All for One and One for All: Whole-Class Incentives

Sometimes the entire class can help a student solve a problem.  All for one and one for all, like the Three Musketeers’ motto, can be achieved through whole-class incentives.

I have seen this strategy work for many grade levels in solving various problems.  It takes is a creative teacher and a cooperative class.  Oh, and a bribe reward!

In my classes, we add marbles to a big jar (it must be transparent – plastic is best) as incentives for many reasons.  The class can see progress as the marbles fill the jar over time.  When the jar is full, we celebrate our accomplishments. 

Once I had a few students who tipped their chairs and fell to the floor.  It was disruptive and unsafe.  I offered my class a deal:  “You remind each other not to tip the chairs, and if I happen to look up and notice that no one is tipping chairs, we will add to the jar!”  No one fell out of their chair after the entire class had an incentive to help each other stop the chair-tipping.

Serious problems may call for a more concerted effort.  If a student does not do school work — I mean really, really resists doing work — the whole class might help that child develop better work habits.  Give the whole class a reward every time the student completes assignments.  Student tutors will come out of the woodwork to help.  It doesn’t take long to develop a track record of success when the whole class works as a team.

Use whole-class incentives to help a child who has difficulty getting along with others.  Every time the student has an incident-free recess (or whatever the problem area is), the class gets a reward in the form of adding to the jar.  If instant gratification would be more appropriate, give the class a few minutes to play silent ball or another classroom game.

Feeling skeptical?  So was I—until the first time I tried whole-class incentives.  Now I’m a believer!

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Posted in Academics,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Jun 22, 2010


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