Prize-Free Management in the Classroom

Prize-Free Management in the Classroom

Ah, the ever so popular treasure box. Where teachers put random items they don't want anymore, free swag they received at professional development, and cheap dollar tree toys. In short, junk. These items then go home and find their way to the bottom of a drawer until they get thrown away or broken. Or, they remain in student desks, becoming toys and distractions all year. Rarely, a student plays with the item for a few weeks until it becomes lost, broken, or the child loses interest. 

It would be pretty cool if we got Target dollar tree items or some flair pens every time we taught a great lesson, but that's just not the case. In the real world we might get a little bit of praise, but that's about it. However, if we consistently teach well, we are trusted more, and get privileges such as being monitored less, becoming a mentor to other teachers or leadership opportunities, or are offered more desirable positions and have more opportunities for growth. 

Our incentives in the workforce come in the form of privileges, so if we are teaching students real-world skills, should we not do the same?

When we give students prizes as incentives, it sends the message that they deserve extrinsic rewards for behaving as they probably should anyway. If we instead give students opportunities and experiences when they are doing what they should, we send the message that performing and behaving positively will open up doors for them.

Instead of tangible rewards, I give students coupons allowing them to receive certain privileges. For example, students can choose to sit at the teacher's desk for the day, to exchange jobs with another student, to eat lunch in the classroom, or to opt out of one of their literacy centers for the day and read instead. The students love choosing their privilege, especially love the ones they can share with their friends.

To manage my coupons, I store them in a binder to keep everything organized and make it easy for students to flip through and pick which one they want. Each coupon is in a separate sheet protector page with a label so they can easily be put away properly. When I first started using coupons in my classroom, I had a small issue with students being dishonest about their coupons, taking them without asking, or genuinely losing them. To solve this problem, when students choose their coupon, I write their name on the back of the (laminated) coupon in Sharpie. Once it is redeemed, I erase the name by writing over it with a dry-erase marker and wiping it off, then replace it in the binder.

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You can find my classroom coupons and binder in my Teachers Pay Teachers store by clicking HERE!

What are your thoughts on prizes in the classroom? How do you reward your students?

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