Everyone likes a nice reward once in awhile, including kids. While they certainly can be overdone, rewards often offer a nice motivation for kids as well as boost classroom morale. Sounds like a win win to me. Of course, as Children’s Ministry workers (and teachers!), we often work on a shoe string budget, so I thought I’d provide a few no cost and low cost rewards to get you headed in the right direction.
If you’re just tuning in for the first time, this post is part of a Classroom Management series. You can check out all the posts in the series below.
Onto the Rewards!
No Cost Rewards
Trying to motivate kids to bring their Bibles to class, I began to pass out smarties if kids showed up with Scripture in hand. Then, since I already had the bucket of sugary sweets nearby, I started throwing out candy for correct answers and other positive behavior. Before long, I was beginning to feel like Willie Wonka! Candy was flying everywhere and I’m sure the parents weren’t especially pleased with my reward system. I needed to find something that would still be motivating to students without breaking the bank or rotting their teeth. Here’s a few ideas I discovered.
In the book, Classroom Discipline Problem Solver, George Watson provides two pages of what he calls “Pun tickets”. Tickets praised students in a punny way. Here are few examples:
- ____________ is a real jewel. This student’s work is precious (picture of a diamond ring)
- ____________ gets to the root of the matter. This student digs deep for answers (shovel)
- _______________ is right on track. I like this student’s train of thought (train).
Students are given pun tickets to recognize excellent work or service. Kids get a kick out of them and they don’t cost anything if you print them at church. Parents also love hearing that their child has behaved well in class. It’s a win-win with no cavities to fill.
Melanie, operator of Seusstastic Classroom Inspirations blog, took this idea up a notch with her beautiful classroom coupons. You can check them out at her blog and purchase them at Teachers Pay Teachers ($8.50) Not all the coupons are applicable for church, but there are plenty to choose from. Read this post to see how she uses them in her classroom with great success.
More Ideas for Non-candy Rewards
- Sit at the teacher’s desk
- Write on the board
- Line leader
- Give child a stamp on the hand for a job well done
- Operate the projector
- Bring a stuffed animal to class
- Be the first to get snack
Low Cost Rewards
There is something about stickers that makes everyone happy. If you want to give stickers to kids without actually passing them out during class, design a sticker grid on poster board with one name in each square. Decide ahead of time what earns kids a sticker and post the “sticker opportunities” next to the grid. For example, kids could earn a sticker for bringing their Bible, raising their hands, or answering a question. At the end of the day or month, you could cut the grid apart and send everyone home with their sticker collection.
Team Points Stickers
When kids come into the room, explain that they will be earning points for the day in a boy vs. girl system (or whatever team configuration you appoint). Decide ahead of time what kind of things earn points. You could even assign different point values for different actions – but be careful not to complicate things too much. You still have to teach! Keep track of points at your desk or podium, without showing kids the scorecard. You might announce halfway through the teaching time what the score is, but don’t allow kids to ask about the score throughout the class time. At the end of the day, declare a winner. Everyone on that team gets to pick out a sticker or gets a stamp on the hand on their way out the door.
Here’s a fun one. Gather up all the random stuff laying around your office and put in a decorated box. You know what I’m talking about. The 12 glow sticks left over from the Halloween Block Party. The 6 sheep headbands you bought for Christmas that you know you’ll never use again. The 4,000 Scripture pencils you bought to qualify for free shipping on your Christian Book Distributers order. Call the box “The Treasure Box” and hand out the contents as a reward for the kids. You might think the kids will scoff at this type of thing, but they will not. My husband once gave a youth group kid a cake mix box (because he neglected to buy a REAL prize) and they loved it! Clean up your office and make a kid happy all in one fell swoop. That’s what I call a win.
Working Towards a Goal
This summer, we wanted to encourage each kid to invite a friend. We told the kids if we reached a certain number of unique check-ins (via the KidCheck system), we would through a Jump Party, complete with Bounce Houses in the church gym. It was a little pricey, I’ll admit, but we did reach the goal and increased our average attendance by 20%. The kids (and parents) also said it was the best party ever and it was the easiest for me, so I’ll take it!
What About You?
What kind of reward system do you use with the kids in your class? Do you do prizes? Why or why not?