Try out one of these five fun rewards in your middle school classroom to engage students and have some fun!
When I used to teach middle school, I found myself struggling to incorporate fun along with my complex material. I had to cover reading, writing, and grammar…content that only about half of my students enjoyed. So, it was tough to be the “fun teacher” when I was forcing them to learn sentence structures and citations.
However, I was determined to find something simple that students would enjoy, but not overly time-consuming. Students can get off topic easily, as you probably already know, and trying to bring them back to the planned content can be difficult.
I learned quickly that I could add some fun into the classroom by offering fun, positive rewards for normal daily activities. I made a lot of the activities in my classroom a competition, because why not? Ha! They didn’t have anything to lose if they didn’t win, but there was still a little extra motivation behind the competition. Sometimes, it was the first group done. Sometimes, it was the most creative idea. It depended a lot on the content.
If you are unsure of making anything too subjective, don’t worry about it. Sometimes, a group would win because I THOUGHT it was the most creative or I THOUGHT that it was the most structured, etc. Teach students early that life is not always fair.
*End rant! Ha!
Moving on. Let’s talk about some of the fun rewards that students can earn in your classroom.
FIVE FUN REWARDS FOR THE ELA CLASSROOM
#1: SHOOT FOR CANDY!
This one was one of my favorites. I always kept a supply of small candies in my classroom closet; it is crazy to think about what students will do for candy! 🤭
Should a group of students win an activity competition, they would get to shoot for candy.
I had a small rubber basketball in my room and an extra garbage bin near my desk. I placed three different lines of tape away from the garbage bin; for example, one line would be about five feet away, one 7 feet away, and one 10 feet away. If it was relatively easy, I made them shoot from the 10-foot line, because I enjoy making things difficult sometimes! 😊 If it was a competition or challenge based on a tough skill, I would allow them to shoot from the five-foot line for a more-likely win.
Either way, the students LOVED this. It was a quick reward because students knew what to do as time went by and the overall reward only took a minute or two out of my class period, which was awesome!
#2: DOUBLE OR NOTHING
This particular reward is an addition to the SHOOT FOR CANDY reward. It is basically what it sounds like. Students could shoot the ball again and win an additional piece of candy. However, should they miss, they get nothing. I used this on occasion when I had a little extra time in class or if it was right before a holiday.
It added an extra twist to the former reward and made my students have to learn the benefits (and sometimes drawbacks) of taking risks. 😜
#3: LUNCH WITH FRIENDS
You may want to run this one by your principal, but I never had an administrator object to this idea. On occasion, when I would incorporate some higher-level challenges in my room like one of my escape rooms in this reading comprehension escape room bundle, the group or individual to get done first would earn lunch in my room with a friend of his/her choice.
Often students loved this idea because I would allow them to draw on my whiteboard or be on their phones, which are both things that middle school students love to do.
There were occasionally some stipulations because we couldn’t mess with the schedule; for example, if my school offered different lunch periods, the winners would have to choose friends in their same lunch periods so it didn’t affect the schedule for any student.
#4: COMFY SEATING
It is amazing what students will do to be able to avoid sitting at a desk. I mean, I get it, but my middle schoolers would work surprisingly hard to be able to sit on the floor or go out in the hallway to work.
So, I collected several seating options like stools, beanbags, large pillows, etc. from the local consignments and kept them in the corner of my room. During free reading time, my students had the option to use them to get more comfortable.
Additionally, though, I use them as rewards for some of my challenges. Should a student win a challenge, he/she gets to choose a comfy seat option for the rest of the week!
It may seem silly, but I dare you to try it! You may be surprised!
#5: Reward Cards
Students love the reward of time. However, this particular reward is better for times when you have a higher number of winners.
I had a set of cards in my room that offered a variety of rewards:
- “Get out of class for five minutes” card
- “Earn a treat” card
- “Five minutes of cellphone use” card
- “Five minutes of playing a digital game” card
- “Earn a water-flavoring packet” card
I would lay a bunch of them face down and the winners of a challenge could each draw one, thus making their reward a surprise.
Now, these cards definitely needed to have a few more stipulations, such as:
- No two cards can be redeemed at the same time.
- Cards cannot be used during test time.
- Cards cannot be given to others.
You know…rather obvious stuff that students needed to be reminded of on occasion.
Students loved these cards. They enjoy breaks and I was happy to incorporate them as little extra rewards when they worked hard in our daily activities.
There are many other fun rewards for the classroom…
but I found these to be some of the best ones I used in my own classroom. Although I taught the students tough academia, they enjoyed my class because I gave them bits of fun mixed in with the more complex concepts.
Try them out and have some fun yourself! Maybe you can even add in a little teacher/student competition with the SHOOT FOR CANDY reward. Ha!
If would like to check out products such as escape rooms or digital paired passages, check out The Sparkly Notebook TPT store!