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  • RufusW
  • Veteran

    • 166

    • June 15, 2010, 08:49:22 am
    • Busan
Why are points/rewards needed?
« on: November 19, 2010, 11:55:18 am »

I'm wondering: why do English teachers need to reward their students to manufacture effort?

I teach at elementary school here.  In England the children in the 6th grade would already be in secondary school.  Even in elementary school I don't remember being rewarded anything for doing school-work.

So why does it seem necessary for English teachers to bribe students to do the work?  Making lessons enjoyable and easy is important, but why do students need a separate objective?

Is it because we're foreign and don't teach a 'real' subject?  Or is it something to do with expectations: are students expected to perform in Korean schools?

I know it's a little empty on this board, but I'd love to hear feedback.
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  • Darkeru
  • Expert Waygook

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    • September 08, 2010, 01:03:17 pm
    • Seoul, South Korea
Re: Why are points/rewards needed?
« Reply #1 on: November 19, 2010, 12:02:55 pm »

Competition seems important to the students at times, though it doesn't always work. In my school it's not just for my class either. I've heard that some Korean teachers give sweets, they give points.

When I was in primary school, they gave 'Merit badges' as rewards, so it's not just Korea.
[In Korea once more - Working in Pyeongtaek]

  • JuliusCaesar108
  • Featured Contributor

    • 164

    • March 21, 2010, 08:28:10 pm
    • Gangwon-do, Republic of Korea
Re: Why are points/rewards needed?
« Reply #2 on: November 19, 2010, 12:15:22 pm »
Not all teachers do it.  I rarely do it - I did it for a "Trick or Treat" lesson, and I did it once when the game board said for the teacher to give candy if they do Rock, Paper, Scissors and beat the teacher.  Other than that, I choose not to do it because I'd rather focus on the lesson.

If you're told otherwise, and are uncomfortable in doing it, just tell them it's not your style.
"In my forty-fifth year I, Julius Caesar, witnessed wonderful and frightening things that were to take place in a time that has not yet taken place."  - The Apocalypse of Julius Caesar

Re: Why are points/rewards needed?
« Reply #3 on: November 19, 2010, 12:17:35 pm »
Yeah for my teachers, the points go towards their participation mark but since grades don't matter at middle school level. Until they're in third year looking to go into high school O.o;
I know my teachers do it when I'm not in the room so it's not just around me. I think that teachers (in general) use this too much because students expect some sort of reward/point at the end of every class. I can see it working well in elementary but in middle school, I think they should start using it less often.

  • summerthyme
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    • July 10, 2010, 05:02:32 am
    • Waegwan, Chilgok, Gyeongbuk
Re: Why are points/rewards needed?
« Reply #4 on: November 19, 2010, 12:29:09 pm »
I agree that the students *should* be able to answer questions/do their work on their own.  However, I do realize that they are stressed to perform highly in all their other subjects (including their Korean-taught English classes), so when they get to my class (which has no grades, except for my occasional influence over some exam questions) they are not as likely to try as hard because they don't feel like there is anything in it for them. 

I also understand that for Korean students English is a very difficult subject, and most of them, even if they understand the English, are too painfully shy to speak it that they'd rather be punished than say a single word in class.  I like to use rewards to try and give them an incentive to speak and hopefully lose the fear they have of the language.

As such, for the two classes I see the most often I use a reward system.  I give out slips of paper on which they write their homerooms, names and student numbers, and at the end of the semester I will draw names for prizes.  Overall this allows the students to have some sort of incentive and is less expensive for me because I don't have to go out and buy a bag of ridiculously expensive candy every week.  I've probably spent around $100 on prizes for this semester (candy, pencils, stickers, notebooks, erasers) whereas if I was buying candy for every class, it would probably be around $300 by now.

I very rarely use rewards in my 1st grade middle school classes because when I do, they cheat or try to steal candy/rewards.  So, no candy for them.  I never use rewards in my high school class for the exact same reason.  For me, candy leads to dishonesty, so I won't be a part of it.
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  • isanghan
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    • March 12, 2010, 01:47:38 pm
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Re: Why are points/rewards needed?
« Reply #5 on: November 19, 2010, 12:31:26 pm »
You could argue that grades/marks given in a class are also points/rewards. So, in absence of the motivation that a good mark provides, points/rewards are used. That's my thought on the matter.

