The Art of Rewarding Good Behavior for Effective Classroom Management

By Margie

Part 3 of a 5 part series focusing on successful classroom management. This article focuses on the use of rewards in the classroom.

The goal for most teachers and parents is to teach and raise children that are intrinsically motivated.That is, motivated by internal factors.Students who are intrinsically motivated want to succeed because it makes them feel good, not because their teacher is going give them a sticker.While this comes naturally to many students, it does not come so naturally to others.So, we sometimes replace intrinsic motivation with extrinsic motivation.Extrinsic motivation comes from somewhere or someone else, and involves rewards, such as the sticker I just mentioned.Students that are extrinsically motivated want to do well so they can get that sticker or so they will not be grounded on Friday night.

Most students, like people everywhere, are motivated by a mixture of the two.Most people want to do well because they like the sense of pride that goes along with success, but they also enjoy recognition for their efforts.Who doesn’t enjoy a Christmas bonus as a reward for a job well done?(Not that we teachers can expect a bonus, but we can always dream, can’t we?)If you turn it around and think about your students, what student wouldn’t enjoy a reward for a job well done?

When determining my classroom management plan for the year, I focus on building responsibility in my students. I know that responsible students are usually well-behaved students, so responsibility is a trait that gets rewarded in my room.Some examples of things that may get rewarded are bringing in completed homework, talking quietly and respectfully during group discussions, and being on time for class.I usually reward these behaviors quite frequently at the beginning of the year, and reward them less and less as the year progresses.I have found that if I over-reward my students, they come to expect rewards for almost everything they do, which is certainly not a lesson I want to teach my them, since my goal is to help my students become as intrinsically motivated as possible.I have found that starting out the year with many rewards and gradually decreasing them helps me accomplish this.

The older students are, the longer they can go between performing the behavior and receiving their reward.Kindergarteners may not be able to wait until Friday to receive their reward for good behavior, while my seventh graders usually can.This holds true with students with behavior problems as well.I have found that when trying to modify a challenging student’s behavior, I must reward good behavior quite frequently at first.As the student starts to have some success, I can reward less and less often, until hopefully they are behaving in an appropriate manner.

There are many types of rewards that can be given, but following are some that I have used successfully in the past:

  • a walk around the school
  • extra computer time
  • run an errand for me
  • radio time (This is a whole class reward, I’ll turn on the radio for a little while and let them listen.)

I have always had more success with non-tangible rewards such as the ones above, but many teachers rely on stickers, pencils, candy, (if your school allows it) and small items such as these. For more ideas on using rewards in your classroom, The University of Connecticut has some valuable information. Read more about it here.

Overall, I have found that rewarding good behavior helps with my classroom management.I have also found that it is a balancing act that I must be careful when using.There is a point where it is easy to go too far, and reward so much and so often that rewards lose their value, but there are also times when students need to know I value their efforts.