Passing out a piece of candy or bringing in cupcakes to reward our students can be effective, but it’s not very nutritious. While the occasional sugary treat is a lovely way to show students our appreciation for their hard work, there are so many rewards that don’t require you to buy any food – or deal with their sugar rush later in the day. Students can work toward earning a whole class reward, or you can reward individual students for their efforts. However you decide to pass out rewards, your students will love earning them – even if they don’t get to eat them!
1. Seat swap
When a student earns this prize, they get to switch seats with anyone in the class for the day. Most kids will choose to sit next to their best friend, which is a great motivator!
2. Sticker store
It’s amazing how much kids love stickers, and you can use them as motivators in your classroom. When students have reached a goal, you can allow them to visit your sticker store. The chance to choose their stickers get kids extra excited.
3. Fun erasers
Like stickers, students love erasers! Offer small novelty erasers as prizes for students who make great choices. Store them in a gumball machine to help keep them tidy and in one place.
4. A nice note
Everyone likes to hear something nice, and your students are no different. Verbal praise should be part of your classroom, but a paper note can be even more special because it’s something your students can keep. Pass them out sparingly so they retain their special value.
Cute bookmarks can be a double reward. You can use them to reward students who make good choices during your literacy time. You can also use them as a motivator to encourage students to read a certain number of pages, a certain number of books, or for a certain length of time.
6. A note home
Often, a note sent home is to notify parents about a problem that’s happening at school. Flip that tradition and send a nice note home about something a student accomplished at school. It can be something academic, such as acing a test, or something small, such as being kind to a friend or helping a teacher.
7. Choose the read aloud
Most students love the chance to get to be in charge. Allowing them the chance to choose the read aloud book will help them remember how they should behave during read aloud time.
8. VIP for the day
Go all-out making the VIP of the day feel extra special. Decorate the student’s desk, let them be first for everything for the entire day, and provide a special badge or lanyard. A crown or tiara will make it even more official.
9. Homework pass
Get to the hearts of older students by offering homework passes as an incentive in your classroom. A homework pass will allow students to take a pass on a homework assignment of their choosing.
10. Desk pets
Desk pets are a new concept where students to adopt a “pet” to keep on their desk. The pet is a small eraser or plastic toy. Students earn money to buy things for their pet by making good choices. See this article to learn more about desk pets.
11. Pajama party
Kids love to wear their pajamas to school, and let’s be honest, so do teachers! There is something so fun about not getting dressed to go to school, and you can use that to your advantage by letting your students earn this privilege.
12. Picnic Day
Instead of eating in the school cafeteria like every day, have your students earn a picnic party. They can bring blankets or towels to sit on and eat lunch on the grass. You can keep your usual hot or cold lunch routine or ask students to bring something to share with everyone.
13. Art project fun
Kids love crafts, so the chance to choose their own craft projects can be a great classroom motivator. Promise your students an art project day where you bring tons of art supplies and let them go crazy creating.
14. Teddy bear friends
Bringing toys to school and getting to bring them in the classroom is a rare event, but students love it. Encourage your students to earn the right to bring their teddy bears, or other stuffed animals, into the classroom to learn with them throughout the day.
15. Game day
Games are a great learning tool, but they can also be used to motivate your students to work together to earn a class reward focused on playing. Your students can earn time to just play games – board games, card games, thinking games, drawing games, any kind of game you can find. It might be even more fun if students get to bring games from home to share with their friends.
16. Take class outside
Even something as simple as having a class or two outside can be exciting for students. Have them earn the chance to take math to playground or science to the sports field. You might even incorporate the outdoors in your lesson by having the kids measure playground equipment or study and collect nature. Even silent reading is more fun in the great outdoors!
17. Different teacher
No matter how much your students love you and love your classroom, it’s always exciting to do something new. Perhaps the principal would like to come in and teach math or a specials teacher might like the chance to teach a science lesson.
18. Glow party
Glow sticks are cheap, and kids love them! Ask your students to earn a glow party where they can turn off the lights and dance with glow sticks, create things out of glow sticks, and work by the light of their glow sticks.
19. Field trip
This one takes a bit more planning and parent permission, but the promise of a field trip can be a terrific way to encourage students to make good choices in the classroom. Tie the field trip in with something you’re teaching in the classroom, such as the zoo if you’re learning about animal habitats or a botanic garden if you’re learning about the life cycle of plants. You may also want to explore the idea of a fun virtual field trip!
20. Movie Afternoon
This is a classic reward, and for good reason. Students love to watch television at school! Give them some movie options and let them vote on which movie they want to enjoy once they earn the reward.
21. Competition time
Come up with some fun competitions and have your students go against one another. You might have a competition to see who can make a paper airplane that flies the furthest or a contest to see who can make the longest paper chain in 10 minutes. Make the contests more physical by having students compete to see who can do the most sit ups, pushups or jumping jacks.
Students tend to instantly perk up if they hear the word “reward” or “prize.” Make your classroom a wonderful learning environment by using a few well-timed incentives to keep your students focused and on track.