Here’s a little extra thing we love to do in our community and it’s good to start any time of year. We call it “Tickets-for-Grammar” but you could come up with a fancier name. It’s a fun incentive program that incorporates some Memory Master practice and encourages families to show up early. (How can you go wrong with all that?) It started, as many good things in my life have, with an amazing Director from a former community named Sandy. (One of my goals in life is to turn her into a living legend) In all seriousness, when we moved to Tucson and joined Sandy’s community mid-year, this is one of the things that drastically increased how well CC worked for us at home.
***Please don’t feel pressure as a Director to add this on if you feel like your plate is already full! If you’re a tutor or parent, maybe you want to offer to coordinate something like this in your community instead of your director doing it!***
Tickets-for-Grammar is really very simple:
- Kids come early to community day and say their memory work to a parent who is not their own parent.
- For each flash card they recite correctly, they get 1 ticket.
- The tickets are used as currency at the End Of Year (EOY) Program in the little store we create (which is full of cheesy dollar store type items).
The benefits are numerous:
- Most people are actually on time. I love to be on time but it’s really hard. Before I was a director, when we attended Sandy’s community, I really struggled to arrive on time until we started doing the tickets for grammar. One week we got there too late and little six year old NJ wasn’t able to say the grammar he’d worked so hard to memorize. He was sad and I felt horrible. Sandy allowed him to say it at lunch (because she’s nicer than I am) but I felt bad eating into her lunch hour when I knew she had to be exhausted from tutoring. So I told the kids they needed to help me make sure we left the house by 8:15am on CC days. Do you know what? They actually helped me get out the door on time from then on! (cue the hallelujah chorus)
- Kids are excited to work on their memory work throughout the week. When we decided back in January of 2014 to arrive early to say memory work, NJ’s drive to memorize suddenly turned on. It’s really pretty rare that we struggle to do our memory work review now that we’re in our fourth year of CC. However, on those hard days, all I have to say is, “You’ll want to get more tickets for the store, right?” (Now if I could just figure out a proper incentive for handwriting practice…) I asked a few other kids and they all said that it made memorizing grammar at home a lot more fun.
- Everyone who wants it gets an extra layer of accountability. As a mom, I really need accountability in homeschooling. So, I appreciate this part of community immensly. This is a gentle accountability that you basically have to ask for by arriving early, so it seems to work well.
- The kids are getting weekly Memory Master style practice. I asked one memory master and he said doing the tickets each week “most definitely made it easier” to complete Memory Master at the end of the year. We try to always ask the questions just like we will for Memory Masters, using a backline master map for geography and encouraging students to bring in math flash cards if that’s how they’re planning on reciting their times tables.
- The EOY Program is more exciting. After a good bit of practice with delayed gratification, the kids get to shop for little items with their earnings. These are all really cheep items that all or some of the parents have collected throughout the year. I love watching the older kids buy stuff for their younger siblings and the kids who didn’t accumulated as many tickets. One thing that encourages this is that I price the items so that when all the tickets are spent, all the stuff will be gone. After all, I don’t want to have to store it all till next year! This means that towards the end, many kids have tickets left over and maybe the items left on the table are now where they’re interested in purchasing. So, they get really generous with their tickets. This was a total accident the first year, but now it’s on purpose.
Since this is something we do that is different from other CC communities, I like to spend a little time explaining it to parents. First I include this text in our handbook under the “Daily Schedule:”
Tickets for Grammar
- If you and your students would like, arrive early and the students can say any or all of the previous week’s seven pieces of new grammar to another parent and receive one ticket for each piece they say correctly.
- At the End of Year Program, the Director will set up a store where the students can purchase small items with their tickets.
- This is strictly optional! It helps encourage the students to work on their memorization at home and helps encourage families to arrive early each week.
- Please do not ask Tutors or Directors to do tickets outside of this morning time slot.
Next, I explain it again in our Orientation and emphasize these points:
- This is 110% optional. Please don’t feel like you have to do it. If this is your first year in CC, you might want to just come watch. Feel free to start and stop any time during the year.
- This is NOT part of our tutors’ job description. So if a tutor is in the room listening to grammar, she’s there as a mom, not as a tutor. Don’t expect any more from her than any other mom.
- One of the reasons we do this is to encourage everyone to arrive on time, so please don’t ask to do your tickets after class or at lunch.
- If any parents want to contribute to the store, just bring me what they purchase and I’ll store it until the end of the year.
Down to Logistics: Keeping Track
The first year, I had a giant roll of tickets and zip-lock baggies with each kid’s name on a bag. As they said their grammar, we’d tear off tickets and they’d put them in their bag. By Christmas, I needed a extra bag just to carry all the baggies of tickets!
As a director I decided it was important to keep the number of bags I had to load and unload form my car every week down to a minimum. So, in our 2nd year, I created tally sheets. Each child over 2 years old had one with their name pre-printed on it. (Yes, some of the three year olds would say some grammar every once in a while.) Parents just wrote down how many tickets a child earned when they recited their grammar. This worked so much better for me and the kids didn’t seem to care. At the end of the year it was a lot faster to total up the tickets and then they all got to practice their math as they added up the cost of the items in the store.
We did the same thing this year but I simplified it even more. I printed all blank tally sheets and had the kids write their names on the sheets!
Tickets Burning a Hole in your Pocket?
As for setting up the store, I start by totaling up the number of tickets the kids have earned as a community after week 23. Then I lay all the items for sale out and group them according to my perception of value (which never really matches the kids’ perception). Then I assign ticket prices moving items back and forth between groups until the ticket value of the stuff matches the total quantity of tickets earned. I thought this would take me forever, but it really only takes an hour or two. Then I bag up the items with one bag for the 1 tickets items, another bag for the 5 tickets items, etc. It all fits in one tub nicely because we don’t go crazy with this.
When I arrive at the church for the EOY Program, I tape off sections of tables and lay the items out in groups. I wish I had a photo to show you because it’s really simple. I initially wondered if the kids would move stuff around or knock stuff off the tables, but they did great. I told the parents it was an “on your honor” system and that I wasn’t going to double check their math, but please help your younger kids. It’s always a fun success!
I asked some of the veteran moms in our community what they thought about Tickets for Grammar and here’s what they said:
- It “gave our family accountability to memorize and prompted us to get to community day a bit early so the kids had time to say their grammar.”
- “My kids love earning tickets! They both said it makes them want memorize the grammar even more. [My son] looks forward to and talks about the “store” all year long. :)”
This kinda stuff just melts my Director heart!
Questions? Ask them here and I’ll be sure to answer them all!