Choice is so important in the classroom. When students have a meaningful choice in their classroom their is a higher likelihood that they will be engaged with the activity. If you are interested in this check out my discussion with Mr. Matera about Many Paths to Victory on his Well Played U podcast #20. It was a great discussion and it was on my mind as I planned my first day activities for this school year.

I wanted to start the class out with a class game and settled on a quick BreakoutEDU inspired activity. I used two boxes each with 1 lock. Students had to solve a 3# lock puzzle in order to get a clue that opened a 4# lock. It was designed to be quick and I turned it into a class v. class competition. The winning class broke the locks in 3 minutes and 45 seconds and the slowest was in 9 minutes and 30 seconds. In the box were several items including the first assignment, a url to the course website, and a choice – once the box was broken the students were able to chose between a piece of candy or a random Power Card. I bought more candy than I expect to give out on Halloween! … it was the first thing students saw when the box was opened! … not one student out of 99 took the candy!

This was a little surprising. My students had not even been introduced to the grading system, the ‘gold pieces’ economy, or the details of the cards. What I told the students was that the cards would allow them to sit in special areas, access the charging station, or help them on the inevitable tests – and not 1% of students took the candy.

This is the power of SAPS or:

  • Status
  • Access
  • Power
  • Stuff

I plan on diving into more depth on each of the SAP but for now here is a general overview. SAPS is an acronym for the four major types of externally motivation based rewards. Status is generally more powerful and long lasting and Stuff is generally the least powerful and shortest lasting reward. The other problem with stuff rewards are that it can get expensive. Candy is a “Stuff” reward as are Prize Boxes and Pizza Parties. Students will say that they want “stuff”, and they will generally be happy to get the stuff, but there are more powerful options. The Power Card option in the box was a mixture of Power and Access options. Students gained the Power to eliminate 2 answer choices on a multiple choice test or Access the classroom “Black Tie Lounge” for a class period. I have built in Status rewards in other areas in my classroom game as well. As a small tangent, giving the choice of reward is a minor internal motivation that is connecting the students further into the class game.

Here is how I understand the basics of each level.

Status – recognition, usually publicly, of mastery of concepts or content. This can be in the form of badges, leader boards, or public celebration.

Access – providing special privileges and opportunities or unique experiences.

Power – a student earns the ability to do something that other that other students are unable to do. This might include having power over other students or experiences in the classroom.

Stuff – physical objects that can be consumed