My oldest child is a dream student - learns most things the first time I show him, reads and comprehends excellently, and will complete all the work I give to him in a timely manner.
My second child however, is different. Don't get me wrong, she is very intelligent, but she is also a dreamer, an artist, and a dallier! It is near impossible to get her to finish any work, even if it is something she knows how to do, unless I'm hovering over her, constantly directing her back to what she is doing.
But, since I can't sit with her our entire school day (there are 3 other children to attend to), I've come up with a few ways to help motivate her to focus on a task and complete it!
1. Use a Timer - Sometimes seeing time pass can help students realize that they are dallying. The visual reminder of a timer can bring them back to the task at hand. Depending on the student and the task, you can either give a reward (ex: If you finish this task before the timer goes off, you can have 5 extra minutes on the computer) or, for lack of a better word, punishment (ex: If the timer goes off before you finish, you don't have any computer time today).
2. Rewards - Find something that the student really enjoys and let them earn it as a reward for finishing work. My kids (like most I assume) can't get enough of the iPad. So I came up with a system for my daughter to earn minutes to play. We use workboxes each day for school, so the bottom 5 drawers are hers, and they each have different activities/worksheets for her to complete. Each box she completes earns her 5 minutes of "tablet time." When she finishes something, she can mark it off on her chart (I put the chart in a plastic sheet protector and taped it to the wall so we can erase and reuse it each day.)
3. Switch it up - Some students love the predictability of routine, but for a dallying student, routine can be synonymous with boring, therefore increasing their slowness. My daughter looks through all her activities each morning and gets so excited when she sees something "new." It doesn't have to be something major, but just a slight change in the routine, the order of subjects, using different writing instruments (colored pencils instead of crayons), or location (sitting on the floor or even outside) can help.
4. Make it a game - Anytime we can make a game out of something, it instantly becomes something she wants to complete. For example, instead of just flipping through flash cards to practice sight words, we play "Sight Word Hop." I put all of the cards on the ground, call out a word, and she hops to it.
5. Encouragement - Students who dally may have been labeled as lazy or slow, but we all know that encouragement goes a lot further to motivate students than name-calling or shaming. Encourage the student in what they are good at, like paying attention to details, having great artistic ability, or being a good friend. I need to constantly remind myself that each kid is different and works at a different pace, and that's ok. My job is to set up an environment where they have the best chance to succeed!