Although engagement in the classroom begins with the teacher interacting with the students, a student is much more likely to be interested in a class in which he or she also feels engaged with their classmates.
Teachers spend a lot of time thinking about ways to reward students, with good reason, but there is also space for the students to reward themselves. Here are a few ideas.
Thank you notes
Set the culture early in the year that one student who helps another should be thanked for their efforts by the student and the teacher alike. A quick and easy way to facilitate this is to just let students write thank you notes on sticky notes and post them in a communal area, like a spot on the board.
All students like being able to make decisions for themselves. For the next set of individual rewards, let the recipients award something to a classmate who helped them. You solve the problem of someone being awarded too much or too little by choosing an underserved kid for the next pick. There’s no quicker way to make friends than to share some recognition.
We covered some quiet ways to recognize students who make a breakthrough during whole-group instruction (golf clap, snapping, sign language, etc.). Don’t forget to make it a point of allowing students to choose when those applauses occur. You shouldn’t have to lead the cheer every time.
The ability to help
Students have been conditioned into thinking that helping another student with their work is cheating unless directed to by the teacher. As a reward for one student, allow them the autonomy to choose someone to go help at times of their choosing (you might want to set basic guidelines on that). They get to spend some one-on-one time with a classmate and learn valuable interpersonal skills. Just make sure work is actually going on.
Many classrooms, particularly at the elementary level, assign certain tasks (like line leader, door holder, etc.) to each student on a weekly basis. But who assigns those jobs? Appoint a student to assign those tasks to their classmates, making it known to the manager that it’s their job to encourage and support their classmates—not boss them around.
For many more materials that can be used to reward student success, check out Classroom Direct’s online store.