5 Ways to Help Kids Do Their Best Work
As teachers, it’s in our DNA to learn little tricks to help kids do their best work. As we get ready to dive into this topic, let me tell you a little story about “stick figures in a hurricane.” You may have seen these types of pictures before in your classroom. They’re the ones that your students hurry through and, in the end, well – stick figures in a hurricane!
This phrase came to me on the fly one day while teaching my students. I was trying to demonstrate doing their personal best work, making sure that their images and text match, taking their time, etc. (You know the speech, you’ve most likely given it before, too!) As I was talking, I drew a stick figure and then scribbled all over it. The kids loved this mess, but my point to them was this: “If I only look at your picture, I would guess that you’re writing about a stick figure in a hurricane!”
Well, the saying stuck, and my kids quickly adopted the idea! As silly as it was, and as much as it made them giggle, I would hear them saying to themselves, “no stick figures in a hurricane!” as they were working independently.
So, here are 5 ways to help your kids do their best work and avoid those “stick figure in a hurricane” type of final products! ⤵️
Tip #1: Teach Kids How to Do Their Best Work
One of the simplest ways to help kids do their best is to teach them what that means and what you expect. While phrases like “personal best work” sound lovely and self-explanatory, they might not be to little ones. Kids need to physically see and explicitly hear what you expect when you use a phrase like that.
One of the best ways to do this is to create an anchor chart together that you then keep displayed in your classroom. Students will remember discussing things like what a complete sentence includes or what detailed, beautiful pictures entail.
If they take ownership in creating the anchor chart, it will stick with them long-term. Displaying it in the classroom gives them a reference point when they forget. It also offers a place for you to reference when you’re providing reminders.
Use these classroom anchor charts for drawing, coloring, and writing complete sentences to establish classroom expectations. You will LOVE seeing their work improve! Most importantly, they will gain confidence in their work as they practice meeting “great work” expectations.
After setting expectations and creating the anchor chart, practice is what helps kids do their best work! As teachers, we set our students up for success by allowing opportunities to practice meeting the benchmarks for those expectations.
The best work practice pages pictured above have a self-assessment segment built right into the activity. Having students assess their work increases their sense of responsibility. In addition, it builds confidence in students and promotes independence. Let’s not sugarcoat it; it also saves you tons of time!
Printables like this are great for morning work, writing practice, centers, and substitutes!
Tip #2: Scribble
My second tip to help kids do their best is to show them your sloppy work! Then, model your best work on the same worksheet.
Kids LOVE to watch grown-ups scribble and pretend to rush through their work. They find something that is a practical lesson to be engaging and funny.
After you show your sloppy work VS your best work, let them explain which is your best and why.
Finally, repeat this process using any worksheet you’re giving your students to complete. The lesson will stick with them, and they will be able to apply the concept to their work.
Tip #3: Best Work Basket
My third tip to help kids do their best is to create an area for students to place their best work! It could be a bin/basket/bucket/box or a designated space within your classroom that you mark with this free label!
Here’s how this works:
- When I notice students doing their BEST WORK, I let them add their papers to the Best Work Bin.
- At the end of the week, you can randomly choose a few papers for a special reward. When I used this system, I would pick 3-5 papers, and those students could eat in the classroom on Friday. You can choose any reward that works for you!
- Send all of the papers home at the end of the week and repeat the following week.
Important note: All students have their own personal best, so it’s important to recognize that one student’s work will look different from another student’s work. I would always try my personal best to celebrate fairly and with this in mind!
Tip #4: Family Photos
Another way to help kids do their best work is to involve their families. I love to take pictures of students using these magical work signs! I then send them home, and I have found that kids AND parents love it.
While you don’t need the signs to snap a pic, they are fun and motivating for students!
Sending pictures of students doing their best also sets you up for positive communication with families. It’s an all-around “feel good” practice!
Tip #5: SCENT-sational Work
My fifth and final tip to help students do their best is finding quick and easy ways to show students that you SEE them! When you notice that a student is doing their personal best, draw a little star or smiley on their hand with scented chapstick! Students can easily hide in a group or feel a little bit invisible among their classmates, and this is a simple way to connect with students. It also keeps them on track when they get that affirmation that you are actually watching them!
Of course, check with families about allergies before using any chapstick. These are my favorite crayon chapsticks!
I hope these 5 ways to help kids do their best work gave you a few ideas to implement in your classroom. The Best Work Bundle is loaded with resources that will help you teach and set expectations for your students’ personal best work!
Do you know what looks great on you? The way you are constantly striving to bring out the best in your students while you better yourself as a teacher and professional. You are terrific, and your students are lucky to have you on their side!