Have You Tried the “Mystery Reward” With Your Students Yet?

The peeling off is just so satisfying!

Sticky notes covering a mystery reward with text 'Make positive choices to reveal the reward'

I know there’s some debate over whether classroom rewards are really the right way to go. But I also know that 1) most teachers are still using them, and 2) sometimes, as a teacher, you have to use every trick in your bag. I, for one, believe that when done right, whole-class reward systems like this are a great way to build a sense of classroom community, encourage teamwork, and nurture an overall feeling of belonging for your students. That’s why I was excited to see this fun spin on whole-class rewards: Meet the mystery reward!

How does the mystery reward work?

We first saw the mystery reward in action thanks to Amanda at @iteachspecialedtoo. Amanda is a second- and third-grade special education teacher and used this as her whole-class reward strategy last year. She picks a reward for the entire class and writes it on chart paper. Then, she writes positive behaviors on sticky notes and covers the mystery reward. When the class demonstrates each behavior, she pulls off that note until the mystery reward is revealed!

Chart paper with sticky notes and title 'Mystery Reward'

Image source: @iteachspecialedteo

What should I use as my reward?

Amanda suggests “movie day, extra outside time, homework pass for the whole class, prize box for everyone, etc.” Personally, I prefer to give privileges (sit wherever you want at lunch) or experiences (a class “read-in” in pajamas!), but it’s really up to you!

What are some behaviors I can put on notes?

In the example, you can see ideas like “everyone is reading quietly” and “all laptops are charged.” Here are some other whole-class behaviors to choose from, but you can pick whatever behaviors you want to encourage in your own classroom:

  • Transitioning or cleaning up successfully in a set period of time
  • Full participation in a class activity
  • Correctly following safety protocols during a drill
  • Returning all library books
  • Coats, backpacks, and lunch boxes safely stowed away

What else do I need to know?


You can get extra creative with this one by making your mystery reward a fun shape. For example, Amanda made hers into a bucket at the end of last year as a nod to the approaching summer break.

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Have You Tried the "Mystery Reward" With Your Students Yet?