Re: Why are points/rewards needed?
« Reply #6 on: November 19, 2010, 01:15:19 pm »
I use points less for motivation than for behavior management. I am in elementary school, but use points from 3-6 graders. Their whole class gets points when they are on task, everyone repeats, everyone sings, etc. At the end of the year the class with the most points gets a movie party. It works really well taking away a class point to get the few students who are out of control back on task (or at least where they are not disrupting others from learning).

  • Morticae
  • Hero of Waygookistan

    • 1400

    • August 31, 2010, 12:45:33 pm
Re: Why are points/rewards needed?
« Reply #7 on: November 19, 2010, 01:42:06 pm »
My class has no grade. The candy reward is like getting an A.

Playing a game for no reward is pointless, IMO. Sometimes I do it to my students here though, to save $... or if they angered me earlier and I feel they don't deserve candy. In school we played games and always had rewards. Sometimes candy, or extra credit.

Re: Why are points/rewards needed?
« Reply #8 on: November 19, 2010, 01:52:28 pm »
I don't agree with the bribery system either.  It's a bit ridiculous, and it really makes the kids expect treats, feel entitled to rewards for doing what should be expected of them without the treats.  My co-teacher does stamps/stickers, then they get a treat once they get 20 stamps/stickers.  It wastes a little chunk of time doling out 40 stamps at the end of every class.  They're not working harder or anything, so the system isn't working. 

Re: Why are points/rewards needed?
« Reply #9 on: November 19, 2010, 01:55:54 pm »
I think its required because they are not differentiated by level, at least not at my school.

I can remember even in the first grade when I was in primary school we had readers that were by levels, and did maths in different groups.

English isn't broken down by level here, and the kids are so wildly different in ability. The smart kids need rewards to bother covering material they knew by heart years ago. The slower kids need some incentive to try because from their perspective there is no point, they are so far behind their peers why even try.

I feel like I could be so much more effective if they were even somewhat split by ability.

  • AC_in_Korea
  • Super Waygook

    • 263

    • July 30, 2010, 11:25:33 am
    • Miryang, South Korea
Re: Why are points/rewards needed?
« Reply #10 on: November 19, 2010, 01:56:11 pm »
I choose to look at it less as bribery, and more as a reward.  We get paid for doing what we do right?  Sometimes if we do a great job, we get bonuses.   I know I would certainly not work as hard as I do if I was not getting paid.

Just my two cents.... :D
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  • kerrym
  • Veteran

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    • March 18, 2010, 09:52:47 pm
    • Ulsan, South Korea
Re: Why are points/rewards needed?
« Reply #11 on: November 19, 2010, 02:03:22 pm »
The only time I've used tangible rewards has been at English camps where all the children had workbooks with a section for collecting stickers throughout the three weeks of camp. The Office of Education gave all the teachers a supply of stickers to distribute at our discretion. I found rewarding a sticker for effort, performance, kindness, etc., to be pretty effective.

I don't use any candy, stickers, etc., at my elementary school because I see too many students and there are some extremely shy students who might never get whatever reward was available. I find that genuine praise, a smile, or a high five work for me.

If a teacher is always just a clown/entertainer, or a source of candy, etc., I feel they sometimes lose the respect of the students and just become the Waygook sugar daddy.

However, if it works for you, I admire the preparation and expense that teachers are willing to exert to increase motivation, modify behavior, or to control the class.

Most of the homeroom teachers at my school have some sort of reward system and one of my co-teachers has a board at the front of the room with six "vines" (one for each group). She has about ten levels on each vine with a Velcro tab and a Velcro monkey that can climb the vine for various reasons.: a good answer, having their name tags on their desk, or other simple successes. It's simple to just move the monkey up the vine. Each class there is a group winner and at the end of the month, the group that has won the most, gets a small reward (usually fruit). Honestly, her classes are the easiest to keep engaged, so there is merit to the system.

