Good Job," by Alfie Kohn.  It addresses some of the issues around motivation very succinctly, with specific suggestions of what to say instead.  I have attached a copy.


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    Joseph Appleton
    Dayton VA
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  • 13.  RE: Building intrinsic motivation in kindergarten

    Posted 09-26-2017 12:00 PM
    Of course, the answer must be positive reinforcement for meeting goals (participation, completion of tasks, appropriate and expected behaviors). Children have an opportunity to socialize when there is a classroom activity that is motivating (reinforcing). Embedding strategies like following classroom rules and behavior expectations while taking part in a fun learning activity helps children unite for a classroom cause while working in teams or groups. This in turn promotes their feeling valued as a classroom member and as a part of peer groups. So when tables/teams wins points for the teacher's noting their good behaviors (raising their hands, not getting out of seat, not disrupting the sessions) or for participating in answering questions, the children can then look forward to a rewarding experience like that of an extra 10 minutes of outside play or free time in class or whatever reward motivates them. As teachers get ideas from their students for how a game or activity is to be carried out, and what the activity themes will be, they can also help to increase students' motivation to participate. When activities aren't stressful and they are fun and easy to take part, that provides opportunities for children to join in (especially for shy children). Plus, children who have a reputation for being disruptive could feel welcome again to join in without the stigma from former behaviors interfering in the learning experience.

    -----Allison H.-----

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    Allison Hettle
    ECE Educator
    La Mirada CA
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  • 14.  RE: Building intrinsic motivation in kindergarten

    Posted 09-27-2017 08:52 AM
    This may be more than you or the teacher wants to adopt at the moment, but I highly recommend looking into Conscious Discipline (Conscious Discipline - Safety. Connection. Problem Solving.). The entire program focuses on social emotional learning and there is a chapter dedicated to encouraging children to be intrinsically motivated to be helpful. There are also structures that teachers can implement in the classroom to help build these skills in children. We adopted this curriculum at our school a few years ago and it has been an excellent addition to our program. When we ask parents what they like most about our school, Conscious Discipline is the number one answer. Good luck - I wish you well!

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    Lani Douglas
    Inman Park Coop Preschool
    Atlanta GA
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