I have used the following "ticket reward system" with my toughest middle school groups and it is remarkable how much it changed the dynamic of the class. 

The biggest reason I chose this system is because it helped ME change my own attitude. Those rough and tumble groups of middle school kids can be absolutely disheartening to a teacher and it is easy to become bitter when you constantly have to correct bad behavior. 

However, when I focused my mind and heart on noticing good behavior, it enabled me to develop a much better rapport with the kids. Having a positive relationship makes all the difference.

How it works: 

1. THE TICKET: a small slip of colored paper that the teacher quietly gives to a student who is:
  • following directions, 
  • sitting quietly, 
  • working quietly, 
  • listening respectfully, 
  • complementing others, etc. 
  • whatever behaviors the teacher values and wants to acknowledge.

The teacher doesn't have to say a word; s/he simply walks by the student's table and places the ticket in front of the student. There is no interruption of the flow of the lesson because this recognition is non-verbal.

2. The student who receives the ticket writes his/her name on it and puts it in a jar on the teacher's desk. (I had my students do this at the end of class - it was too disruptive for kids to get up in the middle of the lesson.)

 3. The teacher (without looking) draws one random name from the jar on Fridays and that student can pick out a "*prize." Most of the time the student with a lot of tickets in the jar wins the prize, but occasionally one of the kids who struggles the most with behavior will win. 

note; I separated the tickets from each class in a Ziplock baggie (you could also have a different jar for each class.)

4. THE PAYOFF: students are acknowledged non-verbally for good behavior and they are encouraged in the fact that the teacher noticed them doing well.

It really isn't about the prize - it is about kids getting noticed for doing right, not just when they misbehave. 

Also, I found that I didn't need to go overboard with handing out tickets to kids; one day I would hand out a bunch of tickets, and then I would only give out a couple of them for a few days. The times in my career when I needed to have this "token economy" were rare, and after a month or so it would be phased out. 

NOTE: research shows that when using a reward system of any kind, unpredictability is very important. If the kids are rewarded too much the system can backfire, drowning students' intrinsic motivation.


(idea from elementary art educator and art therapist Tarin Majure, MA, ATR)
Give & Take Rewards:
1. Each student is given 5 items, say paperclips, that are placed in front of them on the table.
2. During the course of the class a paperclip is removed any time a student exhibits unwanted behavior (be sure students are clear as to exactly what are unwanted behaviors).
3. Students who retain all of their paperclips receive a reward (a special free draw activity, a piece of candy, etc.)
* To really inspire students, use 3 - 5 pieces of candy and they get to keep the ones they don't lose.

Sharon Christman's reward system:
"Too often teachers spend time trying to correct the children and addressing negative behavior, wasting time and energy and making those who know how to behave feel they are just pushed back and not noticed.
I used a reward system when I taught Gifted Ed....Each child came into the room at the beginning of the day and picked up a paper cutout angel and would place it at their desk.  As the day progressed if they did something to lose their angel I would simply pass them and pick up their angel without losing the flow of the lesson.  There usually was no discussion as most knew why they had just lost their angel. Periodically I would give out extra angels for good, creative answers or someone who cleaned up an area without asking, etc. At the end of the day, those students who still had their angel were responsible for putting it in a safe place and after collecting 5 angels (5 weeks of class since they only came once a week) could trade it in for a small prize.  My favorite prize in the box was an assortment of fun rubber duckies that I ordered from Oriental Trading."

Note about elementary rewards:

Michael Linsin admits that elementary “specials” have a greater challenge due to seeing much higher numbers of students less often and there is not as much opportunity to develop “leverage.” 

Although he discourages rewarding good behavior, he admits that it can be beneficial for the elementary art classroom. He recommends that elementary art teachers set up whole-class reward systems. 

Also, he does not believe in tangible rewards at all, only intangible things such as “bragging rights” such as; “We have the best-behaved class this week,” etc.  

Check out this article at www.theartofed.com: 

"A Classroom Management Strategy Elementary Art Teachers Can't Live Without" 

*PRIZES - school supplies such as erasers and pencils, bouncy balls, miniature footballs/baseballs, etc., coupons/tickets allowing students to choose their seat for a day, no bell-ringer or homework for a day, etc. Also, a parent donated a large bin full of cute costume jewelry that I used for prizes in my middle school classroom.

this article was written by Mrs. Anna Nichols

note: The fabulous Amy Zschaber, author of www.artfulartsyamy.com, recently posted a wonderfully encouraging article for those of us whose "slump months" are in January and February: 



Lindsay said...

Interesting...what prizes do you give? Do you have art related prizes to give out to cut down on the extrinsic quality of the reward?


Hi, Lindsay!
This reward system is most definitely extrinsic, which is why I don't use it often. Research shows that extrinsic motivation is most effective when unpredictable and used rarely, i.e. a "surprise." Also, the effect fades the older the student gets, so I am not at all certain this idea would be effective with high school kids. I have experienced a few tough groups in middle school, when I found that I needed a morale boost and so did the students. The few times I have needed to use this reward system, it was phased out within a month or so. To answer your question about prizes, I have a few ideas listed at the bottom of the article. How do you motivate your students?