5 Surefire, Fun Ideas to Celebrate and Motivate Student Success

Reach those #goals with a dash of joy and cheer.

Five Surefire, Fun Ideas to Celebrate and Motivate Students
Photo Courtesy: Nina Henson

We got spirit, yes we do! We got spirit, how about … uh, hello? Is this thing on?

Any elementary school community can slip into the boring, ordinary, daily grind. Remember to celebrate student success to keep motivation flags—and spirits—flying high! Keep students on track for a successful year with regular acknowledgement of their hard work. It doesn’t have to be big (or a huge time-suck) to add impact. These amazing ideas from our Facebook community of school leaders, Principal Life, will get your staff and students buzzing again with a renewed sense of energy and commitment to goals.


Get Silly With It

Elementary school students love when school staff gets a little wild in the name of reaching goals, so get creative! Nina Henson (above, right), principal of Hollister Elementary School in Taneyville, Missouri, says that their WIGS (Wildly Important Goals) approach has everyone’s spirit soaring. A student from the class rings the WIG bell when their classroom reaches a goal. Cheers erupt from the office staff, but the added fun comes as a surprise later. “Sometime that week, I will visit their class wearing a wig and spin a wheel with easy-to-do incentives,” Henson says. The class might win a special party or extra recess. “The kids love it, and it motivates them to reach those goals.”

Assemble to Celebrate Character

We show love for our honor-rollers and perfect attendance, but what about classroom leaders who go the extra mile? Let’s praise the good friend who respects teachers and their environment! Megan De La Mater, principal at Grace Patterson Elementary School in Vallejo, California, says that her school’s “PeaceBuilder” honors such traits. Nicole Morin, dean of the upper school at IC Imagine Charter School in Asheville, North Carolina, says her school has monthly awards based on The 7 Habits of Happy Kids by Sean Covey. Such honors focus on students who are being proactive, empathic, and positive members of their community. Cheers to that!

Extra Credit, Extra Kudos

Students who don’t find homework a chore (they exist!) and who are eager for extra credit should be honored and celebrated for their extra effort. Students at Greensferry Elementary School in Post Falls, Idaho, can do additional math and reading online with Imagine Math & Read Theory. “Those who pass 55 lessons in math and earn a certain number of knowledge points in reading are acknowledged during announcements, name posted on a ‘hall of fame’ board, and receive a medal at the year-end assembly,” Kathy Baker, principal, says. The recognition is great fun and encourages other students to strive, too.

Answer That Call!


Parents and students might panic when they see the principal calling. Make that call from the school office another way to celebrate student success. Diana Atkinson, principal of St. Francis Assisi Academy in Alberta, Canada, says that a “positive principal call home” gives an added motivational touch to a student making that extra effort to reach goals. That’s one call we wouldn’t let go to voicemail! Relatedly, a positive office referral can lift a student’s spirits. “James, you’re wanted in Principal Stewart’s office, stat,” doesn’t always have to spell trouble. Wait until he gets the GOOD news!

Finding the Time

If squeezing in weekly or monthly celebratory assemblies seems like too much of a time commitment, make use of announcement time. Take advantage of announcements given after the opening bell or the five-minute bell, during lunch-time, or on Mondays to give shout-outs. Mary Beth Kropp, former principal of Foulks Ranch Elementary in Elk Grove, California, says that Friday 10-minute assemblies should include the school song and the announcement of students and staff nominated by peers. Encourage parents of nominees to attend—sometimes active parents get shout-outs, too! The nominees sign a Wall of Fame to keep the spirit alive all year. “It’s helped us become closer as a school, and everyone has bought in,” Kropp says. “Seeing immediate joy is such a great way to start the day.”

How do you and your school recognize student success?

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