This toolkit was created in partnership with Search Institute.
Unlock the interests that motivate your students
You’ve spent the year getting to know your students, but have you figured out what truly motivates them? When you discover student sparks, you’ll gain insight into what makes your students excited to learn and keep them engaged all year!
What are student sparks?
Sparks are skills, talents, or interests that a young person finds deeply motivating. They are hidden flames in students that light their proverbial fire, get them excited, and tap into their true passions (Benson, 2008).
Young people who have sparks in their lives, who have adults who support those sparks, who get joy and energy from using their sparks, and who learn valuable life skills from their sparks are significantly more likely to do well in school, be more engaged, and be more hopeful about the future (Benson & Scales, 2009). When adults express genuine interest in students’ sparks and ask questions about them, young people feel deeply seen, cared for, and empowered (Scales et al., 2011). When young people know that adults not only care about their sparks but are also keeping track of them beyond occasional conversations, it lays the groundwork for a truly developmental relationship.
As helpful as knowing students’ sparks can be to teachers in building strong relationships, sparks can also help teachers connect students more authentically to their academic content without sacrificing rigor. Use this toolkit to help you learn what motivates and excites your students, and see examples of how you can put sparks to work in your classroom each day.
Search Institute’s REACH Framework is a system of developmental research and classroom resources that helps teachers create motivating relationships with students. Within the REACH Framework (Relationships, Effort, Aspirations, Cognition, and Heart), identifying and leveraging student Sparks is a key piece of ‘Heart.’
Inspired to try this practice?
The purpose of this practice is to establish your classroom as a safe space for students to be themselves, and to build deeper connections with your students. Using the resources in the toolkit, you’ll give students a short questionnaire to help them understand their intrinsic motivations, and use their responses to deepen your relationship with them, and with each other, in the classroom.
Here’s an overview of what you can expect and what you will need as you plan:
- Who should try it? This practice can be adapted for K-12 students.
- When you should you try it? This practice can be tried any time during the school year.
- What materials are needed? You will need:
- Copies of the questionnaire (included in the toolkit)
- Writing utensils
- How much time is needed? This practice will take 40-60 minutes to complete.
If you’re ready to get started, download the toolkit. Follow the guidelines in our toolkit to learn more about student sparks in your classroom!
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Download the Toolkit
Unlock your students' interests with our downloadable toolkit!