Should You Reward Students?

illustration of red hearts

Stickers, stamps, high fives, “bravo!”, smiles and other motivational methods? Do you use them? Do you approve of them? Should you reward your students at all? If so, what should you reward them for and how / when is a good time to do it? Keep reading to find out.

There are some teaching methods e.g. the Montessori method that disprove of giving children any kind of reward at the end of the class, assuming ALL children have an internal motivation to learn and that learning should be a reward in itself. And I do agree to an extent, but in my opinion children do not have a natural internal motivation to learn a language (unless dropped on their own in a middle of a foreign country 🙂 ) We as teachers are their external motivation, therefore we must be engaged, interesting, entertaining, always on their level and encouraging (and the list goes on) at all times. Children have a shorter attention span therefore we must guide them (in a mindful and non-forceful way) through the lesson, keep them engaged and – if need be – motivate them to take an extra step. Having a good lesson plan, tailor made for a particular age or interest group is key. A lot of movement in the class also helps, but sometimes we all need a little carrot at the end of the stick to make us go a bit further.

In my classes I reward children a lot. I use every opportunity to say “well done”, give a “high five”, smile or let them know how proud I am of their effort. Yes, you’ve heard me correctly – I praise them for EFFORT, not RESULTS. This means that if a child repeats a word that is not quite right, I will still sing their praises. Why? Because they tried, and even if they did not pronounce the word/sentence exactly right I know that in time they will. But if I let them know at every step that their attempts are wrong they will stop trying, and that would be a w real problem that is not easily rectified. This fear could continue to build through their childhood, teenage years and then into their adult life and you will have students who are afraid to speak for fear of making a mistake and looking silly or incompetent in front of their peers.

I reward my students for ACTIVITY in class, not for good behaviour or for correct answers (but you will find that children who actively participate in class have no time to misbehave, and those who are praised for trying get more involved). I always offer them a a sticker or a stamp (and a smile of course) at the end of my lesson. Sometimes I need to remind those who decided not to participate in a game that only children who take part get a reward. Occasionally, when they do now get a sticker/stamp (they choose not to take part in a game), I make sure I speak to them after class to say what great brains and a fantastic memory they have, what a good student they are, and that next class they can choose to take part and get their reward. This way children don’t feel punished, or undervalued, they just know that the lack of reward was their choice. Believe me, there are very few cases when I do not give a child a reward :).

So if you want to have active, involved students in your class DO REWARD them! And don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back, even if your class was not perfect. What matters is that you tried your best!

Leave a comment below to tell us how you reward your students, or why you don’t. Let’s discuss this and all grow together!

by Justyna

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