One of the biggest challenges in foreign language education of youngsters is getting students motivated. I work in a countryside junior high school in Japan. My kids, aged 12-16, have little to no desire to learn English. I have to remind myself daily what I was like at their age in French class, in order to prevent myself from banging my head into my desk. Teenagers and language learning don't mix too well, I have learned, but teenagers and bribery do. Hence, the perfect solution to the problem: English Money.

Basically, I photocopy scores of fake money and hand it out to my students everytime they participate in class, finish extra homework, their group wins a game in class or they put forth any extra effort whatsoever. They collect them as if they were real bills and twice a week, I open a quasi-shop, at my desk in the staff room, full of stickers and other goodies. Small, dime sized stickers go for three bucks. Extra large, superduper, colored stickers fetch a whooping 15-20 dollars.

Everything is fake: the money, the bank, the transaction. The only thing not faked is the enthusiasm. My students have not only started participating in class, but even some of the most quiet and reserved ones have hunted me down in the hallways and utilized their English skills to ask for worksheets. This may seem silly and you might think that I am creating a school full of greedy monsters. My students are, by nature, highly competetive, and the byproduct of combining this with a small reward is a vast quantity of English, being unwittingly studied.

Getting anyone to answer the simplest question in class used to be like pulling teeth. No more. I am no longer faced with a room full of sleepy, morose faces. Instead, my students are ever on the same proverbial page as me and reaping the benefits. By turning langauge learning into a game, I have taken out the fear of making mistakes. My students at least try now, rather than hoping that someone else in the class will do all the work for them.

The kids don't even realize that they are doing extra homework when they scramble for the limited worksheets that I put out on the English Board. Their main concern is finishing the task at hand and getting some faked money. I want to keep it this way. It is my secret. They are doing extra work, looking at English in a different light, outside of the classroom and their regular homework, and coming away from it with at least a little more knowledge.

For me, this spells success.

To further involve my students in the English Money game, I held a two-week long design contest, so that all the pictures on the bills were produced by the students and not taken from elsewhere. In this way, I personalized the money, and made my students a bigger part of the process. I really wanted them to feel like the Ariake Junior High School Bank was something special. Out of 60 entries, I and the three other English teachers choose our favorite eight and the winners were showered with stickers, English Money, and of course, school wide recognition.

Money, Money, Money
Must be Funny
In a Rich Man’s World!

The Ariake Junior High School English Prize Bank is Open

What is English Money???

English Money is the one and only way to get stickers, prizes and coins!

You can collect English Money Dollars every time you volunteer in class or your group wins a game. You can also get more Dollars when you finish any of the worksheets from the English Board or finish any of the games on the board. Find liontamer先生 and show her your worksheet or take her to the Board and complete a game, and you get cold hard cash!!!

The Ariake Junior High School Prize Bank will be open on Tuesdays and Fridays at lunchtime. Prices start as low as $3 for small stickers. Come to the teacher’s room and ask liontamer先生 to show you.

Good luck and happy collecting.

All the things I could do
If I had a little money

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