Motivating Those Hard-to-Motivate Students

PIcture courtesy of Pexels
You're in therapy with a student and you spend most of the 30 minutes staring at each other because he absolutely refuses to participate in the activities you have planned. You've made sure that you have planned fun, motivational activities, but he isn't biting. And the frustration level for both of you (well, mainly you because he's perfectly fine not doing anything) mounts and is at an all-time high. What do you do?

A pill reminder is a great motivator

One thing that I have successfully tried is using a pill reminder. Velcro a picture of each activity on the top and put a reward in the pocket. I've used stickers or goldfish with fabulous success. First, explain to the student the activities and show him the pictures.
A pill reminder can be very motivating to some students.
Pill reminders come with 3 or 7 pockets. If you need a number in between, you could use masking tape to mark off the ones you don't need. In the picture above, I used the iPad as a reward when he completed the 3 activities I wanted him to complete. Sometimes I may put an "all done" picture, depending on the student.

When the pill reminder doesn't work

Using a pill reminder is great...except when it either doesn't motivate the student from the get-go or ceases to motivate. What do you do then?
A co-worker discussed using puzzles as motivators and the lightbulb went off. I made one to try with a student, only using 2 pieces at first. We've worked up to 3 pieces, and this student is ready for 4 pieces.
Very similar to the pill reminder, I show the student the activities I have planned for that session. I put down the First, Then sheet. I put the puzzle pieces on "First", and the reward on "Then".

All I've had to do is redirect the student to remind him that he will receive a piece of the puzzle when we're through with an activity. When the puzzle is put together, he gets the reward. 
I check the clock to determine how long he can work on the iPad and set a timer. I remind him that as soon as the timer goes off the iPad has to be turned off and it's time to go back to class. This has worked like a charm for me! 
More seasonal puzzles will be added soon. Each set has options for 2 to 6 activities with 2 options for 6 activities. The straight lines decrease frustration for the student when putting the puzzles together.
These puzzles may be purchased in my TpT store. I haven't had a session with my students who are using it when they didn't complete the tasks I had planned that day. 
What do you use to motivate your "hard to motivate" students?

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