Are Your Class Incentives Kinda Like Airline Rewards? Bleh!

Airline rewards….suck. This is a fact. The reward is usually something like, “buy 32 flights and receive a free 1 way ticket on this weekday in November!” Yet we all know as reasonable adults that we don’t truly need or deserve a reward, it is just an incentive to keep doing something. Students don’t need or deserve rewards either. Does that make me sound mean? Maybe, but it is the truth. As a teacher, keep that crabby ole’ thought in your mind, because the ultimate “reward” for a student is the knowledge gained. I had a college professor who said that “Success is your reward.” A reward has its motivational limits anyway.

However, there are many valuable reasons to give students rewards. I primarily focus on students who need to be encouraged and students who go above and beyond. Students who do what they have to…well, do you get a bonus for doing something (maybe even the bare minimum) you already are required to do? No. This attitude is what keeps rewards fun and special in my mind though.

I also have some principles when it comes to the reward itself….limit the candy. Yes, I do give out candy. Every time a kid gets a tootsie pop though, I think of the 20% of children in the US who are obese and I feel like a bad teacher! I recommend focusing on rewards which are useful or positive for the student. Since candy is such a go-to item and kids love it, here is a list of some other options that can compete.

  • Pencils!
  • Hand held pencil sharpener
  • Stickers
  • Erasers
  • Leadership role in class activity
  • Bonus Points
  • Dismissal from class 2 minutes early
  • Hall Pass
  • Errands (yes, kids love to run errands for you!)
  • Positive notes to parents
  • Late work excuse
  • Praise (so simple, but we forget)

You can also let your student choose the reward received! This also allows you some insight into what they most desire and perhaps why. Here is the ticket I give out:

Thank You for Being Great!

This ticket can be redeemed for one of the below options:

Þ   Email or Letter Home to Your Parents Informing Them of a Job Well Done!

Þ   Late Homework Assignment Taken without Penalty!

Þ   10 Bonus Points Added to a Low Grade!

Þ   Extra Hall Pass when You are in Need!

Your hard work and kindness is always appreciated in this class!



Surprise! Kids Love Dogs!

Okay…so it’s really no surprise at all that kids love dogs!

I get so many pieces of writing that include star roles for man’s best friend, from adorable puppies to brave rescue dogs. Here is a description activity involving a dog, but the catch is that students won’t know that immediately! Despite this, the mystery of what should/might come next will hook them in.

Completing a Description

I fell in love the minute I saw him. He had hair the color of November woods and eyes that turned me into marshmallow crème. I knew we belonged to each other.

He raised his head and looked at me. He knew.

Have students write the next three sentences to this paragraph. Students will create interesting descriptions without knowing the true continuation of the story. This exercise can also being used with a small section of a book the class is about to read. When the students later get to that section, they will be excited to see what will come next, and it will give them a sense of ownership over something they also wrote.

My brother and his dog Sherman.


Here is the remainder of the excerpt:

I fell in love the minute I saw him. He had hair the color of November woods and eyes that turned me into marshmallow crème. I knew we belonged to each other.

He raised his head and looked at me. He knew. And when I knelt beside him, he kicked my hand—all the way to the elbow, his long tail thumped on the floor.

“What happened?” I said to the boy who held the dog by a piece of rope.

“Cut his paw pretty bad on something, and he ain’t eatin’ neither.” The boy stroked the dog’s big, shaggy head. He looked worried.

I noticed the dirty, crusted wound on the left forepaw, the matted fur. My new love smelled like a sewer from hell. “What’s his name?”

“Don’t know. Granddaddy says somebody must’ve dumped him out and left him. I was supposed to take him to the pound, but I thought I’d try here first. He’s a good old dog. Maybe Doc Nichols knows somebody who’ll take him.”

“You did the right thing.” I remembered what it was like being “dumped” in a strange place.

I had $149.74 in my checking account, no job, and a house being sold out from under me. “I’ll take him,” I said.

From Angel at Troublesome Creek by Mignon F. Ballard

All credit to Penny Crofford, who gives wonderful Pre-AP workshops.

Can You Fix Messy Students?

Lots of students are disorganized. That is probably a massive understatement, especially if you have ever walked down the halls of a junior high during a locker clean out. My classroom is located on a wall of boys only lockers, so I think boys have a special train wreck tendency with their belongings. Locker clean outs are usually a flutter of crumpled paper and spare socks, while the smell of Axe Body Spray overwhelms the air. Whew!

Here are a few tips to help your students. I plan on adding more to this, but just to get us started:

  • Require a binder for your class, not to be shared with other subjects.
  • Keep a crate of folders for student portfolios in the classroom. These folders can be used to store important papers which should not be lost in lockers! My students like to decorate them at the beginning of the year. This is fun and it generally helps create awareness that it is a folder for them to use.
  • If you have an important handout that needs to be kept the entire year, i.e. classroom procedures or a CliffNotes list of grammar, then print the copy off on colored paper which will stand out signifying, “Don’t throw me away!” To further this statement, go big and print on cardstock.
  • Always have a three hole punch available for student use. Occasionally pass it around when you absolutely want something to be hole-punched and placed in a binder. How else will it happen?

Remember. if you want your students to be organized, try to model that behavior yourself! : )

Yawns Don’t Mean I’m a Boring Teacher…

Most teenagers own phones. This is an obvious no-brainer, just take a look at the teens you see in public. Go to any mall, and you will notice them walking around in groups, all with phones in hand. Looking up some stats, most people seem to agree that the percentage of teenagers who own a cell phone is 75% -ish.

