Motivating a Student by Making Them Feel Special

Kindergarten Cafe

Welcome to Kindergarten Cafe - your home for teaching ideas, activities, and strategies across all content areas! I am Zeba McGibbon and I love creating resources for teachers and sharing my teaching experience with others. Kindergarten Cafe is aimed for kindergarten, but teachers of Preschool-First grade can find resources here for their students! I love to connect with other teachers so please reach out and say hello!

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Wouldn’t we all love the magic trick to motivating a student to do work? The truth is, if you form a classroom culture where students feel special and valued, then they will always be motivated! I have five ways to make students feel special and to help with motivating a student!

1) Celebrating Student Birthdays

Motivating a student by making them feel special on their birthday with a class birthday book.

There are lots of great ways to acknowledge birthdays in the classroom. For my school, we do not allow families to bring in treats and so most of the birthday celebration falls on me to provide. I always gets my students a birthday crown (I love these ones from Lakeshore!) and a birthday bookmark. I’ve seen really cute ideas like a birthday chair cover or a birthday bag that students take home with special birthday themed picture books. But, although I’ve searched high and low for what I wanted to use for a chair cover or a birthday book bag, I just couldn’t find what I was looking for that didn’t cost a ridiculous amount of money. So instead, I have my students create a birthday book for one another.

Creating a Classroom Birthday Book

The birthday book becomes the most exciting part of the birthday at school to look forward to, because everyone spends all year making birthday books for each other that they love when they can finally take their own book home. The birthday student sits in my special rug chair, and they call on their peers who asks them questions about what they might want for their birthday. For example, “do you want a Lego set?” They pretty much always say yes to everything but sometimes they do say no. Whatever they say yes to, we write it on the board. Once we have a bunch of ideas, we send students off to their seats to create their page for the birthday book.

The template looks like this. We encourage them to think about what the birthday student wants, not just what they would like (a great practice in perspective taking!). We talk about their favorite kind of cake or their favorite colors. The children spend a while working on the pages and then we put them together into a book. My amazing kindergarten assistant covers each page with a little scrap of wrapping paper, so the birthday student gets to lift it up to see what the wish is.

By using the birthday book routine, my students get excited to honor each other and their birthdays and they look forward to celebrating their birthday with our class! Knowing that everyone is a valued member of our class community, is a valuable tool to motivating a student to do work.

2) Book Buddy Bags

Motivating a student by sending home Book Buddy Bags!

There is no need to motivating a student in my class with my Book Buddy Bags! Every child is beyond excited to open their locker on Friday and find that they get to take home a Book Buddy Bag for the weekend! The Book Buddy Bags are framed as “mysteries” so they get even more excited to get home and see what’s inside.

What is inside of my Book Buddy Bags? Each bag has a different theme. There are books for families to read together, math, science, or writing activities to do in response to the books. At the beginning of the year, I talk with families about the bags and let them know that they are always a choice and they do not have to complete the bags. However, most families let me know that they absolutely love the activities in the bags and love completing them as a family. I think it helps them to see what kinds of activities we do in the classroom and how easy it is to connect that learning to learning at home.

The Paddington Book Bag

The favorite Book Buddy Bag is the Paddington Bear Bag. Each week, a student gets to take home Paddington Bear, some Paddington books, and a class notebook where they write inside about all the fun things they did with Paddington Bear. Then, on Monday, they share with the class what they did with Paddington and show any photos or pictures they have. Everyone gets a turn, and they all get very excited when it is finally theirs. These Book Buddy Bags are easy ways to making students feel special which definitely helps for motivating a student.

3) Class Jobs

Motivating a student with class jobs!

I’ve written about Class Jobs before, but they are another simple way to motivating a student and to making students feel special. All of my students get very excited to find out what their job will be for the week. There are definitely class jobs that students like more, like line leader, but everyone always has a job to do. This makes them feel like a valued member of the classroom community. It lets them show off their responsibility and independence to the adults and their peers, and they really rise to the occasion.

4) Showing off Student Work

If you’re looking for ways to motivating a student, make sure they know their work is valued and important. Make sure to have spaces around the room where you can showcase everyone’s work. I have a few spaces, like this wall I made one year with sticky clips so I can easily hang up different work throughout the year.

Motivating a student by showing off their class work!

Self-Portraits

I also always hang up self-portraits of students. We do self-portraits three times a year –the fall, winter, and spring. They are a very powerful way to demonstrate their growth and development. The self-portrait helps the teachers to understand the students’ self-image, as well as fine motor and art development. I love seeing how their self-portraits improve throughout the year. My students love seeing their progress too and seeing the new self-portraits go up and replace the old ones.

5) Motivating a Student Whenever you Can

Motivating a student by sending home activities to keep learning at home.

My final tip to motivating a student is to find ways to motivate them and make them feel special whenever you can. I love to use my Home-Fun calendars to encourage families to incorporate learning and practice into their everyday lives. Families love having the different activity ideas, and my students love trying to get Bingo! (What is it about Bingo that instantly makes an activity more fun?!)

Even if students are traveling with their families or going on vacations, I use this opportunity to easily connect learning to what families are already doing. I love using my vacation activities to suggest really fun and easy ways to keep practicing learning at home. My students love these challenges and get excited to come back to school and show me how they completed them.

I also use my Family Travel Journal (Get it for free here!) as a way for motivating a student while they are away to write about what they are doing. Even students who are resistant to writing love taking these travel journals with them and writing about the fun adventures they are having. They especially love being able to share them with others when they return to school!

Motivating a student free family travel journal

Conclusion

If students feel valued, important, and special, then motivating a student to complete work is easy. Once you build a culture in your classroom where everyone feels included, then it is much easier to tackle their academic needs. We want to help our students to feel excited to learn, practice and share all they have learned. These five tips will definitely help!

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