Classroom rewards are often a point of contention… What is best for kids? And for the things you do want to reward what do you give as a prize? It has taken me a little while in my teaching practice to figure out what exactly I believe in here – when is it okay to give rewards and when does it undermine the values I am trying to instill?
Personally, I do not believe in rewarding behaviour on a regular basis. I think that being ready for class is an expectation. As is being a good classmate or helping clean up the class. My students do not expect to be rewarded for these behaviours, it is the expectation that this is how they act.
Having said that there are times when I do offer rewards in class. When we forget to clean up at the end of the day and I need incentive for a few to stay after and help with the cleanup. Occasionally during math (right after recess) I offer a reward for those that are ready to go and started on the warm-up without being asked, because even in May we still struggle with this transition. Prizes for classroom games we play every so often. And, although I haven’t done it this year, I believe that offering rewards to speak French in class is useful because speaking in another language is scary, students need practice, and often there isn’t a ton of intrinsic motivation for this one.
So then the second question – What do you give as rewards? This has always been a tough one because, especially in middle school, what can you give that students will actually like? I do not believe in giving any kind of food reward like candy but often find that it is the only thing students really seem to want as a prize so I cave and buy it anyways. This year, besides the odd holiday treat, I have not given out any candy or food prizes. I found the next best thing…
Scholastic Mustache Pencils! And no, this post is not sponsored, I honestly just love these pencils so much! The kids get excited about them, they are relatively inexpensive (especially if you have Scholastic bonus coupons!), they aren’t made of sugar, and kids are less likely to lose them.
I also have a bunch of other fun pencils and colourful erasers as prizes, as well as glowsticks from the dollar store. I think if I offered a choice of candy or these then candy would still win but since they only get the choice of which pencil colour they still get pretty excited.
Added teacher bonus – the more pencils you give out the less kids say “I don’t have a pencil”! But yes, I still here it a few times a day.
I think students can get excited about whatever you give out if you do it in a fun way too! I had a really tough grade 8 class last year who were definitely in that “too cool” for anything phase, but we did Friday stickers after class cleanup and I just played it off as a big joke – in a mock preschool teacher voice saying “Okay class you did such a wonderful job cleaning up that I have a sticker for you!” Then they would roll their eyes at me… but 75% of the class would be lined up for their sticker at the end of the day!
So all in all, for me classroom rewards are meant for fun and to show students that you care but they do not reward for expected behaviours.
What do you use for classroom rewards?