By Destinee Hodge February 11th, 2014 6:00 PM
We all love rewards. It’s amazing how, at all ages, a little appreciation goes a long way. Rewards – however big or small – motivate us and make us feel like we have something to work towards.
As a middle school teacher, I try to take apply that philosophy to my classroom. The thing is, with 150 students, I have to be thoughtful about the types of rewards that I can feasibly offer.
You might ask, how do you reward students meaningfully without breaking the bank? The answer to that is quite simple. When working with children, you are the one responsible for deciding what’s important or “meaningful to them.” To explain, I’ll discuss a few of the things I do that work well with my students.
Class Dojo– This is an online behavior system where each student has an avatar (that they can edit) and you can add or take away points during class in response to student behaviors. It’s really easy to sign up as a teacher and create your classes (you can even copy and paste rosters). When I first introduced it, some of my older students were wary of the program. However, now that I’ve attached real rewards (like determining who gets class jobs or your participation grade), they’re all fans! You can check this out at: http://www.classdojo.com/
Donuts for A’s– we have a short cycle assessment at my school every two weeks. One way that I keep my students motivated is by rewarding students who get A’s on the assessment with a tasty Dunkin’ Donut and a whole lot of classroom cheer. These students also receive a sheet for their parents to sign, acknowledging that they know how well their student is doing in school. The best part is, you can determine what grade your students need to receive a donut. For example, if you have a lower- skilled group, you can do “Donuts for A’s and B’s.” If you have an extremely skilled group, you can award donuts to the “95 and above club.”
Class Jobs– We all have them. However, many of us struggle when it comes to deciding how to divvy the jobs up. I’ve found that attaching jobs to academic performance and consistency works well! For example, in order to get the most coveted jobs (i.e. adding dojo points or pulling equity sticks), students need to have exemplary homework turn-in on a consistent basis. Also, by making a helpful position like a class job a “reward”, it creates an atmosphere where my students are extremely grateful for other, costlier rewards.
Stickers– ‘Señorita, I did everything, you forgot to put on my sticker,” 18-year-old Nathan said. “Lo siento mi amor!” I responded. Moral of the story: do not underestimate the power of a sticker. I’ve taught both high school and middle school and let me just say that my students are sticker FIENDS. Something about the immediate feedback really does get them excited. In particular, I like to use stickers to track student progress. In my class, students have classroom folders with a calendar stapled on the front. Each day, I ask two of my “sticker students” to go around the class and give each person who has completed class work a sticker on that date. This allows me to not only determine their class work grade, but to provide them with a visual representation of the work they do in my class. I’ve also ordered stickers in Spanish from Amazon, which they absolutely love.
Overall, my biggest piece of advice is that whatever you do, do it consistently. This is truly the most important thing of all. There is nothing worse than being promised something and it doesn’t come through. It will also make it harder for you to keep your students invested in anything if they know you do not follow through on your word.
As you can see, rewards can be easy and affordable. Make sure you stay consistent and you’ll see how invested your kids will be!
Destinee Hodge is a Spanish teacher at Kelly Miller Middle School.