There are all kinds of contests: art, science, reading, inventing, writing. Tons are available for kids of all ages, from preschool through high school. Some requirements are simple, like draw a picture or write an opinion. Others are more complex and would take weeks, or even months to complete.
There are a few reasons I love contests for kids:
- They allow kids to identify and explore their own talents. If a student likes artwork, tell them about an art contest. If they have an interest in design and building things, there are several contests that could give them an opportunity to use their ingenuity. If a student likes writing stories or poetry, there is an abundance of contests that would get them writing and publishing their work. I wouldn't make contests a requirement, but I think it's a good idea for kids to start honing their craft, learning their areas of interests, and challenging themselves within the parameters of a unique assignment. Contests make all that possible.
- Entering and winning contests motivate kids. I didn't really have teachers who pushed me to do contests, but I did enter a few here and there. When I won, it was an incredible and unexpected feeling! Students who exhibit a talent would love the thrill of winning something small like a free book or publication in a magazine, or something big like a huge grand prize reward, hundreds of dollars and cool prizes. Kids love being praised for their work even on a small scale (within a classroom), so imagine the manifold reward of being recognized on a much bigger scale.
- Contests help kids practice time management. Contests always have deadlines. Deadlines and other requirements have to be met in order for a student to win. Just like their regular schoolwork, students would have to pace themselves and keep an eye on their progress to getting the task done. Keeping up with contests and their schoolwork would help them balance their time. It's a lesson many kids don't begin to learn unless they have many extracurricular activities, or they start applying for colleges and scholarships when they're in high school.
- It gives them something to do. Perhaps it's just me, but whenever a class I'm subbing is done with something, there will inevitably be a few kids who request time to draw. I usually shoot this idea down because I'm sure most teachers don't allow it, but I'm now struck by student interest in drawing. Most teachers would see "free drawing" as a waste of instructional time, or a reward, but what if student interest in drawing was directed at something productive, like a contest? Art contests ask kids to think critically, imagine and design. Educators know the benefits of visual arts in learning, and contests would give students a productive outlet for their creativity. Same thing with writing or whatever else a contest may require. If students are done with their work and need something to do, point them to a "contest list" with interesting things for them to choose from and work on. I believe that is still "using class time wisely."
Speaking of contests, Scholastic Girls Reading Club is holding a contest for writing short stories about two of their popular series. The contest rules offer all the details. Prizes for the two contests include money for a shopping spree, art supplies and more. The deadline is March 22. Good luck!