More Music Motivators

by Stacie MacBush

I am always looking for ways to motivate my students in music class. Sometimes it is getting my younger students to participate or my boys to sing. Jr. High students are a whole other animal. How do you motivate students who would rather be in PE or at recess? Here are my ideas and hopefully you can add to my list!

My younger students LOVE stickers. I know it sounds simple, but all of my Pre-K though 2nd grade students know they can EARN their stickers in music. They can earn them by participating, sitting criss cross, raising their hand, singing with me and doing movements. Students who earn them show their teachers when they are picked up. The teachers at my school like this system because it is an easy visual to see who was on task for the day. Many times we point out the students who DID earn their sticker and sometimes we talk about what a student can do next time to earn his or her sticker.

My third grade students knowing this system were upset because they didn’t earn their stickers SO they get a SUPER STAR sticker. Only one student per class can get this and I try to spread it out among the students. They ask me every class if I ever forget.

I DO more than just stickers. My younger students do not get a grade so small things like pencils and my prize bin are options for students who are doing an awesome job that day.

My beginner band students have an incentive chart. It is called “POPPIN’ PERFORMANCES” and students earn a popcorn sticker every time they pass a playing test. Once they get to 10 stickers they get to go to a popcorn and movie party with me. It is in my classroom and popcorn is inexpensive so everyone wins! They love this system and my beginners are better the past three years because of this motivator.

Here are some other ideas of how to motivate your students:
1. Bulletin boards showing progression
2. Put student name in newsletter or on school website
3. Positive note home to parent
4. Sit in teacher chair
5. Director for a day
6. DJ for a day (my older kids LOVE this)
7. High five!
8. Lunch with the teacher
9. Homework pass
10. Telling the student that you are proud of them!

There are tons of great ideas out there to motivate your students. Please add any ideas you might have to the list!


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Stephanie K.
    Nov 09, 2011 @ 00:00:19

    I, too, am always looking for ways to motivate my students. It does not matter if it is to play louder, sing with confidence, remember instruments, show good behavior, or simply participate; sometimes students just need a little extra push. Like you, I use stickers as motivators with my younger students. As a first-year general music teacher, I was somewhat surprised to find that stickers still work. I know some teachers use candy, but it was refreshing to see that young students still get excited about earning a sticker. Not all teachers like the idea of students earning candy, so stickers are a win-win for everyone. Further, like you said, stickers can be a great way to reinforce appropriate or desired behavior.
    I love your idea of “Poppin’ Performances,” and I have every intention of using it. Motivational programs in the music classroom are great for teachers and students. The students are happy because they are “earning something.” The teachers are happy because their students are “getting better at something.” Again, it is a win-win.

    I have a couple ideas that I have used with my band students as motivational tools to improve attendance. Each year, my band is invited to march in our local homecoming parade. My administration does not allow me to make it a requirement. Our first year marching in the parade, attendance was very low. Marching in the parade is still optional, but I throw a pool party for the students who choose to participate. The homecoming parade is always at the end of summer, but the weather is usually still perfect for an evening swim.

    Another motivational tool I use is similar to your popcorn and movie party. It is a movie, milk, and donut reward party for participation in Pep Band. Each year, my 5th-8th grade band members perform at four home basketball games. Again, due to administration regulations, this is optional. However, if students choose to participate in Pep Band, they are eligible to attend the reward party. Our basketball season ends right before Christmas break, so the students can look forward to the reward party right before break.

    In my few years teaching band, I have noticed that students love seeing their picture in the paper, and, usually, your local paper is happy to include the pictures and articles you submit. It might require some time on your part, but it is definitely low cost. Finally, lunch with a teacher or teacher for a day are great motivational tools that really do work with young students and even some older ones. I could not believe that my 5th grade band members wanted to eat lunch with me, but they really did. One day, I invited them to eat lunch with me in the band room if they wanted to. I expected a handful of the girls to show up. I was shocked when every single one of my 5th graders, boys and girls, entered the band room with their lunch trays. It made my day!


  2. patti b
    Dec 06, 2011 @ 03:57:03

    I like the ideas that have been presented here. The “poppin’ performances” especially caught my attention as well. I will give that a try! One of my schools does a uniform reward system where the students receive “kudos” for good choices. The students keep one half and accumluate them to shop in a school store. The other half gets turned in to the office for a drawing. These “kudos” are highly motivating to the students. My other school has something similar, but it is called the a “Wildcat Wow.” There is no school store involved with the “Wow.” So, I needed something more to motivate a particular grade level at this second school. Unfortunately, I teach three regular sized classes in just two sections. This makes an already demanding group a little more difficult to control because there are 35 students. My extra motivation is a small candy treat at the end to all students who have received no warning for behavior. This has worked wonderfully. There is excellent behavior in these two class sections, and we are accomplishing a lot even with such a big group. I completely agree with the thought that giving out candy is not always ideal or healthy, so I try to limit that reward as well.


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