A huge part of student empowerment is building intrinsic motivation. Students need to set their own goals that are meaningful to them and also accomplish the behaviors and goals of the classroom.
Tip 1: Keep It Simple:Goals don’t always have to be these huge things for the entire year. Sometimes it feels like they are unattainable and that the student is not making progress. (Special education teacher, am I right?) Make student goals short and sweet. Look at what the student is having trouble with and start small. If the student is having trouble with homework, start with a daily homework goal and then move to a weekly goal. Student goals can even be bringing a pencil to class. Once a student feels the AWESOME feeling of reaching a goal, they will only want to set bigger goals. Eventually you will see more progress. This leads to the next tip…
Tip 2: Attach A Feeling: A goal will feel like something you are telling the student to do, unless you play on their own emotions. We can set goals all day, but if we don’t talk about how the outcomes will make us feel, the goals are less meaningful. Discuss with the students how they will feel if they meet the goal and also how they will feel if they don’t meet the goal. This will put feelings on the goal, making it more effective. Students will want to chase that feeling.
Tip 3: Do Goal Check-Ins:Even with daily goals, you can still do a check-in. Let students check in with how they are doing. If progress is not going so well, let them know that they can always get back on the right track. They may not meet the goal for the day, but they can be closer with different choices. This will curb discouragement and let the student know it is never too late to turn it around. It also reiterates that we should never give up.
Tip 4: Celebrate ALL SMALL Wins: Was the goal to bring a pencil to all classes? Or have their books ready? Keep a clean desk? Bring homework everyday? Let’s use the example of homework. They brought it one day out of five. That’s not really desirable, right?? Celebrate it, over celebrate it. If we look for good, we get good. Some students have to motivate themselves at home and take more responsibility than others. They have to have more “grit” and you may be their only cheerleader. If they made half of the goal, celebrate it. Then discuss how the student can make more progress the following day or week. When I do this, I am always sure not to lecture. I ask them how their ideas for what specifically they can do to make it better. This allows them to take more responsibility.
Tip 5: Give Up Control: There are consequences for behavior, both good and bad. Let all the responsibility fall on the student. Students should know what positives will happen if they meet their goal and also the negatives if they don’t. This goes back to the feelings that are associated with the goal. If a student does not meet the goal or does, there doesn’t need to be more discussion if they consequences are laid out. Celebrate the wins, let them know the consequences. Also let them know that NO ONE meets ALL their goals, ALL the time. It is okay to mess up, it’s not okay to give up. Harping on the negative is never effective.