Ways to Encourage Good Behavior, Without the Prizes or Treats

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

Looking for creative ways to reward positive classroom behavior without having to resort to junky prizes? So was this teacher 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 Facebook group 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. Give them 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 ALoveForTeaching.

SOURCE: ALoveForTeaching


2. 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.

SOURCE: StickersandStaples


3. 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 MrsRichardsonsClass demonstrates how to use it for positive behavior support.

SOURCE Mrs. Richardsons Class


4. Give them 31 days of ideas.

“I teach high school, and a few years ago I started a Kindness Calendar for our school,” Jen J. tells us. “Each month a different student group comes up with ideas and fills in the calendar. Then it’s emailed to all the teachers to put in their classrooms. It’s a great way to help students feel ownership without tangible rewards.”

SOURCE: Mrs.Johnston


5. 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.


6. 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.

#mybabies #sillyteacher #letslearn

A post shared by Karol Almeida. (@k_karolalmeida) on



7. 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


8. 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


9. 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 below, or feel free create your own!



10. 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.”

For free downloadable reward coupons, click here.

Teachers, what works for you? Do you have a unique, effective way of rewarding positive behavior in your classroom? Share in the comments section below!


Posted by Elizabeth Mulvahill

Elizabeth Mulvahill is a passionate teacher, writer and mom who loves learning new things, traveling the globe and everything Zen.

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