Select Page

To reward or not to reward positive behavior in the classroom is a decision many teachers struggle making. Some educators argue that reward systems are only short-term fixes that encourage entitlement, while other educators believe that reward systems help establish a positive classroom environment and can be beneficial for all learners. Informal acknowledgment of positive behaviors is typically thought of as good-practice- the source of contention for many educators are the formal reward and acknowledgment systems that use tangible items or social recognition to reward positive behaviors.


Teachers shouldn’t use formal reward systems as a way to motivate students to learn, he does believe that formal reward systems can benefit children, especially when they are used to address challenging behavior. Formal systems can be carried out in a way that includes children as proud participants and can reduce the discouraging feedback for negative behaviors. The children will feel empowered rather than minimized, neglected, or controlled.


Designing an acknowledgment plan that outlines desired behaviors and how you want to acknowledge/ reward those behaviors can help you implement an effective formal reward and acknowledgment systems for the children in your care.


Making an Acknowledgement Plan


  1. Decide on the desired behavior to target. Make sure the targeted behavior is developmentally appropriate for the child and is something that you think the child can master.
  2. Identify the specific behavior you want to see increase.
  3. Determine where, when, and how often you will look to see if that behavior occurs.
  4. Think of ways to increase the likelihood of the child engaging in the desired behavior.

You also need to decide on which informal/formal reward and acknowledgment systems you want to use. It is recommended that you use end-of-the-hour rewards for toddlers, end-of-the-day rewards for preschoolers, and end-of-the-week rewards for school-age children. Look at the chart at the bottom of the page for a few examples of preferred activities, social recognition, and tangible items you can use as rewards.


Formal Reward and Acknowledgement System Ideas

Use interactive chart movers to engage children and reinforce positive behaviors. Keep the chart visible in the room so children can see their daily progress.