Merit Badges

This project is similar to our Scout Patches project, except that one is sillier and not year-long like this one is.

This project is about recognizing accomplishments in the classrooms and awarding them. At the end of each month, students will select a task based on what the class has been learning lately, on the expectations the teacher has set, on what they’re excited to do next, etc., then design merit badges that their fellow students can earn if they carry out the task successfully.

The Subject of the Badge

The badges can be anything that the teacher and students would be proud of — something students may not not have been able to do (at least very well) at the start of the school year but can do now. Often, it’ll be a language point. If your class spent a week or two learning Reported Speech in September, then at the end of September one of the badges might be “relayed 5 sentences using Reported Speech within 60 seconds,” or “got over an 80% on the Reported Speech exam,’“ or “completed the Another Time, Another Place project without any errors,” or “wrote a newspaper article using Reported Speech 5 times,” or any number of ideas that the students can come up with.

It doesn’t have to be grammar-related; perhaps it’s about vocabulary.

Or perhaps it has to do with classroom behavior, like “rose hand to answer a question five times in one lesson,” or “arrived to class on time every day for a week,” or “volunteered to read aloud.” These may vary depending on the standards you set with your class, their age range, the culture, etc.

Choosing the Right Subject

Students will not be able to earn their own badges. This will help to keep them from only selecting tasks they know they can accomplish.

Also, you (the teacher) should expect 25%-75% of the students to achieve any given badge. In other words, if only one or two students can achieve it, it’s too difficult. If everyone can achieve it, it’s too easy. Either of those possibilities is not a good goal to set, so such tasks need to be adjusted or replaced.

Also, the task should be something the students can do in the future, not something they’ve already done.

Designing the Badge

Students can design the badge however they like. This is a good time for the visually creative students to express themselves. Those without drawing skills could print an image off the web and write the name of the badge over the image or above/below the image. Or the design could be only words, perhaps with a bit of color to make it a bit interesting.

The badges should be 1-3 inches wide. If you have the means of cutting them into circles and placing them into pins, then go for it!

Make enough copies for multiple students to acquire the same badge.

Earning the Badge

When students perform the task successfully, they earn the badge. Ideally, students should be able to earn it relatively soon. However, if a student is unable to earn it at first, (say they missed the mark in early October for the badge created at the end of September,) the can earn it later (perhaps in February if they’re feeling confident enough to try again. With new badges introduced every month, students will have increasingly more opportunities to earn badges as the year goes on.

A student cannot earn the same badge more than once (this isn’t about who’s the best, but rather a celebration of what students can do).

You can choose for students to keep their own badges, or put them up on a wall in the classroom for all to see. If students are given their badges to hold on to, you may want to keep track of who has earned which badges in your teacher’s notebook just in case.

Setting Goals

As you go along, encourage students to come up with more creative merit badges. Once they’re familiar with the concept, push them beyond just doing variations on what they’ve already done before. Maybe something interesting in class or in the textbook could spark an idea for a badge.

Whenever a badge is earned, it should be celebrated! The point is to encourage students to improve themselves, then reward them for doing so! Celebrations can be small, but even little victories can go a long way.

Finally, you might want to set a bonus award for students who have earned a certain number of merit badges by the end of a semester, or end of the year. This goal should be very attainable (such that the primary reason students wouldn’t reach it is if they simply didn’t try). Remember that it’s not about competing with others, but giving them an end goal might give them motivation, and granting them a bonus award might instill a sense of accomplishment in them!

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