Creating a group reward system can be a great way to motivate a classroom or group. Here is how to set up a successful classroom or group motivation system. The more student involvement and input you have in the process the better!
Group reward systems work best when there are clear parameters. All students and the teacher should know what they need to do in order to earn the reward. Establishing something as a group is the best way to generate a goal that students will buy into. Allow students to voice their concerns about problem areas or what the class could do better.
Having three to five clear expectations can help you narrow an area on which to work. If the classroom rules are “be ready,” “be respectful,” and “be responsible,” the class could choose one of the rules and identify a specific area under that rule to work on. For example, the class could pick “be ready,” but focus specifically on being prepared for class to start by having all of their materials every day.
Rewards do not have to be a pizza party or a classroom celebration. Rewards can be very simple things. Some examples of free and easy rewards include 15 minutes of extra computer time, 15 minutes of free time during the day, a no homework pass, and lunch in the classroom with the teacher.
Intervention Central has tons of ideas for free and low-cost incentives for classrooms.
What Students Want
A really easy way to find out what students will be willing to work for is to ask. You can brainstorm as a class to get ideas of things students would like. You can also share some of your suggestions with the group to gauge students’ interest. After brainstorming, give students a simple survey or have them write three things they would like to receive as a class reward. You can use your data to determine your rewards.
Make It a Mystery
Making the reward a mystery is a great way to increase student buy-in. Sometimes if a student doesn’t want the reward they will not be willing to work for it and may even sabotage the group’s efforts. By making the reward a mystery, there is a chance that it is something each student would enjoy. Students may be willing to work for the prize just to find out what the reward is.
There are many ways to keep track of students’ progress toward a classroom goal. I recommend creating a visual tracking method that all students can see. Some suggestions include:
- Marble Jar: Allow students to put a marble in a jar each time you “catch” one of them working toward the goal. When the jar is filled, the class gets the reward.
- Paper Chain: Using strips of paper, create chain links. Attach one link to the ceiling or somewhere high in the classroom. Each time a student is caught displaying the desired behavior, the kids can add a link to the chain. Once the chain touches the floor, the class gets a reward.
- Group Puzzle: Print out a picture of something your class likes or something in the theme of one of your units, and cut it into pieces. Each time a student is caught working toward the goal, the class can put a piece of the puzzle up. Once the puzzle is complete, the students earn the reward.
When the class meets the goal, make sure you reward the behavior as soon as possible. Students will easily lose interest if you do not hold up your end of the agreement. When you see that students are getting close to the goal, start planning how you will execute the reward. Pick the reward before students start working on the goal. If you are making the reward a mystery, picking the reward ahead of time will allow you to plan. Have a conversation with students about how they met the goal. After the reward is over, come up with a new goal as a group and re-start your tracking system.
Group incentives are a great way to motivate students. Group incentives can be used with students in K–12 and beyond. They also work great for faculty and staff.
How will you use group motivators? Have you ever used a mystery motivator with a group? What free and inexpensive rewards have you given to a class or group?
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