PART 2: Why I say No to rewards

1 Feb

My post, Why I say No to Rewards generated some questions from my readers (YAY!) so I thought it was worth while posting a Part 2 to explain some points in further detail.  This is a tricky thing to explain well (if only we could all just visit each other’s classrooms to get a true sense of what is going on) but I will do my best and please remember this all depends very much on  your teaching style, classroom culture and individual students in your class.


Did your class ever ask why the other classes were getting rewards and they weren’t?

My class last year never seemed to notice that we didn’t do rewards.  I never made a big deal about it and there was never a ‘we don’t do rewards in this class’ speech so I suppose it didn’t occur to them to wonder about it.  Even after having relief teachers who did use rewards, students didn’t ask why things were different.  Maybe in a context where the whole school approach had a heavier focus on rewards it would be more difficult to do things against the grain.

How do you handle negative behaviour in a class like this?
  • I praise behaviour which meets our class expectations explicitly and often, including details about why that behaviour is helping to support our positive environment
  • I give regular whole class reminders (their first “warning”) about expectations relating to specific kinds of activities (ie. whole class floor time, small group work, independent activity, combined 1/2 events etc)
  • A second warning (a reminder of expectations) is given if necessary and this is often combined with asking the student to move to a place where they believe they can successfully meet expectations
  • When a third warning is given, the student is placed in another classroom or away from the class to finish their work and consider how they can meet the class expectations when they return
  • If an issue occurs on the playground or is dealt with by another teacher we sit as a class and use circle time to help us to problem solve and find alternative strategies for dealing with such issues and ways that we can support others to meet these expectations
  • I also put in place strategies for individual students if necessary, these include social stories, successful behaviour photos on their desks and spending time with students to discuss their behaviour and ways that they can restore the supportive environment

Do you give out stickers and stamps when marking student’s work?

I do use stickers and stamps to indicate when students have produced high quality work – this is usually in conference with the student; discussing with me how they know they have met our success criteria and what they could do to improve their work in the future.  This relates to individual goals set for the student and the aspects of our success criteria that they have been focusing on – so their work may have spelling mistakes but if our focus is on punctuation and the student has correctly used punctuation, they have achieved quality work.  I also use a strategy that a wonderful teacher shared with me (Thanks AH): I write a strength of the students work (this is very specific and targeted towards our class focus as well as individual learning goals) and then an area for development.  I workshop the area for development with the student – having them share with me what they believe to be the area that they could improve upon.  At times I also give students a few star stickers to use independently to mark their own quality work – self assessing against the success criteria and their understanding of their own learning goals.  The use of explicit success criteria, formed as a whole class, support students in reflecting on their work in a constructive way.

Final Thoughts

Having just completed my first year of teaching I have only had one opportunity to put into practice my thinking in this area.  I look forward to beginning a new year, with new students and new challenges from which many new questions will arise for me.  Whilst I do feel determined to stick to my beliefs about nurturing resilience, thoughtfulness and intrinsic motivation I am still learning how I can do this best and how I can be flexible in how I cater for the children in this class who do not find this environment as supportive.


3 Responses to “PART 2: Why I say No to rewards”

  1. Mel the Literacy Coach February 1, 2014 at 9:40 am #

    HI Sammi,
    It seems to me that you have thought a lot about this and you are implementing some of the best advice in both quality teaching/learning and behaviour management. I would love to see you in action with your students. While it is important to have a personal policy on ‘rewards’ or behaviour management, I think it is even more vital to be open to new practices and be able to adjust your practices to suit the students in your class. I have worked with year 1 and 2 students as well as year 8 and 9 students. I would be interested to see how students see the behaviour plan in your classroom and compare it with how year 8 students react to the same process. I might have a conversation with my year 8’s next week and see what they say.
    Good on you for making a decision on behaviour management so early in your career and sticking to it. Some posts that have scripts (of real conversations that you have during circle time or when discussing success criteria with your kids) might be really helpful for your readers to get a better picture of how things work in your classroom.
    Thanks for sharing this with us! 😀

    • Mrs Wansink February 1, 2014 at 9:48 am #

      Hi Mel,

      I too have been wondering what it might look like in different areas of a school, particularly with older students. A colleague and I have been discussing whether a consistent approach like this throughout the early years and then on to higher years of schooling would make the approach more effective for older kids. It would be wonderful to have the opportunity to follow a group of students over a number of years using this approach and compare them to peers in rewards based classrooms.
      I believe this year will definitely provide me with opportunities to modify my practice to suit my diverse range of students better and I look forward to continuing to hear from other professionals about what they have experienced. I think opt here is so much potential for deep discussion around this with older students. I’d love to hear how your conversation goes and what they thought.
      Oooh, I hadn’t thought of posting some scripts – that is a fantastic idea! I might try and record some this week as my class begins to set up our expectations and criteria for a successful and positive environment. Thanks for the idea 🙂
      All the best for your beginning of the year time with your students 🙂


    • Mrs Wansink February 1, 2014 at 9:50 am #

      Mel, I was also thinking…perhaps if you do have a conversation with your students about this you could write a guest post for me about what you discovered and your thoughts on the topic? 🙂

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