Now, as a highly reliable source myself, I’d say that 75%-ish of teens are also very sleep deprived. It’s easy to notice- the yawns, the glazed over look, the desire to put their heads down on their desk- but does this mean your class is boring or you should be worried that they are on some type of muscle relaxer? Nope. Recent studies are showing that those 75%-ish of teens are texting, and texting, and texting, even after they go to bed. An article on MSNBC details how, “Teens send an average of 34 texts a night (adding up to 3,400 a month) after going to bed — in some cases up to four hours after hitting the sack,” which is research they gathered from the JFK Medical Center.

I teach at the weird age when a kid has a phone but still has a bedtime.When talking to parents, concerns about if their child is getting enough sleep do come up. The parent is always baffled, because a bedtime is enforced, and previously I have been pretty confused as well. However, it’s easy to see how you would have no idea that your son or daughter was texting hours after they “went to bed.”

So as a teacher, I encourage you to talk to that persistently sleepy kid and ask, “Are you texting at night?” “Do you put your phone on silent when it is time to sleep?” Talk to the parents as well. This is something they can help their child fix, you can only bring it to their attention.

For the complete article:

What To Do On a Snow Day? Craft!

Snow days are the best days for teachers. True, you’ll have to make them up on warmer day, but who cares?! Snow days are unexpected gifts. However, if you are anything like me, then you have to figure out what to do in order to avoid feeling stir-crazy! One of my favorite things to do is get crafty. So when my friend, and fellow teacher, and I saw that a blizzard was about to hit Monday night, we stopped by Hobby Lobby after work to store up on materials.

Our craft of choice? Clipboards. They are very handy teacher tools. Clipboards hold my lessons for the day, the roll sheet, the seating chart, the weird assembly schedule for the day that I know I won’t remember, and usually a stack of papers I am grading and shuffling. If you are a future teacher, get yourself a clipboard. A decorated clipboard is even better though.

Here are some basic materials you’ll need to decorate:

Modge Podge  and Foam Brushes: to protect with a clear layer of shellack whatever cutesy-ness you feel like putting on your board. We chose to keep it simple: scrapbooking paper and decorative scrapbooking embellishments. We chose embellishments that would lay flat and could be Mod Podge’d over for protection.

Putting the scrapbooking paper on the clipboard is simple, and we each chose separate ways. First paint a thin layer of Mod Podge on your board, then lay the paper on flat. My friend used an X-ACTO knife to fit the paper down to size, while I used a small sheet of paper and decorated the edges with a collage of small paper squares. I didn’t think I would be able to perfectly cut the paper to fit and then perfectly position it straight on the board, and any imperfections would have driven me crazy! So something purposely imprecise was what I needed.

After the large paper and any designs are glued down, paint several layers of Mod Podge over it, painting each layer in opposite directions, horizontal strokes and then vertical. After this, decorate with your embellishments then repeat the layers of Mod Podge again. At this stage you will want to flip your board over to start on the reverse side. Lay the board on some aluminum foil to avoid sticking. This is not a gluey project where newspaper should be used!

The end result of our project is this:



And then mine….



What My Students Think I Look Like

This was a gift from last year. I loved it so much that I saved it. The funny thing is, while this kid was mischievous, he was not bad and I truly enjoyed having him in my class! When he gave it to me, he made sure to describe everything in the drawing. “See that’s me. Cause you never call on me and you hate me. And that’s you there, see, I even drew the ruffles on your sweater. K, bye.”

I look quite lovely here. I especially like how my eyeballs are looking suspiciously to the corner of the page. Who am I watching? Do they deserve detention?

Ahh, and in this one I am second to the left…no wait. This is the cast of Jersey Shore! I confiscated (oh, yeah. I confiscate) this being drawn during class. You really can’t help but love it though. The student knows all of their names, but also does a fair job with body type too! Snookie is simply rendered with a backward S and fat cheeks. Ronnie has extra muscle lumps. And the always demure JWoww has boobies which shoot up and out like bottle rockets. Vinny seems kinda lame though. I guess he is the Chris Kirkpatrick of the group.

Empty Hands

We have all seen it in our classrooms. Those pesky kids who show up without any materials. No book, no pencil, no paper, and certainly no homework. So what do you do with those empty hands?

Empty Handed

My first year on the job this really got to me. As a classic overachiever, lover of school, I was not able to understand what was going on in their head! Did they think they wouldn’t need anything? At some point however, I acceptable the fact that these empty-handed students just hadn’t been thinking…and that it would be okay, as long as there was someone else around to think of what to do with them.

No Pencil: I lend you one, so you lend me something in return. I take shoes, money, keys, jewelry. Repeat it like a mantra. Shoes, money, keys, jewelry. These are things your student will not want to leave without, so they will remember to swap back with you at the end of the hour. I do not take jackets, hats, binders, or other textbooks. They will leave without these. If they do leave their money, then buy yourself a candy bar and enjoy!

No Paper: “Sure, here is a sheet of paper. Now, do I need to call your mom and let her know that you need paper or can you?” (They can.) “Also, you never get something free in life. To earn that paper, you can pick up 3 pieces of paper/ trash off my floor before you leave today.” Maybe it sounds grouchy, but I stress that idea of not getting something for nothing a lot in my class. Entitlement is an awful personality trait.

No Book: Go get it from your locker, and take a tardy. This is something you as the teacher can’t instantly solve. They need it, but there are consequences for being unprepared. In my school district, two tardies equal one absence. This helps out the 6-12 teachers, but I’m not as familiar with elementary schools. So readers, if you are the student’s only teacher, what other solutions can you offer?

The pencil idea I learned from other, wiser co-workers and the solution for paper I created myself. Once again, pick and chose what you like and what will work for you. Ultimately, whatever you do in your classroom has to make you happy and hopefully avoids creating any resentful feelings to those who come with empty hands.

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