Individual student recognition is great, but there will always be students who have difficulty earning even a small amount of positive reinforcement. A whole class reward system can be the answer to turning your classroom management around when you need a change. It gets your entire class involved to work towards a special treat and can help build classroom community.
Why Use a Whole Class Reward System?
I am not saying that students should be rewarded for everything they do. However, using a whole class reward system can help your class work towards reaching collaborative goals, such as lining up quietly, receiving a class compliment, or having positive behavior in the lunchroom.
Using a whole class reward system doesn’t focus on individual student behaviors. Those students who have behaviors that make you feel crazy know that they’re challenging. They’ve probably been “the problem child” every year in school. Focusing on the whole class working together collectively rather than individual student behavior can make this student feel like a part of a team.
Rewards are achieved through whole class participation and encourage positive behavior overall. It’s important to note here that this will bring out your natural born leaders, who may take it upon themselves to tell others what to do. That’s not the point, so it should be discussed how students can kindly encourage others to contribute to the success of the class.
A classroom reward system is collaborative and teaches teamwork. This is truly a life skill that students need to learn early on because they’ll be working with others in all capacities. Your students will celebrate, grow, and learn together when there is a common goal.
It reinforces that actions affect others. This can be tricky because students with challenging behavior shouldn’t be the scapegoat who “ruins it for everyone.” If a student needs to be talked to one-on-one, then it should be handled that way. A student should never be used as an example in front of the class regarding misbehavior. Working towards a common goal as a class teaches students how their actions can affect others, either positively or negatively.
How to Start Using a Whole Class Reward System
First, decide what type of “token” your students will earn and how you will run the reward system.
- Will they earn letters, points, marbles in a jar, etc.?
- Are they only earning tokens or also losing them as a consequence? I prefer only to use positive reinforcement and not take away from what has been earned. If you will deduct for misbehavior, make that clear upfront.
- What will the end reward be?
Next, decide on behavior that will earn a token. Outline and model how they can achieve this goal behavior. It must be an action that all students are realistically capable of doing. For example, quietly walking through the hallway, good behavior in the lunchroom or at specials, class compliments, etc. What does this behavior look like to earn a token?
Praise positive whole class behaviors when they happen. Students will begin to see the pattern of good choices and behavior and want to continue the pattern.
Finally, be clear about the reward system upfront. Set boundaries for what counts toward receiving a token and what doesn’t. Let students know they won’t get a token if they ask for it and that it has to be given by you.
Whole Class Reward Ideas
Whole class rewards can be as simple as a homework pass for all students or something bigger like a popcorn party. Here are some examples that I’ve used in my own classroom.
- Popcorn Party
- Ice Cream
- Extra Recess
- Board Games
- Dance Party
- Lunch in Class
- Free Time
- Homework Pass
- Show & Tell
- Class Money
- Art Activity
- Prize Box
- Piece of Candy
Mystery Word Whole Class Reward
The game-lover in me decided to create a mystery reward system in my classroom. My class earned letters to reveal the prize underneath gradually. It was a huge hit!
Ways I’ve Used This Resource
- Wheel of Fortune style where I’d have a random student pick a letter, and it would be revealed if it was part of the word
- In order, starting at the beginning, revealing one letter at a time
- Mixed them up and revealed one at a time, having the class unscramble all of the letters at the end
There are lots of ways to “play”!
Mystery Word Whole Class Rewards
Using Mystery Word Whole Class Rewards is a fun classroom management tool. This is an easy way to motivate your class to work towards a goal together!
You choose the prize you want your students to work towards, and they earn the letters to reveal their prize. Students at any elementary grade level will love this new spin on a whole class reward system!
What Some Teachers Have Said About My Whole Class Rewards
Exactly what I needed to switch things up in my classroom when they needed something new! Thank you! They were engaged and got them listening again… haha!– Erin S., 4th grade teacher
My students loved these! They like being able to guess them before we flipped over all of our letters. Such a great way to do a whole class reward.– Nicole K., 3rd grade teacher
My students are so excited to earn letters and guess the mystery word. I love that it has a lot of different choices to choose from. You don’t even have to print them all off, you could just print the letters you need and reuse to save on colored ink. Great resource!– Jill B., 5th grade teacher