CM . . . .
Volume VI Number 5 . . . . October 29, 1999
Academics are important, and we need opportunities to recognize academic learning. Schools can recognize and acknowledge academics without giving out single awards for top academic achievement. Our goal is not to downplay academic achievement but to have schools value a wide variety of student accomplishments. Expanding the opportunities for recognition gives students the message that other types of achievement are also valued.Four British Columbia educators have joined forces to pen this book, the fifth in the "Building Connections" series, which is designed to provide strategies, creative ideas and adaptable examples of holistic teaching in elementary classrooms. Disillusioned with the negative effects that rewards - stickers, trophies, prizes, points, tokens and grades - had on their students, the authors set out to change people's perceptions about rewards and to search for more successful ways to work with students.
The book is divided into six chapters, the first of which explains the difference between rewards and recognition and cites research supporting the recognition approach. Basically, recognition is: authentic, based on genuine accomplishments that occur every day; personal, based on participation and choices of students; inclusive, available to all students without condition; and varied, providing several opportunities for recognizing student successes. In fact, the above-mentioned points are so fundamental to this approach that they are reiterated at the end of each chapter. Remaining chapters give practical ideas and activities for classroom and school-wide use, sports and games, year-end celebrations and assessment. Samples of classroom charts and students' work are provided. Blackline masters, a suggested reading list and a reference list are also included.
The chapters generally follow the same format. Each one is introduced by a section called "Moving Forward," which briefly discusses previous practices that teachers should be moving away from - such as withholding privileges to get students to behave in a certain way. "More Of, More Often," the next section, focuses on the movement toward recognition practices. Instructions for practical classroom programs and activities follow, with a suggested age/grade level for each idea. Frequently asked questions that teachers, administrators and parents might have are answered in the latter part of the chapter. Text is written in the first person plural, its tone conversational and easy to read. Black-and-white illustrations are limited to photos of classroom charts and chalkboard lists and sample pages from students' notebooks or worksheets.
According to the authors, teachers who employ the methods in this book will help their students to build confidence and to develop skills for lifelong learning. Intrinsically motivated students will become better problem-solvers, risk-takers and creative thinkers. Though the premise of this book is sound, not all readers will agree with every statement. Proponents of Cooperative Learning, for example, might object to the comments about the negative effects of awarding or subtracting points for behavior and working toward a treat such as a special field trip. The authors might also be fighting an uphill battle with those parents who have come to expect letter grades as indicators of their child's achievement (the authors believe that an emphasis on grading and the use of letter grades does not support learning because it focuses on the extrinsic rather than intrinsic value of learning), or with parents whose zealousness fuels the competitiveness-- and the emphasis on winning-- of the sports in which their children are involved.
Recognition Without Rewards provides food for thought on a topic that affects students and teachers on a daily basis, and it encourages educators to take that very important first step toward a caring school dedicated to the success of all its learners.
Gail Hamilton is a teacher-librarian at Bird's Hill School in East St. Paul, Manitoba.
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