Thursday, May 12, 2016

High School Student Rewards That Won't Cost You a Penny

Motivation. What motivates you as a teacher? What types of positive reinforcement would we, as teachers, love and appreciate in our school day? While it is simple for us to think about what would make us work to our highest ability as teachers, it is often more difficult to recognize some rewards and/or positive reinforcements for our high school students in our classrooms. Oh, and did I mention that these motivators had to be free? That's even more difficult! It's so easy to say to your students "Pizza party!" or "Gift cards for everyone!" or something else of monetary value. But honestly, who has that kind of money for each and every student? Nobody I know!

In order to find out what would make my students more motivated (and in order to save teachers a little extra $$$) I conducted a survey of approximately 130 high school students, ranging from grades 9 to 12. I asked them to provide two suggestions of rewards and motivators that they would love to receive from a teacher (keeping in mind it had to be free for everybody). I have compiled a list of the most popular ideas among the students. 

This is what they came up with:
  1. Movies: Kids love movie days! They will do anything to just sit back and watch a movie for a class period. 
  2. Games: The students suggested playing team-style games where the winning team receives extra points on an upcoming assignment or test. 
  3. Music: More than movies, kids LOVE music! Using their own headphones, they can listen to their favorite music, while working on an independent assignment or the class, as a whole, can make requests and listen to songs as they complete their work.
  4. Extra credit: You can determine how many points and on what assignment they can receive the extra credit. They will be grateful for anything!
  5. Homework pass: Provide students with a pass to skip a homework assignment. 
  6. Personal time: Give students 10-15 minutes at the end of a class to socialize, catch up on other homework or just to relax. 
  7. Drop the lowest test/quiz grade: Either for the marking period, semester or the year.
  8.  Test/quiz re-take: This one will surely be a motivator for anyone, especially those high-achievers!
  9.  Late assignment pass: Provide students with the opportunity to turn in one assignment late, but make sure it's ONE assignment and maybe only ONE day late! It's important that students continue to meet deadlines :) 
  10. Positive note to parents: A few of the students said seeking their parents' approval and showing them they are hard workers meant to much to them. I have definitely taken note to do this more often!
Well, there you go! A list of the most popular FREE rewards that you can give your students. They are absolutely doable and I hope you were able to take a few ideas away from the list. If you choose to implement these free rewards in your classroom, it's important to keep in mind to not over-do it! If you give reward after reward, pretty soon these special privileges will lose their value. Be mindful of the frequency you give out the rewards and of course, provide them to those students who truly deserve and have worked hard to earn the reward. As we come towards the end of the school year, I plan to test the rewards and see how the student's respond. I am excited to see their reactions! 

Can you think of any other free rewards that have worked well for your students? Post them in the comments!


  1. Replies
    1. Oh, that's an excellent idea!! Thanks for posting :)

    2. We have an end of quarter potluck. Our students love it. Granted, they are adult learners, but I think the concept could work for most ages.

  2. My daughter just said she earned an ask a question on a test. When she asked, the teacher pointed to the answer. Never had a happier kid! She wasn't expecting that.

  3. Love this list! Great idea to ask the kids!

    1. Thanks!! I hope to add more ideas as they come in!

  4. Love the idea of letting them listen to music while they work on an assignment! My best incentive: Seat Switch Coupon. For one class period, they can switch seats with anyone. These became GOLD among my students last year!!

  5. Even though they are high schoolers, my kids seem to love stickers! I only give them out on exceptional papers, but when they get one they start cheering. I can usually find really cheap ones, but sometimes I get freebies from charitable organizations and my teacher's association.

    1. I am also a fan of giving stickers!! They are never too old :) My students look forward to it too!

  6. My middle school business classes love stars. I divide the classes into groups and add stars to the groups chart for behavior, participation, assignments, group collaboration, etc. At the end of the week, I announce the star group! They earn some extra "chill time" at the end of the day. I found a Star emoji figurine that I am going to use this year as a trophy for the weekly "Star" group

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