Giving Students Power or "This is Harder than I Thought"

So sometimes students need a little motivation.  A goal of some kind.  Kids are naturally competitive so I try to harness that trait and direct it in the direction of hard work and improvement.  I often have little contests.  It's me versus the whole class (this keeps them working together as a team, and of course they would just love to beat the teacher).  Now of course this isn't fair, and I tell the kids that straight out.  But I also tell them how incredible they would be to beat me when the odds are stacked against them (they do win more than half the time).  Some groan of course, but most are up for the competition.  Basically I do whatever step we need to work on by myself, and then they do it all together after me.  If they are exactly together and do it right (heels up etc.) they get a point.  If they are almost all together, it's a tie and no one gets a point.  If they aren't together or do it wrong, I get a point.

They generally lose the the first 2 or 3 points right off the bat, but their competitive spirit really kicks and magically they suddenly "get better".  Wanting to do something well is half the battle to getting better.  When you unlock that drive, great things happen.

Well it's not always smooth.  Sometimes they just can't stay together as well as they'd like and I pull far ahead.  Predictably, they begin to call foul and claim I'm biased towards myself and that's why I'm winning.  Usually at that point I explain that my deepest hope is for them to beat me.  I tell them if they beat me, that means I have done a good job teaching them.  Today however I took a different approach I've never done before.

I offered one of the kids the opportunity to be the "judge" of who gets a point.  My only requirement was that she was totally honest.  I think she was a little taken aback by the sudden possibility of all that responsibility but like a brave little youngster she stepped up and did it.

The first round of her judging was a tough one and I think she called it a tie (it was a fair assessment from my point of view).  After that we tied a few more times and then she awarded a point to me.  The rest of the kids were not quite so pleased with this and some complained and encouraged her to give them a point (granted they weren't the ones holding the dry erase marker and responsible for giving an honest score).  After that she quickly decided to pass the role of score keeper on to someone else.  Of course about ten people immediately surrounded her all dying to get the marker and thus the role of score keeper.  She was having trouble deciding who to give it to so I made the decision for her.  The next girl also started out giving a tie or two.  But after 2 rounds she gave the winning point to me.

Again some of the other students groaned but she just shrugged shoulders as if to say "hey, fair is fair".

And so that was the highlight of my teaching day.  I felt bad for winning of course (sometimes when they get really far behind I make one round of competition worth 5 points if they win and only 1 if they lose - that helps them catch up).  But it was really interesting to see how they handled having the responsibility of who gets a point and how honest they were once they had that power.  I think everyone had their perspectives broadened.

Rod Howell


  1. Awesome :) My tap teacher does something similar. He'll come up with a rudiment for us to practice and then have us do it individually. The rest of the class will each grade the individual on a rating of 1 to 10 and explain the reason why they gave the individual that rating. Great way for us to get a grip on the fundamentals!

  2. How does that work out for him? I've tried having kids rate other kids and in my experience it starts to get touchy because some kids take the rating personally and will then rate some other based upon how they got rated and not purely how they sounded.


  3. Well, we're not kids for starters and we're very supportive of each other. We get it that each of us has something different to work on and we help each other out to get better. So it's definitely more cooperative than competitive and when it is competitive, it's light, constructive and healthy! So, no hard feelings whatever the rating :) I don't know if he does the same with his younger students, though. He did mention it was something he rarely did so maybe it's just a case of tailoring to the class dynamics.

  4. The fact that you are not kids is all I need to know:) That makes a big difference. Sounds like you have a great group and a great teacher. Best of luck with your tapping and if you ever have any tap related questions please don't hesitate to ask.


  5. I think it is really important for a teacher to understand his students well and then only will he be able to teach them well.

  6. Hello, I have a quick question for you about your site. If you could please get back to me as soon as possible I would greatly appreciate it. Have a great day!

    Communications Coordinator
    Primrose Schools

  7. Teaching is not all that easy job to do, you are required to understand the students and make them love what they are doing.


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