Reading For a Straw: A ‘Eureka’ Moment

Sometimes, the simplest reward can motivate kids. Take the 1 cent Pixy Stix…

A Chrysler assembly plant and Green Giant packing plant were the chief employers in the small northern Illinois town where I began my working career fresh out of college, an elementary school teacher for five years before transitioning into a life long sales position.

I had 32 students at a time when classroom size was not a high priority, especially in this rural blue collar town. The work was hard, fun and challenging. It’s teaching!

In elementary school, you teach the gamut of subjects: math, social studies, language, handwriting and reading. Specialists visited weekly to teach art and music. There were no computers in the class, nor the school, nor anywhere except big, temperature controlled rooms in office buildings.

Lesson plans were followed, accordingly, as we covered ‘new’ math, old history and the wonders of science. But reading, and reading for pleasure, piqued the kids’ attention the most.

A time was set aside daily for reading aloud, students rested or doodled while listening to Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island, Charlottes Web, The Old Man and The Sea and others. The daily read was a hit, for the students and me.

But how could I motivate the kids to read more themselves and even stand up to talk about it? I found one answer by noticing the kids enjoying one of their favorite snacks, Pixy Stix, the sugary treat in a straw.

Pixy Stix* had been around for years. I loved them as a kid, myself. Not only popular but these treats were cool looking with their varied colors. And, they were cheap, a penny a straw. I bought a hundred to get started.

The plan, read a book and get a Pixy Stix. It was an instant hit. Yes, gimmicky, but there was more to it. And the results were profound. Every student read a book, two books, three books and more. Sure, the reading tapered as the year progressed, but the drop off was insignificant. And most surprising was the level of enthusiasm from some students who were lower achievers in the general subjects. I was ecstatic having this ‘Eureka’ moment.

Here’s how the project worked:

  • Select a book and show me
  • Fill out a book marker with title, author and student name
  • Report back to me upon completion and tell me a few things about the book
  • Give an oral report to the class (voluntarily)***
  • Staple the bookmark to the bulletin board display and select a Pixy Stix

I remember one student, in particular, who never raised his hand in class but gave the best oral reports of all students. Made my day!

My books are my ‘trophies’

Steve

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*From Your Dictionary: ‘Pixy Stix: A confectionery item in the form of a (non-edible) straw filled with sweet-and-sour powdered candy .

What’s In Your Daily Planner?

What’s in your daily planner?

Be it Franklin, Moleskin, Lemome or one of the myriad of other planners, whatever you use for daily reminders, do you have a page devoted to a verse, message, picture or quote that inspires you to kick start your day?

I had these three messages taped to the front page of my planner for years, as I went about my sales chores. They weren’t the only impetus behind my ‘get up and go’. But they, along with others I kept, helped remind me of the dedication required and purposefulness of my work.

We’re surrounded by messages that help drive us and focus our energies, aren’t we. One sees them in books, posters, billboards, locker rooms.

The exit to my Army barracks had a message that’s been attributed to former auto exec, Lee Iacocca…

Lead, follow or get out of the way’

The barracks version was a little ‘saltier’, I recall. Seems an appropriate message for a military environment, or anyplace that invokes a team mission.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet has one of the best messages…

‘To thine own self, be true, then it shall follow, as night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man’

Great advice from a father to his son, but then, Shakespeare was good at using his work to give advice. I find this message helps remind us of our own ethics as we set course on our daily business.

Sales people are likely drawn to quotes, I believe, because their work is filled with ups and downs, highs and lows, negativity, as well as positivity. Starting thé day with a few poignant words might be the magic one needs to go after the challenge…

‘Unseen and Untold is Unsold

The success of the mission is the burden that often saddles itself on the salesperson’s shoulders. The above words clearly make that point and drive the individual to succeed. And the following shows the importance of sales and salesmanship…

‘Nothing happens until something is sold’ (author unknown)

The author may be unknown but the message makes so much sense. The powerful image this creates is palpable. The successful salesperson is the machine that keeps the wheels of industry from grinding to a screeching halt. Think about it for a moment.

Do you doubt that words can propel people to act?

‘Never give up! Never!

Great Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill gave hope and courage to a nation with those few words. During WWII.

‘Nuts!’

This was the reply of General Anthony McAuliffe to the overwhelming German force at the Battle of The Bulge in 1944. His smaller force kept up the fight and repelled the enemy. Words.

Again, what’s in your daily planner?

Steve B

Aug 2021