Tuesday, March 5, 2013

March Motivation - Hidden Hero

March is the time of year where motivation wanes and frustration abounds. Students struggle to see the benefits of their hard work and teachers struggle even more finding ways to inspire kids to work even harder at learning. Over the month of March, I'll share some strategies that our teachers are using to motivate and inspire students to learn.

Hidden Hero is a motivational strategy that focuses on recognizing the hard work of one student to illustrate the work that is expected from all students.

Here's how it works.

Teachers place the name of one student in an envelope and tape the sealed envelope on the board. The envelope has the words HIDDEN HERO written on it. The teacher then describes the learning behaviors that are needed from the Hidden Hero. The teacher then tells the class that if the Hidden Hero does what is expected, the ENTIRE class gets a reward. The power behind this presentation is that no one knows who the Hidden Hero is.

Time to Reveal the Hidden Hero

When it is time to reveal the Hidden Hero, the teacher has to decide if the Hidden Hero's work met the specified criteria that the teacher communicated to the class.

1. If the Hidden Hero performed and earned the reward for the class, the teacher announces "Because this student demonstrated the (list of criteria), the entire class will enjoy the reward of... The name of our Hidden Hero is... Everyone celebrates the hard work of the Hidden Hero and enjoys the reward. This celebration builds self esteem in the Hidden Hero and challenges every other student in the class to step up.

2. Rarely does this happen, but if the Hidden Hero did not perform as expected, the teacher announces, "I'm sorry class.  Our Hidden Hero did not do the following things to earn the class reward (define specific behaviors)". The teacher MUST NEVER reveal the name of the Hidden Hero. Identifying the person who failed to perform would be devastating to the student. In addition, not announcing the Hidden Hero will cause all students to reflect on their own performance and make adjustments for the next opportunity.

Benefits of Hidden Hero

Students will work even harder if they believe there is a possibility that their name is in the envelope. If the Hidden Hero performs, all students develop confidence in themselves and motivation to work at a higher level. Students know that there is a possibility that they may be selected anonymously in the future, and they will begin to prepare for their opportunity to win the reward.


Rarely does a class fail to earn the reward, but if the Hidden Hero doesn't perform, it is critical that the teacher be prepared to use the failure as a teaching tool for improvement. If students know that this failure is not permanent, and they will have a future opportunity, they will be prepared next time. It all boils down to the manner in which the teacher communicates to the class.

Don't Over-Use this Strategy

Hidden Hero, like any motivational strategy, loses its effectiveness when over-used. Teachers must be strategic in deciding the best time to use the strategy and in selecting the learning behaviors that students must improve upon. Typically, when students are tired of the same old song and dance instructionally, Hidden Hero works best.

It's All about Celebration

Hidden Hero is only as effective as the teacher promoting it. If you want your class to work harder, the teacher must work equally hard in promoting the Hidden Hero concept, the reward to follow, and, most importantly, the work ethic that it takes to be successful.

Last, this is not an elementary strategy. All kids, K-12, are motivated by the Hidden Hero because all kids want to be recognized as the one who earned a reward for the entire class.

Motivation - From Extrinsic to Intrinsic

In order to build intrinsic motivation, we all need extrinsic motivators. Hidden Hero is an extrinsic motivator that when used properly can be referenced by teachers to illustrate to the class and to individual students that they have what it takes to be successful. Intrinsic motivation cannot exist in every kid by itself. Some students need extrinsic motivators to help them develop self-confidence.

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