classroom rewards

Classroom Reward Systems: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

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Classroom reward systems evolve every couple of years, but one thing stays the same: prepping and managing some systems can be VERY difficult. Read on for the types of reward systems to try and the ones to stay far, far away from.

The Good

good classroom reward system

A good classroom reward system has a small number of moving parts. It can be prepped once a month, or even less. It should include ways to recognize individual students for meeting their goals (behavior and academic), but be easy to manage.

The best reward systems have away where the students can take ownership of the system.  I use brag tags in my classroom and my students cut tags out, punch them, and organize them. The only part I do is the laminating. They also know the procedures when they get a tag and everything is organized in the same way every time.

The Bad

classroom reward system too complex

Some classroom reward systems just plain don’t work for your students. One year I did a point system where I would give students individual points and then they could turn it in for prizes.

It didn’t work for us for several reasons:

  • I had to keep track of points. I had the kids keep track of their points as well, but I always had to have a record. Mine never seemed to even match theirs.
  • It disrupted class time. Even though it helped motivate students to other students get rewarded, it was only temporary motivation and the kids working hard would be distracted by it.
  • I had to buy prizes. This was expensive and involved a lot of shopping!
  • Some students never got close to earning a prize, and some got so many prizes that the points weren’t that special to them anymore.

The Downright Ugly

bad classroom reward system

The worst classroom reward systems are the ones with no buy-in. I used to use behavior clip charts and flip cards, but after a while my students stopped caring about them. The same kids were always moving their clip down or flipping their cards. It left little room for them to improve. It even sent some kids into a downward spiral from the first day they flipped that card to yellow or red.

Classroom reward systems should reward students for good acts, and allow all students to earn rewards for what each individual student is good at. It doesn’t have to be a physical reward – it can simply be praise. A good system does not tear students down.

Whatever classroom reward program you choose, remember to keep you and your students in mind. If it doesn’t work for everyone, it won’t be successful!


subject area brag tags
brag tags attitude and behavior
brag tags academic


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Written by
April Smith

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