This little teacher trick came from one of those crazy moments when you just do something crazy, go with it, and see where it leads. I had a kindergarten class show up at my door one day and they desperately needed something special to get them to pay attention and listen. I’ll be honest, I’m not above bribery when it suits my purpose. What is bribery anyway if not a form of positive reinforcement. Well this class of particularly rambunctious and ornery kindergarteners really needed something to get them on track! They kept trying to derail the lesson by fidgeting and talking and moving around and doing all the typical kindergarten things. That’s when I pulled out one of my wheels of stickers.
I get most of my stickers at a store called Dollar Tree. They come 180 to a pack, they come on a convenient wheel in a box that helps dispense them, and they’re only a dollar… AND they all come with fun and positive sayings on them like “Good Job” and “Wow!” and “You rock!” It’s a win, win, win purchase. See below for a picture of the exact type of stickers that I purchase or follow this link to see the description. Don’t buy them online or else you’ll have to buy a case of 48 rolls. Head to your local store and look for them in the teacher/school supplies section.
Setting Up for the Sticker Attack
I set up my process like this. I said to my students, “Did your teacher tell you? I bought too many stickers! Just way too many! I bought all of these (and here I pull out some of the stickers on their long strip and the kids gasp) and I just don’t know what I’m going to do with them! Wait! I have an idea!”
I tell the kiddos that I’m going to put on the video that we watched and sang along with during the last class, a Super Simple Songs version of BINGO. Students are excited about the video and also about the idea of the stickers. I tell them that I’m going to come around and listen to them as they sing with the video and do the actions for the song. I might bend over and put my ear near their mouth just so that I can hear their singing voice, nothing to be nervous about. Then, if they’re doing a really great job and using their singing voice I’ll put a sticker on their shoulder.
The short backstory is that in a previous lesson we had already learned the song and process for BINGO. In fact, we had worked through a powerpoint lesson that I’d made up where students had to use critical thinking and instruments and the ultimate goal was beat/rhythm understanding (here’s a link). They knew the song as well as they were going to know it at this point. I assumed that I could assess them and their use of singing voice and any difficulty singing would be a singing voice issue and not a content knowledge issue.
Sticker Attack – The Process
Then I pulled out my stickers and got to work. I turned on the video and had kids sing along as best they could (here’s a link to the video I used). I walked through the room and would lean over so that kids could sing right into my ear and I could hear them individually. The first time through the song I put a sticker on all kids that were using their singing voice or were really close to matching pitch for the majority of the song and I didn’t put a sticker on kids who were struggling. Students were so engaged in the singing and the fun, changing actions that they didn’t mess with the sticker on their shoulder.
I placed the sticker on each kid’s shoulder and that helped me quickly mark who was doing it and who wasn’t. They all had a sticker in the same place, so when I stood at the front of the class I could quickly scan the room and immediately pick out the few kids who didn’t have a sticker. I quickly wrote down the names of the kiddos without a sticker so that I could save that data for later.
Once I had gone through all the kids with a quick assessment I went back to the kids who I didn’t “stick” the first time through. These kids got a few extra seconds of instruction from me where I pulled out the lines, “try and match my voice” or “listen to how I’m using my singing voice” or I might model how they’re doing and see if they can tell the difference. Once I spent a few seconds with each student working through singing voice I gave them a sticker and moved on.
I only played the video twice but that gave me enough time to make it through all the students in the class, assessing each kiddo and working one-on-one with the students who weren’t quite getting it. By the end of the class all the kids got stickers, all felt successful, and all got to sing the fun song where they jumped at the end. What’s really great is that this turned around the behavior of the class and in our next activity they were much more likely to listen and really try to pay attention. They knew that if they followed direction they might get a sticker and individual attention from me! Sticker Attack to the rescue!