Why learning contests are great motivational tools

Contests are an awesome way to get students engaged in learning! Learning contests come in many shapes and sizes, but they generally present a time-based challenge for students to work towards.

Contests provide a huge motivational boost because they:

  • Tap into students’ competitive side
  • Build a learning community
  • Show progress in real time

Let’s take a look at each of these motivators, and then dive into some specific tips and resources!


Tap into students’ competitive side

Contests engage students by tapping into their natural desire for competition. Contests give students a fun and interactive challenge, and make learning feel more like a game! To fuel the competition, learning contests often include a reward that’s exciting for students, from extra recess time to an ice cream party. But the reward isn’t the only incentive; don’t underestimate the value of bragging rights!


Build a learning community

Contests bring students together to focus on learning, which makes it into a fun, collective effort. This is especially true when contests are team-based and students need to work together to reach their goal. But even when contests are based on individual progress, it’s beneficial when students know that there are others working and learning alongside them.


Show progress in real time

Contests provide the opportunity to see tangible momentum as it happens. Students love to watch their own progress, and are motivated to work even harder to reach their goals! Plus, the contest’s timeline helps to create a sense of urgency around learning the material and building skills. 


Tips for a successful contest

Wondering how to use a learning contest to motivate students? Try these simple tips:

  • Find or create a contest with a clear timeline, goal, and reward
  • Celebrate progress along the way
  • Remind kids that the overall goal is learning 
  • Win or lose, focus on how much students have accomplished during the competition! 


IXL annual contests

Interested in joining a learning contest? IXL hosts a few every year! Check out these options:


IXL Spring Learning Showdown

Classrooms around the world participate in the Spring Learning Showdown every April. Students compete on behalf of their classrooms to boost their knowledge. The grand prize is a pizza party for the class! Learn more here.


IXL Study in the Sun

Over the summer, learners can participate in the annual IXL Study in the Sun contest.

This annual competition is a great opportunity for students to refresh their knowledge and explore new skills over summer vacation. Plus, the grand prize is an iPad! Learn more here.


Vocabulary Bowl

IXL’s sister company Vocabulary.com also hosts an annual contest. The Vocabulary Bowl is a competition to see which schools can master the most words, motivating all learners to improve their literacy skills. Each Vocabulary Bowl season begins in October and runs through April. Learn more here.


More IXL resources

IXL Leaderboards

With IXL Leaderboards, teachers can create their own custom competitions directly within IXL! Teachers can select what the contest will be based on, the duration, and which subjects and grade level skills will count. This makes running a competition effortless and fun! Learn more about IXL Leaderboards here.

IXL Awards and Certificates

IXL’s printable and virtual prizes reward students for a variety of accomplishments, offering students fun incentives throughout their learning journey. There are many ways to use these for competitions! For example, you can set the goal of earning ten IXL awards, or answering 5,000 questions on IXL. Learn more about how to use IXL’s Awards and Certificates to motivate students here.

Bulletin Board Printables

Bring students’ IXL achievements to life with the bulletin board printable pack! It has everything you need to track student progress in a fun and visual way. You can spotlight individual students and show overall class progress toward your learning goals, including for learning contests. Learn more and get the full printable pack here.

Learning contests can have many different benefits! Check out this story from @nslawsoncm on Twitter

Want to stay in-the-know on upcoming IXL contests and new resources? Follow IXL on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest!