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Monday, September 15, 2014

Wall of Fame and other Award-Winning Ideas

When I started back to school each year, one of my bulletin boards (not my forte) was a blank brick wall.  (Google: brick wallpaper).   I explained to my students (and parents at Back to School Night) that it was the Wall of Fame.  I had straight-forward-hard-to-attain-academic criteria which only a few students would reach in a marking period.  Once you had earned Wall of Fame status, you were allowed to design your own name to post on it (any font, size or colors.)  The kids loved earning that status (and designing their own names)!

My Wall of Fame was based on academic criteria, but that does not have to be the case, you could recognize all sorts of accomplishments.  You could even have students develop their own criteria.  Imagine if your students had to put together a portfolio to apply for the award? Just like using the Schools to Watch Rating Rubric as a great way to get your middle school to reflect on and evaluate their work, a student created Wall of Fame Rubric could be great way to get kids to reflect on their accomplishments in your class.  You could even accept peer- nominations for extraordinary leadership or citizenship.  Our school, like many, has a list of awards that we give out at graduation. Why not share those awards and criteria at the beginning of the school year and give them something to shoot for?

But wait, should all students get an award?  (I remember having to come up with a category for every child’s costume at a Halloween party so they could all get an award – my own child’s award should have been Best Working Mom’s Poor Attempt at Creativity, but I digress.)   What a great critical thinking/writing opportunity to get kids thinking and writing. Why not have students look at some of the issues from different points of view and determine what should be done?

Here are some points of view and articles that go with them:
Parent 1:  She wants her child to get a trophy for participating, the trophy is a reward for fulfilling a commitment on the team, it is both motivational and a memento for her participation.  My Loser Kid should Get a Trophy
Coach:  Not all players should receive trophies- trophies should earned.  You may earn a trophy for highest scorer, most improved, best sportsmanship, but it should be earned and not given to everyone.  Besides, the trophies cost a lot of money.  Participation Trophies:  Should Kids get Rewarded for just showing up?
Player:  If everyone has participated and worked hard, than everyone should be rewarded.  However, it is not fair to give an award to people who did not even show up for practice.  This award may be the only one some children will get.  Working hard regardless of results should be rewarded. Should everyone get a trophy?
Parent 2:If children know they will automatically get an award, what is the impetus for improvement? Why bother learning problem-solving skills, when there are never obstacles to begin with?” Giving everyone an award gives children a sense of entitlement.  Losing is Good for You
Other Resources:
Should Kids get Participation Trophies? presents different opinions.

What's your take on this issue?  What would YOU do?

Want to have your students discuss this situation online using TregoED’s free SCAN tool?  Just register at and set up the “Should we all get Trophies?”  lesson complete with different points of view and links to readings.