In America, college football players get stickers for their helmets after each game for excellent achievement. They are getting a free university education, but still lust after the stickers. Go figure.

Re: Why are points/rewards needed?
« Reply #12 on: November 19, 2010, 02:32:31 pm »
Most of my classes are divided by grade and ability, so it makes even less sense why they are being rewarded for doing what they SHOULD be doing. I do try to modify the material so I can give the higher level students more things and focus more on the things in the book for the lower levels. If I gave them a big project or extra work, but not for doing what's expected of them.

One time, I gave some of my students a "punishment" in class. I made them write lines for not doing their homework (25). My co-teacher asked me if she should be giving them points for doing it O.O;; I told her that that was punishment, not homework. If they did the homework then they'd get the points but they shouldn't get points for doing a punishment. I don't think she really got it.

You could but with grades, in my experience anyways, if you get a failing grade in a subject, you can't go on to the next level. You have to repeat it. Just passing someone through the system even if they are failing the classes doesn't make sense to me and only causes troubles later down the road. But that's just my opinion and another topic all together ^^;;;

  • kaymac
  • Super Waygook

    • 259

    • September 25, 2009, 03:53:47 am
    • Yeosu
Re: Why are points/rewards needed?
« Reply #13 on: November 19, 2010, 03:47:25 pm »
In my classes, what they should be doing is never quite what happens when it's me and 35 kids. I don't use rewards everyday but for games I do, and I never shut down the possibility. They are just so frikkin' tired/overworked that sometimes there needs to be some kind of incentive. Otherwise they'll just sleep. I do keep an eye on what students are up to during class and try to reward students who are quieter but still working hard every now and then. I have a no candy for sleeping/non-participating team members for games too. I've also gone the "you are all being bad, today no candy" route on a few particularly noisy occasions. It makes life so much easier. Try e-mart for candy, I've gotten fruit candy there that has lasted ages. A big thing of rice cookies usually gets me through four or five classes when we play games too since the winning team only gets them.

  • DevilMogun
  • Super Waygook

    • 255

    • October 17, 2010, 08:11:46 pm
    • Namhae, South Korea
Re: Why are points/rewards needed?
« Reply #14 on: November 30, 2010, 10:59:11 am »
Why the snobbishness about using points?  I use points extensively - for teams within the class and for classes within the year group.

When I was teaching in England, and the same applies to the Korean teachers here, I had a whole toolkit of incentives to encourage participation and learning: exam grades, homework marks, good reports, achievement certificates, school-wide recognition and reward, positive letters home to parents, positive feedback to parents on parent evenings and, most importantly, the promise that I was taking my students to a specific educational goal (a GCSE) which they would achieve if they worked with me and studied hard.

I also had a whole range of disincentives for bad behaviour; low grades, exam failure and bad reports, obviously, but also detention, being sent to the head, phoning parents or speaking to them on parent evening and the support of other teachers in regular meetings where particular behaviour problems/classes/students were collectively considered and managed.

Here I have points.  If every student slept through my class, or chatted to his neighbour for the whole lesson, every lesson, the one and only consequence would be that they would miss a chance to learn to speak English.  Nothing else would happen.  No school sanctions, no roasting from parents, no shame of failure. No exam to gain or lose.  Not even a measure by which students can feel a personal embarrassment at having slipped down the scale. Why study in my class, or even behave well?

Of course, some of them just want to learn English, and they do.  Still, a fair number of the 400 boys - who spend just 50 minutes a week with me - have no interest whatsoever.   The are pretty sure that the life cut out for them will not require them to speak or understand English. 

Points give them a short term, achievable incentive.  In addition, points validate peer pressure from those who want to learn.  Being told by your classmate to keep quiet or lose points is a lot easier for less able students to accept than being told to keep quiet so the interested ones can learn better.  Sometimes, amazingly, the pressure to win points will force even the least capable into putting together a whole sentence in English.

