From the first lesson we have together, there are two things I really want to cultivate in my students: motivation and a sense of community. This classroom reward system is one of my favourite strategies to help achieve this. It works especially well when teaching a smaller class, but I’m sure it could be modified to work with any size class.
Step 1: Nicknames
At some point in the first week of lessons, I give all of my students a nickname* menu.
Their nickname is theirs for the rest of the academic year. My favourite names so far have included “Infinity Phoenix” and “Darth Destroyer”. The nickname is their own creation and it is their identity within our classroom.
* Inspired by Times Tables Rock Stars
Step 2: Points Table
Once students have made their nicknames, they go onto a points table, which is posted in a convenient spot in the classroom.
Each small box gets filled in with up to five tally marks. The numbers at the end indicate how many points a student has if they’ve filled up that row.
In every lesson, students have the opportunity to gain 4 or 5 points. At the start of the lesson, they gain one point each for being on time and for having the correct equipment. If there was homework due, they receive a point for this as well. At the end of the lesson, they gain one point each for good presentation and good focus throughout the lesson.
The first two (or three) points are a great way to start the lesson and are easy to fit into a regular routine.
The drawback? I’ve found it difficult to always take the time at the end to fill in the last two points. The system, however, can be easily modified with different or fewer targets to take address this. I have found this to be a school reward system that works.
What’s the point?
Initially, I did this to address some of my students’ organisational issues, to help motivate them to remember to bring their equipment and get their homework done. The greater benefit is my own accountability as a teacher. The types of rewards for students vary depending on their achievement. When a student reaches 50 points, they receive a positive phone call home. When they reach 100 points, they receive a positive postcard home. Eventually, we discuss together what the prizes should be for 150, 200 and beyond. This ensures that I have some positive contact with parents/carers of each student early in the school year.
Ultimately, having a points table is a simple concept. I was worried at first that it wouldn’t have much influence on my students, but it has been surprisingly effective, even with my Year 10 class. Students start to remind me to fill in the points when I’ve waited too long at the start of a lesson. They frequently ask about how many points they have and if they’re close to the next prize. When they finally receive that phone call or post card, they’re proud.
Do you think you could use this in your classroom? How would you modify it to suit your students’ needs?