At Global Academies in Philadelphia, PA, Fridays are the days for LiveSchool Parties. Paul Kennedy, Director of Scholar Advancement, says his school culture wouldn't be the same without them -- these parties let students have fun and celebrate their success. And, most importantly, these simple, low-cost rewards are key opportunities for relationship building between students and staff. They're a key part of the culture. But they didn't begin to flourish at Global Academies until Paul changed the way they were earned.
Initially, attendance to the party was an item students could purchase with their LiveSchool points in their Reward Store. However, Paul observed that students shied away from purchasing attendance in favor of physical goods. Because he believed that the parties would be powerful tools for building better relationships, Paul made earning attendance automatic: when students earn 50 points in the week, they were on the attendance list.
Immediately, LiveSchool Parties changed. More students got to experience them each week, which made the parties more fun. Student motivation to earn 50 points per week increased, because no one wanted to feel left out from the attendance list. And the culture at Global Academies changed, because students were more engaged with the point system and then building better relationships with staff at the parties.
Why Point Goals?
We call the system Global Academies adopted for their parties "Point Goals" and it's perhaps the simplest way to run rewards in a school. It can be used as the ONLY rewards system a school adopts, or layer on top of other systems like a Reward Store.
Jay Maines, Principal at Del Valle Elementary School, says this about the value of a Point Goals mechanic: "We try to have as many different types of rewards as possible to try to reach as many students as possible. My preference is to not give "trinkets" for good behavior — I feel offering students experiences is more powerful. I use the the 'carrot or the stick' analogy: we want many short term and long-term carrots as motivators. I see Point Goal rewards as longer-term carrots that allow students to develop intrinsic motivation and experience setting and achieving goals."
How To Run Point Goals
Running a Point Goal system is simple. Here's how it breaks down.
- Set a timeframe. Your timeframe is 100% up to you — weekly, bi-monthly, monthly, quarterly. Ultimately, match the timeframe with your reward, and make sure it's something that is sustainable.
- Pick a reward. The reward can be a tangible item or a privilege. This type of system works particularly well for privilege rewards, because pulling the list of students who met the goal becomes your "attendance" list. Consider low-cost privileges that are easy to deliver logistically. You'll find more suggestions later in this article!
- Select a goal. This is the number of points students must earn within the timeframe to unlock the reward. Consider a goal value in accordance with how many students should be able to earn this reward. Ideally, the goal is something that all students can achieve — setting the goal too high may be de-motivating for some students. If possible, use existing data to find that sweet spot where the reward will motivate evenly and consistently.
- Promote the goal. Students have to know what the goal is to find it motivating! Consider you'll promote the goal regularly. Talk about it regularly on the morning announcements, hang posters in the building, put it in your newsletter, and encourage homeroom teachers to mention it each week. Strive for repetition, especially initially; once the system becomes part of the culture, it will be self-sustaining.
- Develop the logistics. Someone must be responsible for pulling data each week, and running the operations of reward fulfillment. This can be an individual or a small team — it ultimately depends on the type of reward you offer.
- Pull the data! Your assigned "owner" will use LiveSchool's Scoreboards report to pull a list of students who achieved the goal upon the arrival of the close of each timeframe. The Scoreboard report is outlined here. Just remember to change the Time Period to match your timeframe, and then filter based on points earned. Download a CSV of the data, and use that as your list of who gets the reward.
One last tip: any member of your staff can use the Scoreboard report at any time. To keep student buy-in high, coach your staff to use the Scoreboard report and filter to the right roster + timeframe so students can see where they stand against the Point Goal. You can ask homeroom teachers to show this at a few key points during the timeframe.
Point Goal Reward Ideas
Obviously, the quality of the reward makes a huge difference in your Point Goal system — you want a goal that engages as many students as possible. Point Goals let you offer any kind of reward you want, but consider the following.
- Physical rewards can work, but think through it carefully! Physical rewards may lose value if your Point Goal repeats regularly (example: every two weeks) and the items don't change. Physical rewards may also become expensive if the goal is something attainable for most students — and it should be, lest it become unintentionally demotivating.
- Privilege rewards are exciting, cost-effective, and they scale well. We see that Point Goals are most common with "experiential" rewards, like Global Academies weekly LiveSchool Party attendance. We've seen schools turn unique events, special guest speakers, extra recess, homework passes, and field trip access into Point Goal rewards. Remember that extra options for social time — especially for older students — can be a huge motivator.
We've had the benefit of watching our amazing school partners create fun event rewards behind this Point Goal system. A few of our favorites:
- A Pumpkin Carving (or Pumpkin Smashing) party
- Ice Cream Social
- Karaoke Competition (with both students and teachers as performers, of course)
- Student vs Teacher Kickball Game
- Popcorn and a Movie
- Xbox Tournament
- Science Fair
- Field Day
- Free time in Gym
- Hot Chocolate Party
How to Maximize Point Goals as Student Motivators
We think Point Goals is the simplest way to launch a motivation system for a school just getting started. Here are a a few tips:
- Thinking about launching a store? Make it a second step. The Reward Store functionality in LiveSchool makes it easy to run a store, but building the in-person logistics and inventory can take time and effort. Launching your system around a well-structured Point Goal is a great way to introduce staff and students to your culture system while delaying some of the store setup work.
- Layer it with a store. It's not an "either or" decision with LiveSchool between Point Goals and a Reward Store. Many schools — like Global Academies — run a Reward Store and a Point Goal simultaneously. This allows them to motivate students more deeply. Students have a clear weekly goal tied to a cultural event that they believe in, but they still have agency to spend their points in the Reward Store for things that motivate them personally.
- Mix it up and find what motivates students. Not all students are motivated the same way, and Point Goals become a way to create motivators that work. For example: maybe the physical items in your Reward Store don't motivate your older students like their younger peers; set a social privilege Point Goal for the older students that they'd hate to miss out on.
Running a Point Goal you're really proud of? Got amazing reward ideas? Share with us @whyliveschool on twitter!