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Reward Chart Ideas

Instructor: Clio Stearns

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

Reward charts can be a great way to motivate children to do their best, academically as well as behaviorally. This lesson offers you some ideas for how to use reward charts with your students.

Why Reward Charts?

A reward chart is essentially a motivational tool designed to help someone do their best or change a specific habit or behavior. If you are worried about your students not trying hard enough, or if you are looking to help them modify some of their behaviors or academic performances, reward charts might be a solution. The underlying premise of a reward chart is the sense that if children can see tangible improvements in their own behaviors over time, they will be more motivated to make systematic improvements and changes. A reward chart also incentivizes behavioral improvements by offering children a reward at the end of their accomplishments.

When choosing rewards, be thoughtful about selecting something that actually goes along with the behavior you are focusing on changing. Avoid candy and other junk food as a reward, since this is unhealthy and sends the wrong message about why to put in effort. If you are trying to get students to read more, consider offering a new book as a reward! If you hope they will clean up in the classroom better, some sort of organizing tool can be a great reward. Experience rewards, like the opportunity for lunch with the teacher, can also be a great incentive. Finally, many students love knowing that their parents will get a positive note or phone call and that can make for something terrific to work toward. The reward chart ideas in this lesson can be modified to meet the exact needs of your students.

Reward Chart Essentials

There are a few things that every different reward chart should include in order for it to be effective for students.

  • List the goal.

Students should be constantly reminded of exactly what they are working toward. Write the goal or goals clearly at the top of your reward chart. Be specific. Instead of telling students their goal is something vague and broad like 'good behavior,' tell them you want them to raise their hands before talking.

  • Keep it minimal.

You might be looking to change a dozen behaviors using a reward chart, but that is too much for most children to focus on all at once. Keep your reward chart limited to three behaviors at the most. Sometimes, it is most effective to target just one behavior.

  • Be clear about the time frame.

Decide in advance whether you are going to use your reward chart for a week, two weeks, or a month. Then, decide how often each class period or day students will have an opportunity to earn a check or star, and how many stars they would have to earn in order to get their reward. Make sure students understand this system.

  • Be consistent.

Once you have decided on a reward chart idea, make sure to use it consistently. Reward charts do not work if you are not faithful to whatever plan you put in place.

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