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Strategies to engage and motivate students on Khan Academy

A description of ways to make students excited and motivated to learn and practice on Khan Academy

1) Set goals

Many students are more motivated when they feel like they're part of a community and/or when they're working to achieve a big goal.
Consider creating rewards and incentives for achieving goals that are SMART:
  • S: Specific
  • M: Measurable
  • A: Achievable
  • R: Relevant
  • T: Time-bound
Here are some examples of SMART goals:
  • Every student will complete all assigned content by the unit test.
  • All students will have 30,000+ energy points by the end of October.
  • The class will spend 1,000+ minutes in a month practicing on Khan Academy.
Here are some ideas for rewards:
  • Personalized certificates: Teachers can customize the award title, student name, and description with these printable certificates!
  • Student-selected reward: Let students choose their reward such as a pizza party or throwing water balloons as their teacher!

2) Hold a weekly or monthly challenge, or “Khan-test”

Monthly challenges can connect to students' individual or class goals. If you teach multiple sections of the same course, you might consider healthy competition between classes by seeing which class has made the most progress as a group.
From one of our Ambassadors: “We do a mastery dash at the end of each quarter, and I award my students for completing mastery challenges. I used to do tickets they could exchange for a prize (middle school), but now they get stickers and bonus points (high school). At the end of the week, I give awards to the highest percent mastered, the most points earned that week, and the biggest improvement.” -Stephanie Marie, Khan Academy Ambassador

3) Set up a bulletin board to celebrate progress

You can choose what to celebrate on your bulletin board -- it could be skills mastered, assignments completed, time spent, and/or badges earned.
This teacher downloaded top energy points earners and skills mastered for that week and all time. Each week served as motivation for all students since any student could see themselves reach the top each week. The all-time list was motivating for top-performing students.
This teacher tracks badges that their students earn on their bulletin board.

4) Have students track their own progress

One of the most important, and sometimes most difficult, ways to engage students is to get them to take ownership of their own learning. The simple act of having students keep track of their own progress, publicly or privately and as determined by any of the aforementioned measures, is a great way guide them toward becoming resourceful lifelong learners.
One of our Ambassadors notes, “An easy, free way to motivate and recognize students is with a poster with circles with the names of badges. My students LOVE walking across the room getting quiet recognition as they write their name in the space for the badge they earned.” -Mariam Brunner, Khan Academy Ambassador

5) Encourage peer tutoring

Use your teacher reports to identify students who understand a particular concept. Students feel confident and proud when they are able to teach a concept to their peers, and sometimes students learn better hearing it from a classmate they can relate to! You can also set up a board for students to request and offer tutoring on specific concepts.

6) Reinforce the importance of a growth mindset

Students with a growth mindset have higher levels of success than those with a fixed mindset. Teaching your students about this concept has the potential to make them more positive, more perseverant, and more successful. You can reinforce a growth mindset on Khan Academy in several ways, including:
  • Using our Growth Mindset lesson plan. We collaborated with PERTS, Stanford's research center on academic mindsets, to create the Growth Mindset Lesson Plan. It includes activities, videos, and links to helpful resources. Feel free to adapt and edit the activities provided to meet the needs of your students. Download the Growth Mindset Lesson Plan here.
  • Watch these Khan Academy videos for an introduction to growth mindset for teachers.
  • Assign the weekly growth mindset activities found at khanacademy.org/partner-content to your classes.
  • Share your own personal experience of failing at first and then persisting to be successful.

7) Showcase the idea that “everyone is a learner”

Some teachers regularly show their students the progress they are making as a teacher on Khan Academy. One teacher even challenges students to surpass her energy points throughout the year, providing a reward for any student who is able to earn a larger number of energy points.

Keep Going! Keep Growing!

We know that you know that there are as many approaches to student engagement as there are students themselves, and we hope that these ideas will inspire you and your students to continue to learn and grow together. If you have any other ideas for using Khan Academy to engage your class, don’t hesitate to let us (and other educators!) know by posting in the Classroom Tips and Tricks community forum.

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