Should teachers use rewards in the classroom? There’s a lot of debate in the online teacher community about rewarding students for behaviors. Some believe students shouldn’t be rewarded for something they are expected to do. Some say we should only focus on intrinsic rewards and not extrinsic rewards.
My opinion on rewards in the classroom
I personally believe intrinsic motivation only comes from within and is not affected by others. Unless I personally decide it, no teacher, coach, friend, or parent can make me decide differently.
I also believe that extrinsic rewards are a part of life. Getting a paycheck for the job I do is rewarding. I feel accomplished when I check something off my to-do list. Rewarding myself with a Starbucks or pedicure at the end of a long week is one of my favorites! I am motivated by rewards! And what motivates me, may not motivate you.
I personally think that’s where teachers get confused. Because what works for one teacher may not work for another. What works for one class may not work for another. What works for one student may not work for another. Different people are motivated in different ways.
This is why it’s important to get to know your students because once you figure out what motivates them…then you can really make some progress.
Why have rewards in the classroom?
Students love working toward a goal and there are many ways to reward students for reaching that goal. A good place to start is if your students are struggling with completing a routine or procedure accurately, they can set that as their goal.
I like to use the goal-setting formula “From X to Y by When”. X represents the current state, Y represents the intended outcome, and When is the time frame. So, for example, if my students are struggling with transition times our goal could be “We will decrease our transition speed from 5 minutes to 2 minutes by the end of October.” Now students have a clear goal of what they are working toward. Goals can be a whole class, group, or individual goals.
Three Types of Rewards
You also want to think about how you will reward students for achieving their goals. Here are just a few ideas I use:
Extra Recess, No Homework, 5-minute Dance Party
Trophy to Display at Table, Special Seating
Free Time, Visit Another Teacher, Positive Note Home