There was plenty that they cared about, it was just that very few of them cared about anything academic. From the beginning, on good days about 40% of them would turn in homework, and please don't make me talk about classwork:( It was a struggle, all year long. I would try one thing to motivate them, it would marginally work for about two days, and then I was searching for something else. Changing behavior management up constantly makes me crazy, and doesn't help the structure of the day (and they needed structure). Finally during the last six weeks of school, I hit on the perfect combination - roving exit tickets.
It started off with me giving them an "exit ticket" for having their homework complete. The "exit ticket" was just me putting their name on the board under the heading, "Exit Ticket." For some classes, I have given an actual ticket, but this group needed it visual and in their face all morning. The "exit ticket" got them out the door on time for lunch, and out of clean up. That worked for a while, but they got bored with it.
Soon I started giving them "exit tickets" for completing their Math warm-up in a timely manner.
"Hey, you can't do that!" exclaimed student without an "exit ticket."
"Oh yes I can," replied the teacher in charge.
"But that isn't fair!" said another pouting student.
"Oh little grasshopper, nobody said life was fair," said the wise teacher.
Then I started mixing it up. Some days it would be for finishing their Fast Math (a Scholastic Math Fluency program) in under 9, 8, or 7 minutes that morning. Or it might be for doing just part of their homework. Every other day or so, it would be for people who finished a certain classwork assignment. Other mornings, it would be for people who actually had a pencil (yes, it was that kind of class:).
Some mornings, it was a double jeopardy ticket day. They earned it for one task/assignment, and got to keep it for a second task/assignment (yes, I am that kind of teacher:). They might earn it by completing their Math warm up, but only got to keep it if they stayed on task during their Independent Reading rotation.
The randomness of it kept most of them on their toes and trying. It became a game. Remember, these are 6th graders on the verge of 7th grade. They loved and respected the "trickiness" of it. Once they realized that their "exit ticket" could be anything, some tried to guess what it was like gamblers in Vegas, and others just gave up and started to make a real effort to get the job done. Soon the list of students who had "exit tickets" was the majority of the class, and the ones that got left behind to clean up were not happy.
By the last week of school, the majority of the class had an "exit ticket" for every day:)
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