Rewarding Engagement

For some time I have had a “Reward Box” in my classroom.   I tell my classes that they can earn something from the box if they put in a good amount of effort during the lesson.  The box is stocked with cheap and cheerful items from well know high street shops that are famous for selling items for £1 – you know the ones I mean – and other similar shops that have items for pennies rather than pounds.  I have always found that almost all students want something from the box and most are prepared to work for it.

Recently, this idea was picked up by my head teacher and rolled out across the school.  The kids really bought into it and commented on how it was great that they could now earn ‘stuff’ in every classroom.  And all seemed well with the world.  As long as I kept the boxes stocked up with pens, pencils, sticky notes, iPad stylus pens, funky rubbers and other such random stationery, the kids would engage with their lessons more.

That was the theory anyway.  For the first few weeks, it seemed to be working, but slowly I started to notice that, not only were some teachers no longer buying into the idea and giving the rewards out when the kids were working well, but my own classes seemed less willing to work as hard for me as they could get something for less effort in another class.

I still believe in this strategy as a way to engage less than enthusiastic students, but I think it will only continue to work under certain circumstances.  Everyone needs to give rewards consistently for the same level of effort or the system simply stops working.  I know that if this was on offer when I was at school and I could get the same thing for less effort somewhere else, I would not have had any reason to try in a lesson where I didn’t feel confident.  I think a relaunch may be necessary to get the kids back on track for the last few weeks of the year.