Effective Reward System Ideas for Kids

Instructor: Amanda Robb

Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.

In this lesson, we'll explore the world of rewards in the classroom. Here you'll learn about both extrinsic and intrinsic reward systems that can help your kids stay on track with classroom and school-wide objectives.

What Are Classroom Rewards?

Even adults like a reward for hard work. Whether it's public recognition from your boss or a free lunch, rewards can be fun, motivating, and camaraderie-building. Much like the workplace, rewards can be used in the classroom to encourage positive behavior, both academically and socially. But what reward systems are effective? It can be hard to decide what will be motivating to our students and what types of rewards are going to encourage their personal growth.

In addition, for any reward system it's important to set clear expectations about how to earn the reward and to show integrity in carrying out those expectations. If you say that a certain egregious behavior, such as hitting, negates any rewards for the day then you must stay true to that rule.

There are two main types of reward systems: extrinsic and intrinsic rewards. Here we'll talk about each and give examples of how to implement them in the classroom.

Extrinsic Rewards

Take a trip down memory lane and remember being a child. Many of us were told that if we were well behaved for a certain function then a toy or treat would be given. The tasty incentive would drive many children to act accordingly. This type of tangible reward is called an extrinsic reward. Extrinsic rewards are outside motivators for people, such as a treat, a prize, or a special privilege like an extra recess. Extrinsic rewards can be useful for children of any age. Let's look at a few examples.

Individual Rewards

Sometimes you want to reward individual students for their behavior. This encourages personal accountability and a sense of fairness, since if others don't do the right thing an individual can still earn the reward.

Ms. Jones has a clear list of classroom expectations posted at the front of her room. The list includes specific behaviors such as turning in homework on time, keeping hands to yourself, and raising your hand to contribute to the class.

During class, Ms. Jones hands out tickets for students who follow these expectations or make improvements from the previous day. She makes sure to explain why the student got a ticket. At the end of the week, the tickets go into a lottery and winners are chosen to get prizes. The more positive behaviors or improvements that are displayed, the more tickets are received and the greater the chance of winning.

Students enjoy getting tickets during the week and the prizes distributed at the end of the week not only keep students interested but also decrease the amount of prizes that need to be handed out. More prizes can mean more personal funds invested in the classroom, which can be challenging for teachers. Teachers can also increase the buy-in of this type of system by letting students propose what kind of prizes they want. Although some suggestions might be too extravagant, getting student input will increase their interest.

Whole Classroom Rewards

Transitions can be especially hard for students. Switching between activities can provide opportunities for commotion to ensue as students move around the room and chat with their neighbors. One way to get transitions under control is a game where the teacher is pitted against the students. During transitions the teacher counts down from three seconds or longer, if the transitions requires more movement.

If the class gets into the next activity and is quietly seated before the timer runs out, they earn a point. If the teacher gets to zero before the students are ready then he or she gets a point. At the end of the day the entire class earns a reward, such as a piece of candy, bonus points, or something else if they win. Students love to play games, especially when there is a chance to ''beat'' the teacher. However, in this game, if the students win then the teacher wins too.

Students earn points for being settled before the allotted time runs out

Intrinsic Rewards

Intrinsic rewards are a little bit different. They don't involve a tangible reward from the teacher, such as a toy or candy. Intrinsic rewards come from a sense of pride in one's work or a love of learning. Most adults operate with this type of motivation. We don't always get paid extra or get a free lunch when we do well at work, but we come home with a sense of integrity and pride.

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