Ideas for Incentive Charts in the Classroom

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Using an incentive chart can be a great way to help your students improve their behavior in the classroom. This lesson offers different ideas that you can use to make your incentive chart meaningful.

Using Incentive Charts

Are you struggling with behavior management in your classroom? Whether you have just a few disruptive students or a whole class whose behavior could use some tuning up, an incentive chart can be a wonderful and successful tool. Basically, incentive charts work by rewarding good behavior. Kids work together to earn points or tokens toward a reward.

Some important keys to remember when creating an incentive chart, regardless of the particular style you use, are:

  • You need to concretely define the behavior you are looking for. It is usually not enough to tell kids to 'be good' or 'behave yourself'. Instead, focus on clear and specific goals, like 'complete a transition in under two minutes' or 'show acts of kindness toward classmates'.
  • Define the time period you are looking at, too. Kids will want to know if they have an opportunity to earn a token every class period, every day, or once a week.
  • Make sure the whole class is invested in earning a reward. It can help to talk to students about what kind of reward would be really motivating. Some big winners are movie days, ice cream parties, or a pajama day.
  • Allow students to succeed. Especially when you initially begin, make sure to catch students in positive behavior as frequently as you can, so that they really see concrete rewards for their efforts.

The ideas in this lesson will help you make your incentive chart creative and meaningful for kids!

Basic Chalkboard Tally

This is a low-maintenance incentive chart that is great for teachers who struggle to keep up with more complicated systems. All you need to do is keep a tally of points at the top of your white board or chalkboard! Each time your class exhibits the expected behavior, add a tally mark; just make sure your students see you doing so. When they get the agreed-upon number of tally marks, they get to celebrate with a reward.

Goldfish Bowl

For this fun incentive chart, you will need an empty goldfish bowl. Use paint or stickers to label the bowl with something catchy, like 'Fishing for Good Behavior' or 'Bubbles of Kindness'. Each time your students exhibit the desired behavior, put a pebble or marble into the bowl. Designate a few fill lines at which they will receive rewards!

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