Degree Type

Honors Capstone Project

Date of Submission

Spring 5-1-2014

Capstone Advisor

Associate Professor Denise Heckman

Honors Reader

Assistant Professor Jonathan Mills

Capstone Major


Capstone College

Visual and Performing Arts

Audio/Visual Component


Capstone Prize Winner


Won Capstone Funding


Honors Categories


Subject Categories

Art and Design | Interactive Arts


Having always been fascinated by students’ attitudes towards learning, for my Honors Capstone and for my Industrial and Interaction Design Thesis, I took the opportunity to research motivation in education. Everyone is born intrinsically motivated but this can be conditioned out of us by extrinsic motivation. Despite the known benefits of intrinsic motivation and perils of extras at motivation, extrinsic motivation is continually used, devaluing intrinsic motivation in all kinds of settings, including our schools. While intrinsic motivation cannot be taught, it can be fostered by removing the obstacles that prevent someone from motivating him or herself.

Reading is the catalyst of all learning and is also the time in school when intrinsic motivation begins to be lost because this is when children begin to fear failure. Schools all over the country are beginning to implement the common core standards, which includes the expectation that to complete kindergarten, child must be able to write a story of at least three cohesive sentences. This forces a large learning curve in kindergarten and a lot of pressure on these young children to perform. Within the current school system, how can we create an experience that minimizes frustration and encourages kindergartners to face challenges with writing within the classroom?

I designed a 2 in 1 puzzle game set for kindergartners called Puzzler Penguins that allows children to physically play with the alphabet to create words, the Letter Game, and helps children build grammatically correct sentences easily, the Sentence Game. The Letter Game allows children to physically manipulate and play with the alphabet, which reinforces phonics visually and kinesthetically. Every puzzle piece visually shows the sound(s) the letter or consonant digraph pictured makes, encouraging him or her to sound words out; in kindergarten, phonetic spelling is a success. Letters with multiple sounds are double-sided: the short and long vowel sounds and the hard and soft sounds of G. The second puzzle game is the Sentence Game, which helps children create grammatically correct sentences using visual and physical cues. This game engages multiple intelligences building the confidence of children with many different learning styles. The game features dry erase puzzle pieces that allow the student to be creative artistically and with writing. This allows the child to start without the possibility of a wrong answer, eliminating the fear of failure and paralyzing “I don’t know where to start.” Removing a child’s need to make a decision about what verb to use and adding an element on chance, not only makes the game fun but it also eliminates the fear of making the wrong decision and makes the task of building a sentence not so scary.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



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