In previous posts, I’ve written about positive reinforcement and using praise effectively in the hopes that I might help others sharpen some tools in their teacher’s bag of tricks….or at least cause others to reflect on their own practices in classroom management. The positive train is one that most educators want to jump aboard, as many schools have introduced school-wide Positive Behavior Support (PBS) Systems. These systems are designed to teach students the expectations for behavior in the school, help students develop morals and values, and reward students for demonstrating the positive traits spelled out in each school’s plan. Sounds like good stuff? Yes! Does it effectively motivate and reward all students? Not always. Without stating some of the pitfalls of these plans, I’d like to just say that sometimes, a classroom teacher might need to augment the school-wide system in order to reach more students and help them feel successful and rewarded in the classroom. This, in turn, may help the teacher run the classroom more smoothly, and create a climate of respect for learning and for others. Maybe your school doesn’t have a school-wide system, and you’d just like to get some classroom-wide reward system in place. Whatever your situation, I’d like to present just a few ideas to get some wheels turning. As teachers, many of us are pretty creative people….sometimes one good idea might spark a whole fireworks display of other great ideas! In recent years, I was part of a classroom team in a school which utilized a PBS system, and students worked to earn “Dino Dollars”, which could then be spent on all kinds of cool prizes in “The Dinosaur’s Den”. The only problem was that our students were Kindergarteners, many of them with special needs, and “The Dinosaur’s Den” was only open for business once every marking period. That’s a loooong time to wait for a reward, which can cause a drop in motivation for some students. When the reinforcement is too delayed, it can quickly lose its effectiveness. So for this particular group of children, we decided to teach them the value of the Dino Dollars by having our own classroom reward system. Each Friday, they would have the opportunity to cash in their dollars on prizes in our own Treasure Chest. This was a highlight of the week for many students, and it also gave us a chance to help each student reflect on their week and connect their dollars/prizes to the behavior that helped them earn “the goods”. By mid-year, we switched to a cash-out every other Friday, and by the last marking period we even stretched a little further. We found a way to tie the school-wide PBS system to more immediate, and therefore, more meaningful and reinforcing “rewards”. (Who doesn’t love a Treasure Chest?)
Years ago, in another school, I recall a teacher placing a marble in a jar when she “caught” a student doing something particularly noteworthy. The “deal” was that when the jar was full, she would treat the whole class to an ice cream party. (Yes, she tried to make sure that everyone in the class had contributed to that full jar, and it wasn’t just the star students earning for the masses.)
One of my all-time favorites was the science teacher who challenged students to “Rock (Her) World”. Each student had a small jar on the windowsill, which was to be a receptacle for earned rocks. She literally circulated the room periodically, holding a small handful of little rocks. She’d quietly place the rock on the corner of the desk of some hard-working students. These students would then place the rocks in their jars. She also used the rocks during whole group instructional periods, chirping out “You Rock My World” to a student who gave an especially strong answer to a question, or sometimes just to the struggling kid who was paying attention and making an attempt to engage in the lesson. As each student filled their jar, they could cash-in their rocks for a reward. I thought this was the neatest thing, and it was apparent that her students really bought into the system.
So now I challenge you to Rock My World, or somebody else’s…….please feel free to comment and share some classroom-wide reward ideas that you’ve tried in your classroom, or have seen other teachers utilize. Your idea could ignite something for someone else!