Of course I'd rather see each student progressing up a standardised fluency scale, an increasing score being a reward in its self.  I'd love to have that kind of structure and end-goal to help design and sequence my lessons.  Instead I have points.  Not ideal, but it's what I have available to me, and they work. 
"She lacks the indefinable charm of weakness" Oscar Wilde

  • RufusW
  • Veteran

    • 166

    • June 15, 2010, 08:49:22 am
    • Busan
Re: Why are points/rewards needed?
« Reply #15 on: November 30, 2010, 11:05:14 am »
Personally I don't like having to continually use points because they weren't needed back home - because there was another reward/tracking system in place.  But I understand with Korea and its half-hearted approach to English, we need to motivate our own classes.  By which I mean, if we had the same responsibilities and positions as a Korean teacher we wouldn't need to manufacture motivation so blatantly.

Thanks for the discussion guys.
« Last Edit: November 30, 2010, 11:09:58 am by RufusW »
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Re: Why are points/rewards needed?
« Reply #16 on: November 30, 2010, 11:57:55 am »
I don't agree with the bribery system either.  It's a bit ridiculous, and it really makes the kids expect treats, feel entitled to rewards for doing what should be expected of them without the treats.  My co-teacher does stamps/stickers, then they get a treat once they get 20 stamps/stickers.  It wastes a little chunk of time doling out 40 stamps at the end of every class.  They're not working harder or anything, so the system isn't working.

I completely agree with master.  I hate that my students don't feel any obligation to speak, contribute or work hard unless their is a carrot being held in front of them, and I personally find it to be a flawed way of approaching education.  Without encouraging students to contribute to better themselves personally, instead of receiving a physical reward, students are not learning personal accountability and responsibility.  It is just like a lot of other aspects of Korean education- if you do something wrong, you get hit or get embarrassed, so the moral to the story is "I don't want to be embarrassed, so I won't do that again."  They are not learning "This is disruptive and is interfering with the teachers ability to communicate a concept, so i won't do it again." 

Rewarding students in our English classes might be necessary because they don't receive grades, but I know that all the teachers in my school dole out candy and stamps to their students.  I personally feel that it's training students to be disinterested in their own education unless they can see immediate gain from it.

  • Adventurer

    • 33

    • October 04, 2010, 01:38:41 pm
    • Gwangju
Re: Why are points/rewards needed?
« Reply #17 on: November 30, 2010, 12:23:55 pm »
Because English class should be fun!  Giving a reward in class is a good way to show the students that you appreciate their effort.  Our students study all the time, from morning to night.  We should do what we can so they can feel comfortable and excited about English.  Whatís wrong with rewards? Doesnít society operate on the same principles?  Would you teach for free?  I brought candy all the way from America for my students.  They love it!

  • eveliens
  • Super Waygook

    • 352

    • November 05, 2010, 08:49:25 am
    • Seoul, Korea
Re: Why are points/rewards needed?
« Reply #18 on: December 01, 2010, 08:47:16 am »
I agree that it's bribery. And this has been a very interesting topic to read though. However, I remember as a child I did work for points. My group worked for points. My class worked against other classes for the coveted pizza party. So it's not just in Korea, although it does seem to be very obvious here when the two words my kids seem to know (if you minus the cuss words) are candy and stickers.

I don't know. I've only been teaching for a month in Elementary, so my stance might change, but I see positive reinforcement ("rewards") are necessary to promote learning and good behavior. I use it as a classroom management tool in addition to an incentive to participate. That doesn't mean you shower the kids with candy or stickers or dangle a carrot in their face all the time. I use a lot of different incentives and reinforcements that don't require me to shell out. It's random depending on their performance in class.

Yesterday my grade 5 after school was being a PITA. Not listening, being obnoxious, etc. I printed out some handwriting worksheets and demoted them to grade 2. When they settled down and realized they didn't want to do grade 2 worksheets, I continued with the lesson where they behaved beautifully, and I left the last few minutes to listen to a song by Beast. Listening to the song was a reward to reinforce their good behavior. Be bad and you get worksheets; be good and you MIGHT get to listen to a song. Obviously, they donít get songs everyday. Hopefully they don't get the brilliant idea to do the following: act u-> do worksheets->behave->get a song.

