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.


Tips for completing your Proficient Portfolio

28 Jan

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New teachers will know all about the huge shadow that hangs over you during your first year or two of teaching – the shadow is also known as a Proficient Portfolio and takes up a great deal of thought and time in the early years of our careers.

My journey through my Proficient Portfolio was supported by a team of beautiful, experienced and encouraging colleagues who cheered me on, reflected with me and helped me to see evidence in my practice when I struggled to see past my doubt.

I wanted to share some tips for those of you about to embark on this journey.

Firstly, the Framework for Progression will quickly become your best friend.  It contains all of the information that you, your mentor and your supervisor should become familiar with regarding timelines, expectations and planning structures.

My second piece of advice seems to go against my very organised and forward planning nature… Don’t get ahead of yourself!  Whilst I planned my portfolio throughout the year I did not let it take up too much space.  I had to allow myself time to settle into teaching and the evidence unfolded naturally.  I documented it as it occurred but I did not spend hours labouring over evidence which wasn’t yet there.

TRUST THE PEOPLE WHO CARE ABOUT YOU – I can’t say this enough.  I hope that you are as blessed as I have been with the people around me; in my workplace and outside of school.  People who know and care about me and my passion for teaching.  These people reminded me of my impact on my students when I sat staring at a blank piece of paper.  These people celebrated my successes when I thought they were too small to count.  And these people cheered me on when I presented my portfolio (a thoroughly nerve wracking experience).  Trust these people!

Finally, less is more.  You are only allowed to have 6-10 pieces of evidence, each of these pieces may be made up of a number of artefacts which add to the big picture.  Once you get on a roll you will find oodles of pieces of evidence that could be used to demonstrate your proficiency in certain standards.  But less in more! You don’t need to include all of it, make things easier on yourself and select pieces of evidence that work across multiple standards.  When annotating you may feel like you’re repeating yourself but an interconnected portfolio is a good thing – embrace it!

If you have an online portfolio which you would like to share with us for inspiration please feel free to add the link to a comment or post it on the Teacher On Training Wheel’s facebook page.  Sharing is caring 🙂

The Liebster Award

24 Jan

The lovely Mel over at Mel the Literacy Coach has nominated me for a Liebster Award.  I was previously nominated by Paula at Paula’s Place but got so whisked away in school holidays that I neglected to post.  So I’m making up for that now.


I wanted to find out more about this award so of course ‘googled’ and this come up thanks to ‘we loved here’ – blog post
“The Liebster Award is given to up and coming bloggers who have less than 200 followers. So, what is a Liebster?  The meaning: Liebster is German and means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome. Isn’t that sweet? Blogging is about building a community and it’s a great way to connect with other bloggers and help spread the word about newer bloggers/blogs.” Ashley and Jason


(NOTE: There seem to be several version of these guidelines floating around…I am using those shared by the blog who most recently nominated me).

1. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog (help with the traffic flow).

2. Answer the 10 questions sent to you as part of the nomination.

3. Nominate 10 blogs with 200 followers or less (but other rules say up to 300).

4. Give your nominees 10 questions to answer.

1. Thank you

Thank you to Mel the Literacy Coach and Paula’s Place for nominating me.  Check out their Liebster Award posts and explore their blog while your there.

2. 10 Questions

From Mel the Literacy Coach

  1. How many people are living in your house?  Who are they?
    There are two people in my house: myself and my lovely husband of three years.
  2. Do you have any pets? Tell me about them.
    We have two turtles ( and ), a gorgeous cat called Alfie, a fighting fish ( ) and we are currently looking after a baby Galah who is yet to be named.
  3. What do you do when you are not blogging? (work or play)
    I am a primary school teacher, currently teaching year 1/2 at a public school in Canberra, Australia.  In my ‘playtime’ I love to bake, sew, gym and write lists.
  4. Did you have a favourite teacher? Tell me about them.
    I had two teachers for K-3 who I absolutely adored.  I can’t remember exactly what it was about them but I think I knew I was well-loved and well-known.  I also had a teacher when I was in college who I really appreciated – she was my maths teacher (maths was never a strength) and she was so patient and persistent with me, regardless of how many ways she had to explain things before they clicked for me.
  5. What is your favourite picture book? (every adult should have one, but if you have to – think back to when you were little)
    My favourite picture book at the moment (it changes) is Click, Clack, Mo0 – the Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin.
  6. What are you wearing right now?
    Khaki shorts, and a grey t-shirt (have been at school cleaning and organising my classroom).
  7. Where do you usually write your blog posts (in bed/ at a desk/ on the back porch etc)?
    On the lounge in front of the TV.
  8. No matter who we are, we all have a ‘go to’ movie.  We have a movie we watch when we are in bed with the flu, or we had a rough week and need to hide away.  We watch it on our holidays, just because we can and we can quote mundane dialogue from it. What’s your ‘go to’ movie and Why?
    Oooooh 🙂 My ‘go to’ movie is Much Ado About Nothing (1993).  I absolutely LOVE Shakespeare and I could watch this movie over and over.  It is full of such wit and sass but can also make me cry.  Tied for second to that is Dirty Dancing and P.S I Love You 🙂
  9. You learn something new everyday!  What have you learned this week?
    I have learned how to handle and train a Galah how to speak.
  10. Tell me a Joke!  It can be as silly as you like (Christmas Bon Bon Jokes are the best!) OR you can tell me a long serious story with a surprise punchline.  Just keep it clean.
    I’m terrible at jokes so here is one from a Bon Bon: What school subject are snakes best at? … Hisstory

