6 Best Practice Tips to Design a Classroom Contest That Works

Dec 18, 2023
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Keeping students motivated is an ongoing challenge for educators at every level and every type of institution. Whether you’re trying to hold students’ attention in the weeks leading up to a break or to squeeze in some extra practice before high-stakes testing, a classroom or schoolwide contest may be just the ticket to give students that extra boost they need make real learning progress. Here are six best practices for designing and carrying out a contest that works!

1. Isolate Areas in Need of Improvement

Determine what subjects or content is the best fit for a contest. For a more literacy-focused contest, the number of books read or minutes spent reading could provide the perfect metric. For a more cross-curricular approach, you could incorporate exit-ticket grades or the number of standards mastered.

Online tools you’re already using can be a great resource to collect data for a contest. For example, many of our Study Island customers challenge students to see who can earn the most Blue Ribbons, which are awarded in the program when students achieve a mastery score of 70% in a particular topic.

2. Invite the Whole School to Participate

The saying “the more, the merrier” certainly applies when it comes to contests. Share your creative contest ideas with colleagues to get other classrooms or even entire buildings on board. Send out an email blast, put up flyers in the breakroom, or float your plans at the next staff meeting. There are plenty of ways to get the word out—and if you get the attention of your administration, funding for prizes may even get a little boost!

3. Get Parents Involved

Don’t underestimate the power of having parents on your side. Once you’ve locked down your contest plan, share it with your students’ parents, and explain how it will drive academic achievement for their sons and daughters. Get the word out in as many ways as possible—send students home with flyers, include the contest on your classroom calendar, post a note on your classroom webpage, or utilize any other form of communication parents respond to.

If your contest involves at-home work, be sure that parents know what their child’s objective should be, and if it involves the use of online programs, make sure that they’re aware of login credentials. You might be amazed at how parent involvement can cause student participation to soar.

4. Make It Visual

It’s simple—when we see something frequently, it stays top of mind. Having some type of visual representation of your contest’s goals and students’ progress toward them can be a big help in generating excitement. Whether you choose to incorporate a classroom tracker or have students keep individual data notebooks, they should always be aware of their progress. A contest is a great opportunity to reinforce these practices, foster independence, and create ways for students to take ownership of their performance.

5. Recognize Progress Often

Periodically, celebrate those students at the top of the leaderboard, and congratulate learners who have made significant gains. Whether it’s a cheer from the class, a note to take home, or an extra privilege rewarded, recognizing the small victories can keep your students motivated.

6. Keep Their Eyes on the Prize!

What’s a good contest without an awesome prize? There are numerous ways to go about determining the perfect contest-end reward. Try giving students some choice in the matter—for instance, offer them the option of a bagel breakfast, pizza party, or a class movie day if they meet contest goals. If funding is a concern, seek out businesses in your community that may already have academic incentive programs in place, or reach out to them for donations. As an alternative, consider classroom privileges that will incentivize your students.

Exact Path and Study Island are perfect online tools to keep your K–12 students engaged in skill recovery and standards practice. Check them out for yourself

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