Ice cream sundae ingredients poured on principal by winning classHow do you motivate students to spend some of their extra time reading? Michelle Pohzehl, Bennett Elementary School principal, addressed this question recently, and with the help of reading specialist, Leslie King, came up with an interesting solution.

The brainstorm idea was to initiate a contest that would challenge each classroom to read for a minimum of 20 minutes per week, over a three-week period. If the students met the minimum goal, the class logging in the most minutes, would have the opportunity to watch their teacher pour ingredients for an ice cream sundae on the principal and assistant principal.

"We decided on this event to increase the usage of our new reading program, Lexia, purchased by the division. In December we noted that we did not have consistent growth data, especially with our older students. We had already seen direct increases in reading ability with students who were using Lexia consistently. Ms. King and I brainstormed fun ways to build motivation and get children to try the fun, new program. We knew that if we could get students to try it, they would continue. What could be better than seeing your principal get sticky and messy," explained Mrs. Pohzehl.

With the challenge issued, students went to work. By the close of the challenge, 700 Bennett Elementary Bears reached the goal of 60 minutes per student, with the winning class, Karen Murray's kindergarten students, tallying an impressive 12,676 minutes.

Robyn Klatt, third grade teacher, shared, "My students really enjoyed the contest and have been so motivated to meet their goals on Lexia. To motivate them further, I have been announcing the students who have reached a new level at the end of each day. As a class, we clap and cheer for that student. Although our class didn't win, they loved the ice cream sundae event and felt so connected to the school as a whole. My students can't wait for the next contest!"

There was plenty of excitement and anticipation as Pohzehl and assistant principal, Karen Haddock, readied themselves in chairs at the center of the school's gymnasium. Murray's class sat physically distanced on the floor, as their teacher took inventory of the sundae ingredients. A nearby laptop was positioned to capture the moment live, via Zoom, for all remaining student contestants.

"I encouraged the students to participate because it was a fun reason for kindergarteners. Winning the contest was fun, but the best part was the gains the students were making in just a few short weeks. They are excited about it now because they know they are learning," said Murray.

Both students and staff delighted while watching the layered application of vanilla ice cream, caramel, chocolate syrup, nuts, sprinkles and whipped cream. Without a doubt, a fun time was had by all, complete with cherry on top.