Improving Behavior Management with a Student Incentive Store
With the beginning of the school year comes excitement, anxiety, and a yearning for wanting order as soon as possible. While classroom and behavior management differs greatly in the various school and classroom settings, it is an essential component to running a successful learning environment with thriving students.
The last 15 years has really allowed me to pinpoint and refine what works best for both me and my students. My classroom management style is very structured because I find that the students I teach thrive with structure. They want to know what they are learning, how much time will be spent, and what is happening next. When they don't have guidelines or are unclear on the expectations, they struggle.
One component I added to my classroom about ten years ago was a student incentive store. Our building had been struggling with a great deal of transition, and our student behavior was a school-wide challenge. We had just adopted the CHAMPS Program, but as whole group teachers we were still finding behavior management to be a challenge with our students. Work completion was a struggle and student behavior was impacting instructional time.
As a 6th grade team we decided we were going take a different approach. Part of the CHAMPs program is having a student incentive opportunity for students. While some teachers thought a school-wide incentive store was the way to go, it wasn’t working for our upper elementary students. They complained that “No one ever gives us Eagle Bucks!” or “The incentives are too babyish!” So I took charge and created a student incentive store to meet the needs of my sixth graders. I can’t control what happens in other classrooms or learning environments, but I can control the needs and successes of my students.
I cleared out the back closet in my classroom, bought twenty clear bins, labeled them with currency amounts, bought items that my students would love to work for, looked for donations, and vowed that every Friday would be our Eagle Buck Store Shopping Day! …and it was a raging success. My students wanted to earn Eagle Bucks because they wanted to have the opportunity to shop each week, so work ethic and behavior improved.
It has grown into so much more than I could have imagined with students helping to run the store, AMAZING donations from local businesses, and other teachers implementing a store into their grade levels. While I certainly don’t have all of the answers and can only speak of my experience, if you are looking for a way to motivate your hard to inspire students, or for a tool that can improve behavior management, this is a really fun way to achieve those goals that will cost very little.
Whatever your rationale for implementing this fun element into your classroom or building, here are a few tips and tricks to create your own student incentive store…
What you need to get started:
Find a space in your classroom, hallway, or school building that:
- has shelving
- is inviting to students
- can be locked
One grade level in my building used a rolling cart for their store that an aide would organize and roll out each week. It was the only space that they had in order to implement their own grade level store. Each Friday it was re-stocked, rolled out, kids shopped, and rolled back until the following week. Use what works for you!
Materials Needed to Organize Student Incentive Store:
- Clear, plastic bins or boxes (lids are not necessary)
Our entire building used Eagle Bucks. Our building administrative assistant created the document for each teacher and then each teacher would make copies as needed. If no one else in your building is using any type of currency for student incentives, make your own. Use your building mascot and have fun!
Item Ideas for Students to Purchase:
(Think of all of the trinkets that students LOVE to possess, but feel free to give students a survey in order to find out more things that they would love to own…)
- Pencils, pens, markers, colored pencils
- Notebooks, folders, loose-leaf paper, mini-notepads
- Extra classroom planners
- Bead packs for jewelry-making
- Craft supplies/kits
- Picture frames
- Baseball/football/basketball cards
- Playing cards
- Silly Putty, Slinkies
- Seasonal items
- Bags of crackers, Goldfish, fruit snacks
My favorite places to find trinkets are: Michaels, Jo-Ann Fabrics, Target Dollar Spot, Walgreens, Wal-Mart. Each of these stores tends to mark down seasonal good at some point and you can scoop things up for CHEAP!
Getting students to buy into the idea can be the biggest challenge, especially if you have had a scenario like we had where the store was unsuccessful. Here are a few things I did with my sixth graders to encourage them.
Make it a BIG deal!
If you want your students to be enthusiastic about their student incentive store your have to:
- Make it a big deal! Shopping day should be a scheduled day and an EXCITING day!
- Keep it well stocked.
- Include items they WANT!
- Make sure you establish a routine so they know when they will get to shop EVERY week.
Students will quickly lose interest and not care about the store if it does not have items they care to earn and if the day they are expecting to shop never seems to happen. This is something you have to be consistent with because your students will come to look forward to it each week. If I were going to be at a workshop or out on a Friday, I would surprise the students and have it on Thursday. Another possibility was telling them it would be Monday and that their appropriate behavior with the sub was contingent on them getting to shop.
Earning Currency and a Shopping Day
Currency can be both hard and easy to earn for our students, which might sound crazy! I would give out Eagle Bucks for:
- going above and beyond on an assignment or task
- helping others
- demonstrating good citizenship
- random acts of kindness
- using strategies for reading
The list is endless as to how students can earn, I just made sure to be consistent with passing it out to students so they knew they had the opportunity to earn them at any time during their school day.
I created this FREEBIE to help others create a student incentive store with ease. Click the image to download this resource and get started motivating your students right away!
I would love to hear all about your incentive store success or any questions you may have about how to get started.