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Elementary School Teachers
Whole Class Rewards

Many teachers use class rewards to the whole class to give children a common goal to work towards. One system I use is a class jar. I slowly fill a jar with math cubes or marbles, the idea being that the class will choose a fun activity when the jar is full. My students receive marbles when:

  • They receive a complement from another teacher, i.e. science teacher, computer teacher, the principal, etc.
  • They do something exceptionally well as a whole group, i.e. cleaning up immediately after an activity, working very hard during a lesson, etc.
  • We have an entire day with no behavior problems.

The primary purpose of my classroom management system is to reinforce positive behavior. I only put marbles into the jar, but never take them out. I tell them that the marbles are in the jar because they’ve earned them, and I will never take that away. In this way, the jar is a positive reward system and not used for negative discipline. They can actually see their collective effort measured as the jar gradually fills.

The rewards they can choose from are relatively simple; an extra outside free time, an educational video, a walk to a local park, and so on.

Individual Student Rewards

Some students, because of their own behavioral difficulties or just due to their personality, will not be easily motivated by a whole-class reward system. For these students, it is necessary to create an individualized reward system to keep them on track. This may not seem fair to the rest of the class, which is something to consider. However, I think it’s important to realize that as teachers we constantly differentiate our instruction and our methods to give each child what he or she needs most. As long as we are mindful of the needs and achievements of all the students there can be a place in our classrooms for various types of motivation/rewards systems.

Some quick ideas for individual rewards:

  • A simple, clear chart the student keeps on their desk (or in their desk). The teacher puts a sticker or stamp on the chart when the student is doing well. It’s important to define “doing well,” for example, focusing on a task, not bothering other students, raising his/her hand to speak. An agreement is made that a total number of stickers will lead to a reward or privilege, such as the following:
    • Sometimes, I arrange for one or two students to be “helpers” for a 20 or 30 minute period in a younger classroom as a reward for working hard in my classroom
    • A student could be chosen to “direct” a regular classroom routine that the teacher would normally do.
    • I send a quick note home praising a particular action or aspect of the child’s work or behavior that day. (We often contact home for negative reasons; it’s extremely effective to call/write with good news as well.)
    • Perhaps, the parents can be incorporated into the reward options. For example, a special family activity on the weekend or a “play date” with a friend.

Sample Behavior Chart

  Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday

Doing Well: Keeping your hands to yourself
Focusing on your work
Completing your work
Not distracting others as they work
Raising your hand to speak


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