How To Motivate And Reward Kids

In a way, motivation is a driving force that moves the world and reward is a positive energy that keeps it going. At the early developmental stage, children tend to loose focus in the classroom due to countless factors especially attention problems.

Since our focus is to ensure the children are committed to effective learning; there is a need to probe into the prime factors that contribute to sound learning in the classroom. Motivation and reward are the two basic ones which will be focused on in this article.


Motivation can be referred to as that which drives an individual to do something. Reward is defined as what an individual gets for doing something. Often times, people tend to confuse these two – motivation and reward.

Motivation comes before the action while reward comes after the action has been executed.


Motivation can be categorized into two: intrinsic and extrinsic. The intrinsic motivation for learning refers to the drive from within that makes children desire to learn. This may be a topic they find interesting, a subject area that connects to their personal lives or what they hold as important. Extrinsic motivation implies the type of motivation that comes from other individuals such as colleagues, teachers, parents or the society at large. This is usually in the form of punishment or reward.

Motivation helps children to improve on their skills and overall performance. Therefore, it is necessary for them to get it in the right way.

There is no doubt children easily get distracted from giving positive energy into learning due to many factors. These vary from low self-esteem, lack of cohesive relationship among colleagues,  teacher’s negative attitude, poor teaching methods to lack of interest in subject topics. Teachers have the bulk of the role to play in building up motivation within the classroom setting.

Some of the ways to genuinely motivate children include;

  • Positive interpersonal relationships: Teaching alone is not sufficient if the teacher does not know what works for each student. There is a need for the teacher to interact with the children on an individual basis as it tends to foster a good teacher-student relationship and makes learning easier.
  • Bring fun into learning: Children love to take up new methods of doing things and such should be incorporated by the teachers. For example, building blocks can be used to teach multiplication table rather than writing on the board.
  • Strategized teaching: Different teaching methods are another dimension to helping children learn faster. A teacher can incorporate stage play, use of colorful art designs of family or watching a movie as methods of teaching roles expected of children in a social studies class. This is quite better than having to write on the board at all times.
  • Small workload: Children love challenges but get discouraged when they have to handle so much at a time. Thus, it is necessary to break down the task into steps which makes them interested in taking the work to the final stage.
  • Assign class jobs: There have been many issues about teacher’s favoritism in the classroom which is not ideal. Rather, the teacher should give every student a work to do ranging from cleaning the board, leading group discussions to answer questions in class.
  • Setting goals for each lecture
  • Relating the topics to their personal lives
  • Encouraging the children to make efforts again even when they fail.


Reward can be discussed in two categories which are intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic reward is that genuine satisfaction the child has upon the completion of a task while the extrinsic reward refers to a tangible or intangible gift for an achievement.

Giving reward is a form of encouragement; for the child that is given to do better and it is a drive for those children with poor grades to aim for the prize. This, however, should be done without the teacher having to talk down on any student.

Reward can be an accolade of praise, excellent grade, certificate of achievement or monetary gift.


A study was carried out by Miller and Meece in 1997 which involved 187 students who were in their third grade. In this study, students were given instructions as regards self-study and support academic groups. This was carried out under two different groups of teachers who were categorized as “low-implementers” and “high-implementers”.

The result of the study stated that the students under both groups of teachers performed excellently in achieving task-oriented goals. This suggests that the students under the supervision of both groups of teachers were equally motivated to master the given task; which implies intrinsic motivation.

However, the students in the low-implementation group scored high in ego-social goals. This showed a high sense of achievement based on efforts and seeing themselves as being better than other students. From this study, it can be deduced that the students showed a decreased performance towards extrinsic motivation – motivation from the teachers. Then, this gives a genuine concern as to whether the teachers fully discharged their duties or if the teachers used the right motivation techniques

This further emphasizes the need for teachers who are really up to the task of carrying out their duties effectively.


Motivation and reward are important tools that should be implemented in the classroom setting as they play great roles in the building of children’s positive energy in the classroom and beyond. However, there are a number of challenges to a proper assessment of motivation especially in the children of the lower age group.  Researchers should, therefore, put more effort to ensure assessment involves children, teachers and also the parents. This will help to measure the effectiveness of teaching aids, allocation of classroom tasks as well as give a concise relationship between motivation, reward and children’s performance.



Pintrich, P. & Schunk, D. (2002). Motivation in education: Theory, research and applications (2nd edition). Eaglewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Cameron, J., and W. D. Pierce 1994. “Reinforcement, Reward, and Intrinsic Motivation: A Meta Analysis”

Dornyei, Z. (2001b). Teaching and researching motivation. Harlow: Longman.

Caffyn, R. E. 1989. “Attitudes of British Secondary School Teachers and pupils to Rewards and Punishments.”

Dornyei, Z. (2007) “Creating a Motivating Classroom Environment.” In cummins, J. and Davison, C. (ed.) International handbook of English language Teaching. New York:  Springer. Pp 719 – 731





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