Ways to Encourage Good Behavior, Without Junky Prizes or Sugary Treats

These fun ideas will have your students doing a happy dance!

Still of Charlie Brown kids

Looking for creative ways to reward positive classroom behavior? So was primary teacher JL when she wrote in with this question:

“In previous years I have rewarded my students with special recognition for positive classroom behavior. This year, however, my students are expressing a strong expectation to be given something tangible instead (treats and goodies). I want them to learn to do the right thing for the sake of being a quality person, not just for something in return. I would love to hear thoughts and ideas about how to handle this.”

The experienced teachers in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE! group on Facebook encouraged JL to stick to her values and stay away from the tangible goods. They also offered up some fresh ways to offer recognition that students could get excited about.

1. Reward them with Smart Beads.

First grade teacher Dianne R. loves to motivate/celebrate her students and the hard work they do each day with simple, inexpensive Mardi Gras beads she has cleverly rebranded as Smart Beads. In her words they have become quite the “hot commodity.” Students who show “best brain building behaviors” in class and provide “super smart” answers during classroom instruction get to pick their choice of shiny bling to wear for the rest of the day. 

Are you looking for a fun, cheap, and easy idea for positive reinforcement to use in your classroom? Your students will love earning smart bead rewards!

SOURCE: Spreading Joy One Giggle at a Time

2. Use coupons.


Beth F. wants her students to understand the difference between prize and privilege. “I want them to be able to distinguish between the two and associate privileges with a rewarding feeling,” she says, “because it feels good when we get to do something special, right? So she came up with these colorful coupons. Click the link below to check out her ideas or buy a set of your own. And for even more ideas check out Teaching in the Fast Lane

Need a classroom management system that motivates your students, but doesn’t cost a lot? Academic optimism is the secret ingredient to student motivation. Reward coupons are just one way I keep positivity thriving in my classroom!

SOURCE:  Adventures of a Schoolmarm 


3. Enlist the help of a special stuffy.

Danielle K. has a special stuffed animal that serves as the class mascot. Whenever she wants to reward hard work from one of her students, she wordlessly sets the stuffy on their desk. “The surprised looks of pride they give me once they realize they’ve gotten it shows that it is definitely a meaningful reward,” she tells us. “I also think it motivates the learners around them as their focus also seems to increase.”

reward good behavior

Image source

4. Collect warm fuzzies.

Teacher Carolyn H. uses a jar of warm fuzzies to reward acts of kindness in her classroom. Each child in her class get their own bucket made out of a red Solo cup with a white pipe cleaner attached as a handle. Whenever a student does something kind, he or she is rewarded with a fuzzy pom-pom (from another student or the teacher). When a child’s bucket is filled up to the top the class applauds and the student gets to dump it into the class bucket (a plastic beach bucket). When the beach bucket is full the whole class gets a reward. For more information, check out this lesson from A Love For Teaching.

SOURCE:  A Love For Teaching

5. Give them pride buttons.

Create a supply of colorful “Ask me” plastic buttons for students to wear for the day when they make a good choice or do awesome work in class. They will be filled with pride when they get to tell their story, and other kids will be motivated to earn one for themselves.

Rewarding good behavior

SOURCE: Entirely Elementary

6. Pass out the  punch cards.

Teacher Stacey M. uses a punch card system tied to independent work completion. Each student gets his or her own card, and when all of the stars have been punched, they earn a personal privilege like an extra trip to the library or a homework pass. You can tailor the focus of your class’s card to suit your needs. This blog from Mrs. Richardson’s Class demonstrates how to use it for positive behavior support.

SOURCE Mrs. Richardson’s Class

7. Create Kindness Rocks.

Elizabeth D. was inspired by the Kindness Rocks Project  and suggests, “What about using kindness rocks? The kids could paint them and write on them, then hide their rock outside the school for someone else to find!”  For a short tutorial video, check out this article on WeAreTeachers.

8. Snap a silly photo.

When one of her students does a really great job in class, Jonalene L. rewards them by posing for a goofy picture with them. “I Snapchat a shot with my kiddos,” she tells us, “and send it to their parents on Class Dojo.”  Looks like she’s not the only one with the idea. Check out these silly shots from Instagram.

Still of Instragram rozaleen86 post of silly photo with students

Source: @rozaleen86

9. Give them high fives.

Kristen B. has a classroom door covered with high fives. Whenever she witnesses a random act of kindness, she hands the student a “high five” printout. The “kindness receiver” writes the name of the kindness “giver” on the handprint then Kristen hangs them up for everyone to admire. This is also a great concept to reinforce hard work, good behavior or extra effort.

SOURCE SimplifyingRadicals

10. Use brag tags.

Teachers swear by the positive effects of using brag tags in their classroom.  Described as a “behavior management tool that allows (teachers) to quickly and easily recognize, encourage, and reward positive behavior and student effort”, they are said to motivate students to make good choices. Read more about why to use them and how to use them in this article from Primarily Speaking.

SOURCE PrimarilySpeaking

11. Send home a star note.

“I teach pre-kindergarten and if I see a child or group of kids doing exceptionally well sharing, being kind, or helping,” teacher Jinesa A. tells us, “I write a “Star Note.” A star note is a little postcard sent home with a child to share good news with their parents. Here is a free download of the star pattern from TeachNet below, or feel free create your own!


12. Catch them being awesome!

Elise M. shares a system that works wonders in her classroom: “I use a ticket system where I give students a ticket when I see them doing something exceptional, being kind, or being a good role model. They write their name on the ticket and put it in our “Caught Being Awesome” jar. Once the jar is full they get an incentive: extra recess, popcorn party, etc.. They also get their tickets back at the end so they can remember the things they did to contribute to the class. It works well and requires minimal effort on my part.”

rewarding good behavior

image source

Teachers, what works for you? Do you have a unique, effective way of rewarding positive behavior in your classroom? Come share on our WeAreTeacher HELPLINE! group on Facebook. 

Also, check out our free January Brain Breaks printable calendar for your classroom. 

Ways to Encourage Good Behavior, Without Junky Prizes or Sugary Treats