Issue 17: Rewards and Incentives – Stars and Scissors

Everyone knows that children – small children – will do anything for a sticker.

This simple reward loses its power as the children grt older and the children become totally blase about even super-shiny-glitter-stickers.  There is a way to increase the power of the sticker using a simple pair of scissors.

The Star and Scissors Game/Challenge

This method is not going to find favour with every reader, and, as a teacher, I am very careful to ensure that no child is permantently traumatised or damaged by the star and scissor experience.  However, used judiciously, you can make huge improvements in focus and learning with a single snap of the blades (but remember health and safety, and don’t snap them anywhere near yourself of the child).

The procedure is simplicity itself.

You carefully teach the learning point in question; it could be reading notes in bass clef, a scale, a short phrase, a tricky bit of fingering, remembering a Da Capo repeat.  You want it to be short, exact, and achievable.  Bring out the stars and the scissors, and explain that if they get the task completely correct, they will get a star (you can see older pupils thinking “yeah, yeah, a star, so what”), but you will snip off a point (the word “snip” is somehow more powerful than “cut”) for every mistake, and then they get what’s left of the star.  You can see disbelief, and a narrowing of the eyes, as the child prepares to meet the challenge.  To increase the drama, I allow them to choose the colour of the star, suggesting that they don’t choose their favourite colour in case it gets snipped.  Away we go.  “Snip!” and again “snip!”.  The snipping will usually put them off first time round, but that’s okay; offer them another chance as you stick a three-pointed star into their practice book.

It can be a messy business, especially if you have to cut all five points off the star and you are trying to stick just the centre into their book while your fingers and the blades of the scissors are covered wih dismembered points.  The children actually seem enjoy the visual aspect of seeing their improvement, in the form of stars with increasing numbers of points lining up in their books.

It helps me too, as a teacher; there are times when teaching a child can be extremely frustrating, and savaging the stars with scissors can be a form of release.

Warning – however provoked you are, NEVER, never use animal stickers for this game.  How could you ever bring yourself to snip off the snake’s tail?


This entry was posted in Lessons that have happened, The organised teacher and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.