Race to the Top

Keeping students motivated at the end of the term can be a struggle.  In the final weeks of a semester, I would see that a large majority of my students knew that they had their grade “locked up” and just coasted through our semester review.  And I don’t completely blame them.  When you have maintained a high A all quarter, you feel pretty confident about your chances.  The students that acted the most motivated in those final days were the students concerned about their low grades.

So I introduced the Race to the Top Ten in my Spanish 1 and Spanish 2 courses.  I have multiple sections of each course, and at the end of the 2nd quarter and 4th quarter, I create a list of the Top Ten highest grades in the course and these students are exempt from the semester test.  I figure, if students are able to do that well all quarter, they have proved their competency on anything the semester test would assess.  It’s a little thank you gift to them for their hard work.  Throughout the quarter I update a Top Ten list and include a list of students that are “In the Hunt”.  In the final weeks of the quarter, I update the list daily so that students know if they should reasonably expect to take the semester test or not.  The list is finalized two days before the semester test.

This is the Spanish 1 Top Ten. This is with 2 days left to go, so it isn't finalized. The students in the hunt still have a chance.

Every time I have done this, it generates a huge amount of buzz and motivation for my top students.  As you can see by some of these Spanish 1 students, it isn’t enough for them to just do well in class, but they also want to do extra and go above and beyond expectations to earn extra credit and ensure their position in the Top Ten.  I have  some fantastic students that do well on all quizzes and tests but don’t push themselves to do anything extra.  The students that do challenge themselves to do more are rewarded, and I love to see them so energetic and motivated in the days before the end of the quarter.

And kids love competition of all kinds.  We had a test on Friday and after the test students were asking each other how they did and how many they think they missed.  If they are in the Top Ten or In the Hunt, they know that it could come down to missing one question on a quiz or test.  It’s like the playoffs; one mistake and you’re out.  For those that miss out on the Top Ten by a tenth of a percentage point it’s like losing by a three pointer at the buzzer.  It seems unfair and it hurts, but you played your best and you just have to be happy about it.

I have to finalize this year’s Top Ten lists by Tuesday, which means I have to be 100% on top of grading.  I guess it also creates a little motivation for the teacher too!

(My high school American History teacher Mr. Coffey used to do the Top Ten, so it isn’t an original idea.  I totally stole it from him, even though I was never lucky enough to rank in the top.)

*I do tell students at the beginning of the quarter that I will be posting their names and scores and if they are uncomfortable with that, they can come and see me and I will respect their privacy.  So far I have never had a student concern with privacy.


2 thoughts on “Race to the Top

  1. Just out of curiosity, do the students ever get too competitive to the point where animosity grows between them? Also, do you believe that your students who are not doing as well as others and are far from the Top Ten List are discouraged?

    1. I think I might benefit from being in a smaller school in a small community but the students all know each other well enough that there is not animosity. It does get competitive but there are a lot of smiles and I haven’t witnessed much negativity. This tends to really motivate the middle kids and the higher kids. It doesn’t seem to effect the other students too much either way: they are just focused on staying above a D or F or C or whatever their situation is. I think it might help that the Top Ten isn’t given anything extra – – students not in the Top Ten just have to take the semester test, which is routine in every class. They don’t feel like they’re being punished, they are just doing the normal thing. I think that helps.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s