Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Refrigerator Papers

In my last post on personalized sticky notes for reading, I mentioned that I had purchased something fun and motivating from Vistaprint.  Here is the little item I ordered.  Again, the picture is a bit fuzzy because it is from a screen shot of my order.

It's a self-inking stamp for refrigerator papers!

What's a refrigerator paper?  It's a goofy thing I came up with many years ago that has been so well-received by my friends and their parents. 

Very simply, a refrigerator paper is a paper that shows me a friend's best effort.  It doesn't have to be an A paper, it doesn't even have to be a paper that was graded.  It is simply some assignment on which I noticed my friend had really done their best.  It could be that a student showed some real improvement or showed some great thinking.  It could be anything that I feel deserves a little recognition.

When I explain it to my friends, I tell them a refrigerator paper is work that is so good it deserves a spot right on the refrigerator for all to see.  I tell them it is so good, they need to make a long distance call to their great great grandma in Kalamazoo and tell her they got a  refrigerator paper.  It's a paper so good, they need to bring the dog over to the refrigerator and show the dog how great it is!  It's a paper so good, they need to get a flashlight and set up a spotlight on that refrigerator paper!  It's so good that if your family orders a pizza you might want to tell the delivery man about it! And, if their parents want to take out an ad in the local paper congratulating them on a refrigerator paper, that would be just fine!

Obviously I get really silly and over the top with my explanation, but that just builds the fun of getting the paper.  When I find a paper like this, I would simply write in big letters across the top, "REFRIGERATOR PAPER!!!" Honestly, when they get a refrigerator paper they get so excited.  I have had parents comment on how much they like it many times.  Their kids can't wait to tell them when they get one.  It's especially nice for the older crowd that thinks they are too cool to have a school paper on the refrigerator.  If I simply write the words refrigerator paper on the top, the cool factor goes right out the window.  They can't wait to put that thing on the fridge and take pride in their work.

From a teacher's point of view, I like refrigerator papers for many reasons.  Everyone, even your most needy student, can get a refrigerator paper.  If the paper is graded and they have done well, obviously I am going to make it a refrigerator paper.  But, it is not really about the grade. It's about the effort. For my friends who tend to struggle and not get very many high grades, it is a nice way to compliment something done well on an ungraded assignment.  Those parents especially like it because they don't often get to make a fuss over great work. 

It also allows me to compliment every student a few times throughout the year in an easy way.  I keep a class list in the back of my grade book.  When I give someone a refrigerator paper, I put a check next to their name.  I can see at a glance who might need a turn at getting one, so I then keep my eyes out for it.

Now, not every assignment will have refrigerator papers.  If you start doing this, I promise every time you return papers your friends will ask you if there were any refrigerator papers.  Lots of times I say, "There's lots of great work here, but I didn't look for refrigerator papers this time."  You want it to be something special, so if you do it too often the magic is lost. When I do it, I try to limit it to just 3 or 4 papers.  I also don't give it to every paper that gets 100.  In fact, I've had friends complain that they got a 100 just like Sally, but Sally got a refrigerator paper and they didn't.  I simply reiterate that it's not all about the grade.  In the same assignment I can have a variety of grades be refrigerator papers.

The other thing I like is that this is a no cost motivator.  Well, it was until I decided to order the stamp. :-)  But, it has worked for me for years by just writing it across the top of the paper using the same old pen I graded the paper with.  Nothing fancy needed.

So, that's my weird and fun little motivator. I am sure some of you out there are rolling your eyes and think it is ridiculous, but it works for me!  I've been doing it for years.  It's simple, takes no time to do, and gets great results.

So, what do you think?  Could this work for you?
What oddball things do you do to motivate your students?


  1. I love this idea. Thank you for sharing.

  2. I love this! When I was an Resident Assistant one of my passive programs was "Fridge Papers". I took a big piece of butcher paper and drew it into a funky looking fridge and taped it up in our hallway. Any time a girl got a good grade on a paper B+ or above she would show me her work, receive a little treat, and post it up on the fridge. It really promoted community and I heard several other girls congratulating each other over good grades. Ever since then I've thought about doing this in the classroom too!

    Miss Wilson

  3. New subbie here! I absolutely LOVE your page!!! THANKS for sharing all of these great ideas!!