How to Use a Reward System in the Classroom

I have never been a fan of using rewards systems in the classroom. I’ve tried them out but have found that they are just simply too much work. It’s difficult to keep tabs on every student in the class and assign points effectively.

This year, I changed my stance a little. I started a reward system for three students in my class who could really use the extra motivation. And so far, it is working wonders. I like the fact that I don’t have to track every student. It makes it much more manageable for me and meaningful for the few students who need it.

I am currently reading

Will-My-Kid-Grow-Out-of-It-Book

Will My Kid Grow Out of It? by Bonny J. Forrest.

This is what she has to say about using reward systems.

It works for some students

Children with ADHD tend to respond well to reward systems, but only if they are well designed in the ways I will describe.

The reward can be anything

The reward can be anything—within reason—that will motivate her in the short term, such as allowing an extra half hour of TV or playing a video game.

Tailor the reward to the student

Rewards should always be keyed to what your child likes. Be creative. You can rotate different types of rewards and tailor them to your child.

Here are some other tips for designing a rewards system:

  • Give points for simple behaviors, even if other children don’t need rewards to behave in those ways. Good examples are responding happily to a change in plans or asking for something in a respectful tone as opposed to having a meltdown.
  • Try to avoid rewards of food or expensive items. Food should be less about comfort and more about nutrition.
  • Small rewards earned in the short term tend to work better than large rewards offered in the long term. I often give a small reward for three point of a possible total of five in a day. In addition, you can give the child cumulative point for specific behaviors. As a child accumulates the points, she can use them for larger tangible rewards, such as a special book or more daily time on the computer.
  • Be consistent and follow through with rules and expectations. Children with ADHD respond to disappointment with much greater frustration than others. That response is part of their makeup, not something they should be blamed for—though they can learn to control it.

How parents can help . . .

Parents should also be on the lookout for physical activities—such as tennis or swimming or martial arts—that hold their attention and don’t provide downtime for the mind to wander.

What I am doing this year

I am using a reward system with three of my students. They earn stars in their planner for each block of the day. They can earn two stars in each block for a total of six stars a day. The parents are being supportive and offering rewards and consequences at home. These are keyed to the specific interests of the child too. It is working quite well so far.

What reward system do you use? 

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