Encouraging Unmotivated Kids to Clean


Want to know the secrets to a tidy classroom? 
What works in our classroom are Tidy Up King and Queen awards.

Our classroom consists of 33 Kindergarten children learning in a play based environment. Visiting a K class will give you a tiny *glimpse* into how much of a tornado can appear in just 20 minutes of learning. Despite this busyness in our Kindergarten classroom, we KNOW how much our students are learning when they are engaged and active. But how do you get your students to want to clean up?




Our Journey
We started the beginning of the year with supporting the students at the end of each learning block. We would model tidying up and verbally encourage/praise the students who helped out. Honestly, we were either directing or doing most of the work and our little JK's were doing more work than our SK students. It was frustrating.

Brainstorming After over half a year of this I decided to look through some of my older resources for a new "bag of tricks" and found an old pile of rewards. I had used these previously in Kindergarten but I had forgotten about them due to my journeys of teaching other grades and a Congregated ASD Behaviour class. At first we used Tidy Up King & Queen awards sporadically (now more commonly known as brag tags). To reward students we thought were working hard, helping others or who had taken the responsibility to clean up after themselves. It really didn't motivate them at all, except the kids who are always easily motivated.


Collaboration Then one day I sat down with another teacher and we started discussing mystery items. I tried it the next learning block. One item, one student, I wondered who it would be! Guess what? It worked like a charm! Our room was clean in 7 minutes (ahem, it used to take more like 10-12 minutes) AND we had a room full of motivated children wanting to help out.


Motivation To encourage the process, we will randomly call out, "I wonder who will win today?" or "The mystery item could still be out there! I wonder who will find it?" and the children start scrounging through the classroom to find the tiniest items so they can receive their reward. Many come up and show us exactly what they found, so we know what they have picked up.


Award Time!
When the room is clean, we come back to the carpet. Hand out the reward. The children give a cheer for the winner when they get their award. The winner often is beaming with pride as they take their award to their backpack to share with families. Some students even carry it around for a while, like a treasured prize. 

The Best Part?
1. Parental feedback. I find out all the time that there are "Walls of Fame" in our students houses with a collection of all the rewards that the children take home, posted for all to see. Parents tell me that the kids love to share what they had "found" that was the mystery item or share how they have received their other awards which they receive in our classroom. To be honest, these awards motivated me to make the these other awards and the children just soak them up!

2. This has worked so well that we no longer help the children clean up at all. We actually have time to deal with student needs and engage with the kids during a time that used to be very chaotic. Behaviour management at it's best!


What is your motivational tool for keeping your students motivated to clean? I'd love to learn what works for you! I hope you enjoyed reading about our journey!



End of Year Update!


We noticed that at the end of the year we had to switch things up a bit. Variety is the spice of life! We continued using the awards in June but used the "congratulations" awards instead of the "mystery item" awards. I would write all the names on the white board of students who were actively participating. If they noticed that they stopped helping their name would be erased. For every learning block, we would award the awards. Worked like a charm as it gave the children instant feedback and recognition for making good choices.


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