Ah, student incentives. I honestly cringe just hearing that phrase. I’m personally not a huge fan of using any kind of external incentive in my classroom management routine. But on top of that, it can be incredibly hard to manage and sometimes even expensive.
Unfortunately, it is inevitable that at some point in our teaching careers, we will need to give students a tangible reward for one reason or another. For this reason, I started using student reward coupons 3 years into my career. I couldn’t handle the treasure box – too many distracting trinkets lying around all the time. Plus, my wallet wasn’t such a fan either.
Student reward coupons were the perfect solution! There are so many reasons why I love them — and why my students love them too! I’ll share those reasons with you, and I hope it convinces you to give them a try!
Reason 1: Student Reward Coupons Aren’t Distracting
Student reward coupons are simply a small piece of paper. That’s it! And what’s distracting about a piece of paper?
As opposed to a treasure box, where students get some kind of fun knick-knack and then want to play with it all day long, reward coupons can go straight in their pocket or backpack. They aren’t fun to play with, and that’s one of the reasons that makes them so great.
HOWEVER, despite the fact that they aren’t fun to play with, the students love them just as much (or more) than a toy. More on that in reason #4.
Reason #2: No Extra Time or Effort From the Teacher Needed
Reason number two why student reward coupons are the best…they require almost no effort or time on the teacher’s part! All you have to do is print and cut, and hand them out to students as needed.
That’s it! No going to ten different stores, trying to restock your treasure box. It’s just. so. easy!
Reason #3: They’re FREE! (Or Cheap)
One of my favorite reasons for using student reward coupons is that they are easy on the wallet. You can either make your own for free, or purchase a cheap template that’s already made.
This is because reward coupons offer intangible prizes such as trading seats with another student, taking shoes off during class, or being the line leader for the day. These are special privileges for students that cost the teacher absolutely nothing.
Reason #4: Student Reward Coupons WORK
Students love reward coupons. I would say they love them even more than toys. Why? Because reward coupons celebrate student success with meaningful experiences. Toys lose their appeal after awhile, but the memories of an experience can last a lifetime.
In my experience, reward coupons are much more motivating to students than any treasure box item. It makes students feel so special when they are rewarded with special privileges such as eating lunch with their teacher or leading a show and tell time with the class.
The memories created from these special opportunities are more meaningful than any cheap toy could ever be. And, because students earned them, it makes it all that more special.
How I Use Student Reward Coupons
I’ve used these coupons for 3 years, and they have never lost their effectiveness. However, the way I’ve used them has changed from year to year. The most recent system I came up with I feel was the most effective. Remember that what works for me may not work in your classroom with your students, so please take what I share and adjust it to fit with your students.
My school’s discipline policy for the lower grades (Pre-K through 2nd) was to use a clip chart. There were 7 levels on the clip chart. Everyone started in the middle on “Ready to Learn.” From there, they could move up a max of 3 times, or down a max of 3 time.
I rewarded all students who landed anywhere above “Ready to Learn.” I created a simple Behavior Punch Card and gave one to each student. The punch card has the numbers 1-10 on the bottom. Each day, students who ended above “Ready to Learn” on the clip chart could bring me their card to get hole punched. I awarded one hole punch for moving up one space, two for moving up two spaces, and three for moving up three spaces.
Once a student had their punch card completed, they would get to pick a reward coupon. Then I would give them a new punch card, and the process would start over.
Coupons were the students’ responsibility. I did not replace lost coupons except in special circumstances. They had to have their coupon in order to claim their reward. And I never asked them when they wanted to use it – it was their responsibility to come to me to redeem it.
Storing Reward Coupons
At first, I stored my coupons in a folder inside pockets I made out of cardstock and sticky notes. Hey, I’m a teacher, and I was broke.
Eventually I upgraded to a plastic storage container with adjustable dividers. I was able to move the dividers around to be almost the perfect size for my coupons. This was in my pre-Cricut era, so I bought vinyl sticker letters and spelled out “Reward Coupons” on the box.
I stored the box on a low shelf and all my students knew it was there. Most of the time, when they showed me their filled up punch card, I just told them to go get themselves a coupon. I didn’t even have to mess with it. (And, I didn’t have any issues with kids taking more than they were supposed to. They respected the system!)
Reward Coupon Ideas
So, are you convinced to try student reward coupons yet? If so, here are some reward ideas to get you started! Remember, only do what works best for your classroom.
- Lunch with teacher (always a favorite in my room!)
- Teacher helper
- Line leader
- Shoes off
- Seat swap
- Show & tell
- Bring a toy/stuffed animal to class
- Extra snack time
- Positive note home
- Free choice center
- Extra technology time
- Homework pass
Of course, if you don’t want to entirely ditch the treasure box, you can always have that be a coupon option, as well!
I hope this has been helpful to you, and that you are ready to try out reward coupons now! I have several already made for you in my store for only $1 if you’d like to try them out. You can also get them as part of my behavior management bundle if you’re looking to totally revamp your behavior system! Click the images below to check out the products.