The Power of Random Reward in Your Classroom



Random reward is a huge motivator. It's why many adults play slot machines and why many children with inconsistent parents whine endlessly (because every so often, the parents gives in and they get what they want). If you reward a given behavior every time, your students are likely to get bored. Further, since you are rewarding often, the reward itself is probably not all that exciting.

Now imagine replacing the guaranteed reward with a random one. Students never know which time they perform the desired behavior will result in a reward. Further, the reward will be valued more because it is not constantly given. Here are some ideas for trying random reward in your classroom:
  • At a time when your class is getting a little squirrely, wander around with stickers, good-behavior certificates, candy, or whatever you are using and quietly place one on the desks of students who are on task. You could say something like, "Thank you for working quietly." It won't be long until your classroom is silent and everyone is on task. 

  • Every so often when your entire class has done something good (walked quietly back from a specialist, kept the noise level down when you were working with a small group etc.). Say something like, "Wow, I was so impressed with the way you.______, that I can't help but give you five extra minutes of recess today (or whatever your reward is)" 

  • I got this idea from Stephanie at Primary Possibilities and I think it is totally brilliant. Basically, you pick a Secret Student at the start of the day and put his or her name on a certificate like the one pictured below (which you can get for free by clicking here). Don't tell your students who the Secret Student is. At the end of the day, if the student had a good day, reveal his or her name to the class. He or she gets to take the certificate (and possibly a small prize) home. If not, don't reveal the child's name, just say that the Secret Student was not having a great day but maybe tomorrow will be better. You can learn more about how to do Secret Student and see some great pictures on the original post here.  

  • A mini-version of Secret Student would be to have your students' names on Popsicle sticks and to draw one or two out randomly throughout the day. If the student you draw is on task, they get a small reward. If not you just put the stick back without saying anything. 

When not to use Random Reward
I know that many teachers are fond of raffles, but I am not, especially in the younger grades. Usually, the way this works is that kids get tickets for good behavior that they put into a container and at the end of the day or the week the teacher draws one or more names and those kids get a special reward. Lady Luck is fickle and I have noticed that she often passes by the kids with lots of tickets in favor of the kid who only has one or two in the bin. This can be hard for little ones to deal with. Also, since the raffle takes place at a different time than the original good behaviors, there isn't really a direct link, making the whole system less effective.

Also remember that random reward can work to your disadvantage if you are inconsistent in your discipline. Don't train your students to repeat a bad behavior because they sometimes get away with it.

Looking for more classroom management? You can find 300+ ideas here.


How do you use random reward in your classroom? Please share with a comment. 

6 comments:

The O'Donnells said...

Love this! The science behind it is solid and personal experience endorses it as well :).

http://mrsodonnellsroom.blogspot.com/

Ramon Abajo said...

Thanks for sharing this.

Best,
Ramon
Fonts 4 Teachers
Fonts 4 Teachers in TPT

Beth Carlisle said...

When I taught regular third grade, I did this with stickers. Each child had a sticker book and I would randomly give stickers for good behaviors. Students never knew when to expect one and it only took opening my treasure chest for students who were off task to quickly get back on task. When students filled up their sticker book, there was a pre-determined prize or a choice of prizes. Everyone eventually filled the book, it just happened at different times. When it was full, I issued another one. This helped with responsibility as well. If they lost it, well...it wasn't good!

~HoJo~ said...

Great post! Another thing I would add is to not give out the reward if students ask/beg/whine for it. I do random rewards maybe 1-3 times a month, and sometimes my students ask for it. However, I simply tell them when they ask that now they have to wait even longer because I don't give out "asked rewards". They catch on by the end of September and quit. This strategy works great for me!

Unknown said...

Great advice! I´ll use it and see how it works and then tell you about it!

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