3. Share the love – go and say Hi to these lovely people (Under 300 followers)

Love, Laughter and Learning in Prep

Olivia from Once Upon a Teacher

Susanne from Susanne Haake

Leah from Newbie Principal

Rebecca from Little Miss Michael

Paula from Paula’s Place

A Moment in Our World

Kylie from Miss Smartie Pants

Ashley from A Primary School Teacher

Hannah from Reflections of a Primary Teacher

4. 10 Questions for my Nominees

  1. How long have you been teaching for and in what schooling area/s?
  2. How do you unwind after a long week?
  3. What have  you found to be the most challenging aspect of teaching?
  4. What was your very first job?
  5. Did you have a nickname when you were at school? If yes, share it and the story behind it.
  6. What barriers get in the way of your blogging?
  7. If you were a character in a book, who would you want to be? Why?
  8. Name 3 of your favourite movies.
  9. What is your favourite ice-cream flavour?
  10. What advice would you like to give to teachers who are just starting out?

Why I say No to rewards

22 Jan

Recently I shared on my facebook page a post from Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension titled “Put Your Name on the Board – A Tale of Why I Gave Up Classroom Discipline Systems” and it got me thinking… At the end of last year, colleague offered me some bits and bobs to add to my ‘surprise box’ and was baffled when I responded with ‘no thanks, I don’t do rewards’.I'm not telling you it's going to be easyDuring courses at university it became evident that classroom behaviour management relies on students having a firm understanding of expectations and the consequences if expectations are not met.  Discussion around this topic often focused on preventative measures of behaviour management in the form of rewards systems; whole class and individual.  The idea behind these systems is to externally motivate students to work towards meeting expectations in order to gain something positive for themselves.  On professional experience placements I was confronted by students who did not respond to the sticker charts, table points or treat boxes according to the text book examples I had studied.  I saw children demonstrating whole body listening when I was holding a whiteboard marker (just in case table points where on offer) and then bickering and teasing when my back was turned.  I heard the words “I’m not picking that up, it’s not mine” until pack up time when the first group to clear up received bonus points.  I felt the disappointment of students who didn’t care about producing their best quality work and when provided with opportunities to improve, they simple shrugged and sighed ‘I never get any table points anyway’.  I was disheartened to say the least.

I became more and more unsettled with the idea of using such systems in my classroom.  I believe that teaching is preparing students to become active, effective, positive members of society; equipped with the skills to think laterally and creatively, work collaboratively and persist in problem solving when things get tough.  I thought, if these are the traits that I hope to see in these future adults, what can I do to nurture them in their childhood? I can believe in their ability to do their best, support them in making mistakes and developing resilience and nurture their desire to be a part of a caring, safe community.

It's ok to not know but it's not ok to not try

I want my students to realise that they have control of the learning environment that they participate in each and every day.  I want them to truly believe that the expectations we have agreed on together are there to protect them and help them be successful.  I want my class to feel empowered to make a difference in their own lives and the lives of their classmates.  I want them to be intrinsically motivated to do their best, be their best and push others to do the same.  How can I say that this is what I believe and expect of my students, and still provide superficial rewards ‘just in case’ my high expectations are not enough?  I can’t.  So, from the beginning of my first year of teaching I decided that I do not do rewards.

This is not to say that students in my class are never rewarded.  Not at all.  Rather, the kinds of rewards they experience are those they work to achieve for themselves.  Not every child is intrinsically motivated, nor does every child come from a background that values or models that kind of drive but I don’t believe that means I should lower my expectations of them.  How much more important it is for those children to have the opportunity to learn these skills!

These are some of the ways that I set my students up to experience success and create their own positive learning environment, sans stickers, points and prizes.

  • Providing consistent, explicit, high expectations for ALL students in regards to their behaviour and work ethic.
  • Modelling ways of supporting others to successfully meet expectations (We talk a lot about strengths and areas for development and how we can constructively share our observations of these with our peers).
  • Giving LOTS of positive reinforcement and public praise, ensuring feedback and is specific and outlines what it was that allowed the student to be successful (“I love how you persisted with that activity and broke it down into smaller parts when you found it difficult”).
  • Talking about the things that they value about our classroom and the impact they personally have on those elements (“If we do not put things back where they belong things get lost and we no longer have access to equipment that we love to use”).
  • Using quality children’s literature to highlight examples of the expectations that we are looking for in our classroom.
  • Regularly referring to our school’s Learning Assets (collaboration, self-management, communication, deep thinking, researching) as they are demonstrated by students.
  • Creating opportunities for whole class problem solving activities when consequences need to be reflected on and a more positive alternative to the behaviour identified for all students.

These are just some of the ways that I create a positive, student centred classroom environment in which all students have the opportunity to do the right thing, not because they will be rewarded but because they value the effects of working as a community and appreciate the excitement of achieving through persistence and hard work.

Something a bit different

22 Jan

ZERO TO HERO: Try out a new element


This task for the Zero to Hero challenge requires me to try a different way of including content within a post.  I sometimes do photos (blurring student faces to abide by privacy policies), and I’m not feeling brave enough to try a video just yet – maybe later on this year 🙂 So I thought I would introduce you (or reacquaint you) to Pinterest – one of the most exciting and accessible (not to mention fun) resources for all things teaching – and everything else too.

Have you joined Pinterest? You should!

Check out my profile and make sure you have a look at the people that I follow – there are lots of wonderful teachers and blogs out there 🙂

For some suggestions of how you could use Pinterest to engage your students in your classroom head over to elearningindustry.

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