Friday, November 11, 2016

Classroom Management Before Break? No Problem! Use Incentives!

The time between Halloween and Winter Break can be so difficult!  Build in positive reinforcement incentives to keep lessons moving forward and classroom management under control.

What's the problem?

You don't really need me to answer that do you?!  There might not be a more frustrating period of time to teach content than November and December.  Students are distracted by school programs, secret Santas, decorations, countdown to break, social events, more school programs, time off for Thanksgiving.... Okay, we know what the problem is!

What's a teacher to do?

Build incentives into your teaching that will motivate students to stay on track and work for you.  Incentives also provide students with a positive reward that will help improve your classroom management.

1.  Find what they like

By this time of year, you know your students.  You know what activities they've delighted in and have begged for more of.  Maybe you had a cool art project that went with a novel study.  Maybe your students loved the "pass back" story activity or had a blast with your bingo vocab game.

Choose an activity you think your class will work for.  It can be a bit of a trial and error process, but that's the great thing -- you can do something different every time.

2.  How can you incentivize it?

Take you idea to your students.  I wanted to have a "game day" every other Friday.  I proposed the idea to my students.  What if we had a "game day" if we finished all of our scheduled work?  My students loved that idea.

3.  Get organized

My students formed groups and chose what game they wanted to play.  I discovered that many of my students had board games at home that they have never played!    I made sure I had information from each group:  who was in the group (making sure it was a reasonable number for the game and that everyone was in a group), what game they were playing, who was bringing in the game, and if they knew how to play the game or not.

4.  Working toward a goal

I let my students know what we needed to complete before we were eligible for the game day.  For ELA, it included writing goals that I posted on my board each week and broke down for each day.  

The daily goals for the class helped reduce student talking and off-task behavior that wasted class time -- students used peer pressure to work for their goal.

While I originally wanted to stretch out the goal for two weeks, the first time we tried this, I had the game day at the end of the week.  This gave students a taste of what game day looked like and why they wanted to earn it.

5.  Keeping it fresh

Having a game day every Friday would quickly lose its novelty for middle schoolers -- no matter how much they try to convince you it wouldn't!  

After the first week, I stretched the reward out two weeks.  I also asked students to change games and groups.  

I also kept a few games in my closet.  Students would forget to bring in a game, or they became bored with the one they brought.  You could also have a whole-class game day to play that Bingo game you have stashed in your cabinet.

6.  Kicking it up a notch

My original game day evolved into an annual Scrabble Tournament.  Even my principal was impressed!  Words!  What could possibly go wrong?!!

If you're interested in hosting a Scrabble Tournament, here's how I did it Scrabble Tournament.
Give it a try!  Lots of fun!

What do you think?

What incentives would work for your students?  Share your ideas in the comments below!  

Happiness always!


  1. The way you organized the Scrabble tournament looks great - I like how you teach the kids about strategies with the point values of the letters before they begin to play. I can see why it was a big hit!