Praise, high fives, rock/paper/scissors, Simon Says, the Hokey Pokey, the Panda Cheese commercials, hangman, etc. all work very well as rewards. I rarely, rarely use candy because frankly the kids donít need anymore sugar. I do use stickers to reward game winners, but I donít just hand stickers out for doing work. And since most games are group games, if I see youíre not participating and your team wins, you donít get a sticker. Since I teach mostly after school classes by myself, I donít force the kids to participate if theyíre having a crappy day. Because then crappy day= English. English=misery.

I donít know. I was a dog trainer before I was a teacher. And you donít get a dog to cooperate just because you say so. Sit, sit now! Sit sit sit!... hey, lookit, I have a treat, oh now youíre interested? Sit. Good dog. Everyone wants to know whatís in it for them (even dogs), and the kids arenít any different.

  • Janitor
  • Moderator - LVL 2

    • 962

    • June 14, 2010, 02:01:32 pm
    • Ulsan
Re: Why are points/rewards needed?
« Reply #19 on: December 01, 2010, 09:33:32 am »
To be honest whether you are rewarding them with candy, a video, a song, or a mark, IT IS ALL BRIBERY.  I have looked over this whole thread and there are two things that stand out, to me anyway. The first, is that with young learners it is easier to find a universal method to control students. Playing music that they like or cheese commercials or high-fives may work but may not for older students. The second, is that candy some how has a bad reputation and other forms (video, games, stickers),  are being misrepresented as being something better. It is all the same if you misuse the reward system.

The reality that we are dealing with is the fact that we do not give marks and thus it is placed on the student to determine whether they want to learn or not  in our class. Interesting games, funny waygooks, and music can only be effective if there is some value placed on it or there is some interest put into it. Students like all humans work on a pleasure/pain principle. How much pleasure can I get for the least amount of pain. If the students case it is more like "how much candy can I get for the least amount of effort" It is all the same idea.

There are some basic ideas to make any system meaningful. The first thing is that it should take some effort but not enough that they give up. This gives value to their accomplishment, no matter how small. The second is that it should be something the students want. I use candy or videos because for my middle school students they either are thinking with their stomachs or needing to give their brain a break.

90% of the problems with rewards stem from people giving them out without the proper effort. The students' parents are the worst for this. Just like you get a paycheck and holiday time for your work, the students get grades and other incentives to do well in school. In our classes what do they get? A high five or someone saying they are cool? my middle schoolers would take either of those as an insult.

We may try and take a higher road on this but the rules are simple. You can't motivate a student simple because "it is just what they should do" I.E go to school and study hard or "You are here to learn and if you learn then why should I give you anything special".

Our society is based on rewards, just think about your martial arts classes. The belt is a reward for learning a set of motions and techniques. It gives you satisfaction and status but it is simply a coloured belt.. nothing more. When you spend thousands of dollars and years in school your reward is simply a piece of paper with your name on it. However, these things have value because we worked hard to earn them.

My rewards are based on exceeding the standard in my class. Yes, my students will beg for candy but they know what they have to do. They make the choice. The effort they put in for doing an above average job is what gets them motivated to learn. It gets them pushing themselves. If they don't want to participate, that is fine but no points will be given out for sitting and doing nothing. If they want candy, they step up.

I also give verbal rewards like praise and whatnot for simple things like coming to class prepared and having good manners. I also reward my students for challenging themselves in my open classes. The thing here is that I am not saying "be good and I will give you candy" but rather "thank you for working hard and I know many of your were really embarrassed but you all did well" I also don't tell them if they are going to be rewarded or not. Again, they make the choice. This worked extremely well for an open class that I did with one of my worst classes. A few students spoke up during the class and really worked hard. They did not know that they were going to get rewarded but after when they got a special treat, the entire attitude of the class changed. Now there was some in it for them.

So I would say, find a system that works for you. Reward good behaviour and reinforce it daily. Don't just hand out candy or play a game / watch a video every class because that is how you structure the lesson; make them work for it.

These are just my thoughts and I know many are probably going to disagree but I thought that I would toss them into this thread anyway.