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If you’re a teacher who likes inspiring and motivating your students through a classroom reward system, then you probably know all the benefits of positive reinforcement.

Implementing rewards for good behavior is an excellent way to ensure that being ‘good’ is just as acknowledged as being ‘bad’ – which is especially vital for younger students learning moral, ethical, and behavioral standards for the first time. What is the best reward system for students? That all depends on what works for you.

We’ve collected several different rewards for kids systems, from the point system for kids style approach to more out-of-the-box reward ideas for students. Read on to find out which systems we rate and to find one that’s the best fit for your classroom as a whole:

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Why use a reward system?

Before we get into more detail about rewards for kids or classroom reward systems, it’s worth looking at why a reward system is an important part of your student’s education. While it may not directly build their math skills or develop their reading comprehension, the school can be just as much about learning those soft skills as the more tangible ones. According to TES, reward systems can be invaluable for incentivizing students. Here are just some of the benefits of a well-planned rewards system for your classroom:

  • Helping students to understand appropriate and inappropriate behaviors by rewarding positive actions over negative ones
  • Providing increased motivation to behave in positive ways in the classroom continually
  • Offering a physical way to show your students they’ve done an excellent job – that can be seen by other students and even their parents
  • An incentive to complete homework and additional work to achieve extra points, stars, or rewards

There are many positives to implementing an appropriate rewards system in your classroom. But as BookWidgets notes, there are some downsides to putting too much emphasis on rewards over everyday learning. For example, if you’re resorting to rewards as a bribe or a way to force positive behavior, this can have adverse long-term effects on your students. Without proper management, a rewards system can also be a problem for less high-achieving students than their peers if your system is based on academic achievement.

Creating an effective and personal rewards system is more than just picking the first thing you find on Pinterest. It would help if you had something that works for your students and falls more on the positive side than causing them to feel the pressure. Strike that balance and use rewards in your classroom could be more successful than you think. Keep reading for a few reward systems you might like to consider for your class.

Mystery Scratchcards

In this reward system, students are given scratch cards as a reward based on making good choices within their class. Rather than academic success, this option is based on student interaction, communication, and behavior – which means any student can achieve this reward. This system is best-placed alongside behavior management plans and classroom monitoring reports to reward significantly improved behavior and actions. While this requires more careful observation from the teacher, this option can prove highly effective, given half a chance.

Sourcing scratch cards online is relatively easy, but creating these simple reward cards at home is possible. A student’s good choices could include helping a fellow student, sharing, sitting quietly instead of being disruptive, or paying attention the whole time to the teacher. This reward is based on seeing progress and making good conscious choices, which will encourage students to do the same in the future.

As for rewards, that’s entirely down to what you prefer as a teacher. Getting first dibs on the play area might be a good fit for a kindergarten class. For slightly older students, a homework pass might be an excellent reward. Get a feel of what works for your class and find rewards that are age-appropriate and not too over-the-top. You should be able to provide these rewards consistently without fear of cost racking up or students missing out.

The Behavior Chain

Instead of a classic reward chart for kids, thinking outside the box is an excellent way to get everyone involved equally. The behavior chain is one example of a reward system that’s a little bit different and far more appealing to your students. This particular reward method has all your classes working together towards one goal, giving even more incentive to behave appropriately and help others in the classroom.

This chain-based rewards system is easy to set up. Hang the start of a paper chain from a high surface, and add a note that the whole class will get a reward when it hits the floor. If your students are grouped into tables, designate each table with a specific color of the paper strip. When one student from that table demonstrates positive behavior or a ‘nice thing,’ they can add a loop to the chain. This provides a clear visual impression of how well each team is doing, adding a competitive element.

You aren’t singling out students by prompting the whole class to work together on positive behavior. Which, for some reward charts, can be a real issue. Once the chain hits the ground, the whole class will receive a reward for their hard work together – providing an additional sense of working on the same team. The reward is up to you – from a picnic lunch to a movie afternoon, a no-homework day to a fun art activity. Include the whole class, and they’ll be far more likely to want to continue to behave well in the future.

Digital Rewards

If you’re the type of teacher that likes to use the latest technology in your class, your incentives for students should be no different. That’s where ClassDojo comes in. Providing all the benefits of a reward system for kids for free, with a higher-tech system that suits you and your students. While some teachers will certainly prefer old-school methods, this option is best for educators that spend a lot of time behind a computer. Which, to be honest, is most of us these days.

Teachers are encouraged to custom-set behavior tags for positive and negative actions. When setting up this system, it might be a great activity to include students in discussing what makes positive and negative behavior. From there, you can implement their ideas into the system to make it more appealing and interactive to them. Once tags are set up, students gain plus or minus numbers for their behavior. At the end of the week, you can review students’ behavior individually or in your class. If you choose to, this information can be sent to your student’s parents to help them understand their child’s progress beyond academic achievement.

While ClassDojo suits younger students, systems like Classcraft are more suitable for older students – with a video game-style feel and a need to work together to overcome classroom ‘quests.’ Either way, appealing to the more technological mind of the average child or teenager is an excellent way to implement reward systems that work in the long term.

Positivity Points/Tokens

For some students, collecting something to build towards a reward can be a real incentive. Using tokens or points that must be saved to ‘purchase’ something can be a powerful tool. With your class, sit down and decide what you would like the classroom rewards to be. Whether it’s a free treat from the cafeteria, a brand-new pencil, or even the chance to club with friends for a bigger reward, defining what they can ‘buy’ is the first step to getting students excited about this rewards system.

Once you’ve got a ‘shop list’ down on paper, you can start distributing tokens. To avoid less-academic students missing out, collecting points or tokens should be based on behavior and attitude over aptitude. Think of helping another student, completing their homework on time, or sitting quietly through a lesson. Not only does this incentivize students, it also provides valuable skills in patience and saving. To purchase some great things, your class must save for quite a while or perform exceptional behaviors.

Physical tokens are the best method for this reward system, so consider investing in small jars that students can customize for their ‘piggy banks.’ Once a month, you can offer a rewards day where students can either use what they’ve earned to make a purchase or continue to save their ‘coins,’ if they prefer.

Which reward system is right for my classroom?

There’s no single answer as to which system best fits your classroom. As a teacher, you know your students better than anyone – so you’ll have a far better idea of what works and what won’t. A general rule of thumb is to ensure your reward system includes all students and doesn’t punish those with genuine issues in sitting still or concentrating. For a reward system to be successful, a watchful eye and careful monitoring are a must, as well as having set rules about what is rewarded and what isn’t.

Do you use a reward system in your classroom? Let us know what’s worked best for you in the comments below. Whether it’s your design, a Pinterest finds, or an existing online program, we’re always looking for more reward systems to explore.