Saturday, April 21, 2012

Rewards in the Classroom?

I bribe my students to do their French homework. And no more than once or twice a year, I also offer extrinsic rewards in a "project contest" or particularly challenging educational game/activity. And I may or may not give it up next year; we'll have to see! There, I've admitted it. Now 'fess, up... do you reward your students in some way?
Photo courtesy of  http://www.morguefile.com/creative/jusben  
To be a little accurate and more fair to myself, I do have somewhat of a carrot-and-stick approach. They get a stamp with a positive French message for doing the homework, and a "homework not done" stamp in their agenda if it was incomplete. I have a Homework Stamp Page that I get the students to keep readily available. (Check on my Freebies page, as I'm going to upload it as a Google doc and make it available there if you are interested.) This year, it's the back cover of their Reference Booklet - a mini-reference resource I've created for them since textbooks are soooooo passé (meaning of course, that I didn't have enough and wasn't given money to order more) but in the past, I've actually had it be the first page of their French duo-tangs. I've even considered just making a chart right on the cover of their duo-tang as well... that might cut down on the graffiti there a little bit!

I like the small, self-inking round stamps with a French positive message to track homework that's complete. In a pinch, if you can't get one that's truly French, a simple "Wow!" or "Excellent!" works just fine.
Available for about $7 each at Scholar's Choice
You could use those small incentive stickers from Dollarama that have 300 stickers for a dollar (or there are these little French ones also from Scholar's Choice, for less than 2 cents each) but I was worried about the pooling and/or theft of stickers. Middle schoolers like taking one another's belongings 'as a joke' far too much for my liking already.

As for the stamp students get if the homework isn't done... I don't want anyone to feel left out, right? Basically, either the homework is complete and ready for me to quickly scan, with the stamp page displayed beside it, or I expect to see the student's agenda, open to the correct date. For less than $3, I had a self-inking stamp made at VistaPrint.  I keep forgetting to take a photo of what it looks like, but I recreated it in about 2 minutes on their website. A tip - sign up for their email offers and wait for a great price! Essentially, the stamp was totally free and I just paid for shipping. A zillion teachers will send you to VistaPrint with a link to special offers (which they earn rewards through as well) so seek one out if you aren't patient enough to wait around and check the email messages from VistaPrint.

I started out with candy as a reward, and then moved a few years ago to choices from a variety of candy and non-food items. I honestly can't remember if this year or last was my first not offering sweets at all, but just prizes.

My treasure bin is usually chock fun of fun pencils, erasers, and stickers. If I've just stocked up, they may also find bouncy balls, mini-card games or small puzzles (5 for a $1 in the party store loot bag aisle!) and one of the "hot items" is technically free. I have a subscription to COOL! magazine, which usually has a middle poster insert, as well as a free gift enclosed with each issue. These boy-band or movie-inspired posters and the jewelry or other fashion/decor freebies that come with my subscription go right into the prize bin! Actually, for the posters, I usually display them at the front of the class and the kids whose attention that grabs vie to be the first to finish their required number of homework assignments (Yes, I've even had requests for EXTRA homework, which I ignore.)

I've thought about using privilege type rewards, but haven't implemented anything like that just yet. I'm starting to use a raffle system to encourage being on time and prepared to start, which I will post more about in the future.

Do you use reward coupons, like these really cute ones for primary or junior class? Or is candy your go-to reward? They love it - and frankly I love helping myself to a chocolate after school once in a while too - and it works as an incentive, so I am wrestling with "why not?" as I think about my approach for next year.

I would love it if you would leave me a comment to let me know if extrinsic rewards, for individuals or a class, play any role in your classroom management at all!

2 comments:

  1. Salut Tammy! I must say...I have a "bonbons" stash....It's amazing how the little things get them participating! :) Even a Mike'n'Ike's is enough for them :) I'd love to do a "prize bin", but I find it hard to find stuff that middle school kids enjoy; plus, it's more expensive than bonbons ;)

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    Replies
    1. It is more expensive than candy, but I find that since I'm a thrifty shopper, I only spent about twice the price of the Double Lollies that are only of my favourites to have on hand. There's a Liquidation World near me, and right before school started this year, they were having INSANE blowout sales. For my daughter, I got packs of googly eyes for 30 cents, and a DVD educational game (which she gave out to all of her classmates at Valentine's Day) for 5 cents each!! Some of my prizes came from that shopping spree, so it helped to balance out the cost.

      Also, with the candy, I always had kids hanging back after class to beg for it, but that doesn't happen with the prizes. Those who "earn" one are happy, and no one expects me to give them out "just because".

      Also, I think my students this year are much more easily pleased than usual! Stickers on their tests make them exceedingly happy!

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