Best Homework Motivator Ever!

For years I tried to motivate my middle school students to do their homework. 

-  I associated prizes, class parties, and fun and games with homework completion.  
-  I threatened a life of doom if students didn't do their homework. 
-  I made extensive phone calls to parents. 
-  I developed elaborate homework tracking forms. 
-  I wrote progress report and report card notes and reminders.
-  I held lunch detentions and after school detentions. 

You name it, I tried it, and in the end, nothing was as motivating as this...

Source:  IKEA

I know, I know, you're thinking, "a chair?!"  Well, let me just tell you that this is no ordinary chair.  It's "The Orange Chair" and for years it motivated my students to do their homework.  

Here's a short video all about this homework motivator:

And here's how I used "The Orange Chair" in my classroom:

1.  I told my students that each time they completed their homework they could write their name on a small piece of paper.  (I associated a classroom job with the distribution and collecting of 'homework squares'.)

2.  Then, they could place that piece of paper into a small container.

3.  Every Friday, I drew a name from that container.  (It doesn't take long for students to realize that the more homework they do, the more chances they have at winning the drawing.)

4.  The winner of the drawing gets to sit in "The Orange Chair" for the entire class.

OK, right about now you're thinking, "that's it?"  Well, basically it is.  However, the most crucial part of this entire motivation system is THE HYPE.  

In my classroom "The Orange Chair" was sacred.  Students were forbidden to ever touch it, let alone sit in it.  Signs that said "please do not sit in this chair" were placed on the chair during Open House.  Former students weren't allowed to sit in the chair either.  The rule was that after they graduated high school they could come back and sit in "The Orange Chair" (and some of them did :)).  I told stories of legends, like students that never, ever got to sit in the chair during an entire school year and other students who got picked to sit in the chair for a record number of times.  Oh, and it's very important to make the person who wins the chair for the day feel like a king or queen.  Bring him/her a footrest and a special clipboard.  Have all group work go to them.  If there's a fire drill during the prize, bring the chair with you so that he/she can continue sitting on it.  You get the point...make it special!

It's a very, very simple idea, but I can't stress enough how motivating it is.  I think it's the combination of getting to fill out the square and put it in the container (as opposed to being the kid who doesn't get a square that day) and the feeling that it truly is a special honor. 

My students love "The Orange Chair" and trust me, so do I!

Thanks for stopping by!
Brain Waves Instruction

P.S.  I bought my orange chair from IKEA, but any unusual chair would work.  Here are some other ideas:

1.  Big Joe Bean Bag Chair
2.  Yellow Painted Adirondack Chair
3.  Bungee Chair
4.  Red Leisure Chair

P.P.S. - I've compiled a bunch of other classroom management tips and tricks plus all my back to school necessities in this Back to School Toolkit...I love it almost as much as I love that Orange Chair!

This post contains affiliate links.


  1. When 7th graders are motivated to do their homework -- every day of the school year -- it's a really BIG deal! As a push-in teacher in your classroom, I can verify that the orange chairs are absolutely sacred to your students! When I first started working in your room, I was working 1:1 with a student and the orange chair was the nearest chair to his desk, so I pulled it over and started to sit . . . only to hear a collective gasp from almost every student in the room. One sweet student kindly explained the purpose of THE orange chair and I heard an audible sigh of relief when I returned it to its original place -- safe from misuse! The students truly treasure that chair and their chance to sit in it and be "king" or "queen" for a day! SUCH a fun motivator!

  2. So funny Sherri! My students have always been very protective over the orange chair. It's wild what a chair and some homework squares can do! Thanks so much for your comment!

  3. Great idea! My students constantly ask to sit in my 2nd, smaller, 'teacher' chair and I haven't used it as a reward in years! Just forgot about it! Question: when you say the winning student gets to use the chair for the 'entire class', does that mean on that given Friday when the ticket is pulled? I have an unusual setup as a 6th grade classroom in that I only switch twice a day with one other teacher, so my students are in my room much more than 'real' middle school students. What works best - a good portion of the day in the chair or a set period only? Thanks for your post, this was fun and informative to read!

    1. I think in order to keep the chair novel, I'd limit the time. Maybe set a timer for an hour on Fridays? That will make it even more special. Thanks so much for stopping by the blog!

  4. Oh, one other question! Where did you find those adorable mini trash cans??

  5. Try the dollar store for the trash cans...or Amazon?

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