7 Classroom Management Strategies: Fun and Cheap Rewards and Incentives

Classroom Management can be hard. Rewards and incentives can motivate students to behave positively and help create a positive classroom environment. While I was still in the classroom, it seems that my classroom management changed all the time. What worked with one student today, doesn’t work tomorrow. Each class was different and unique. That being said, the teacher can not do it all. Sometimes it will take parental involvement and administration involvement. Sometimes it will even take the help of another teacher. Here are some fun and cheap classroom rewards and incentives to help keep your students on track. None of these is a magic bullet. Good luck!

Image of a group of students giving a thumbs up.  Text: Classroom Management Strategies.  Fun and Cheap Classroom Rewards and Incentives.

Classroom Management Strategies #1: Music

I love using music in my classroom. YouTube has a TON of ambient music you can use in your classroom. If you have a way to project, you can put the ambiance on the screen. Choose something mellow and relaxing. I love to do fireplaces in the winter while we are reading. The student’s LOVE aquariums (especially if there are sharks). For some reason, students also love to watch animals eat? Not sure what is up with that one, but my students LOVED this one in particular:

My classroom was Star Wars themed, so we listened to and watched a lot of Star Wars Ambience. The rule was, it could stay up as long as we could hear it (I kept the volume pretty low). This was especially helpful when we would do craftivities!

Brain Breaks are also a good one! Have a student doing a particularly good job? Let them choose a Brain Break. My students loved the This or That or Would You Rather Brain Breaks. I would do Brain Breaks throughout the day, but always if we had a longer period of on-task time! They usually needed it, and so did I! 🙂

Classroom Management Strategies #2: Behavior Buddies

Image of 3 Different Behavior Buddies.  Classroom Mangement Strategies.  Text: Behavior Buddies

My students LOVED our classroom mascot. In my room, it was a Storm Trooper stuffie that a student got me for Christmas one year. The Storm Trooper loved to “hang out” with the students who were well-behaved. There were rules of course, but I really never had any issues with the kiddos getting upset, or refusing to pass him along. I did an entire blog post on Behavior Buddies! You can also have multiple going at once, but I found that confusing. You could also change it up for the season. Have a leprechaun in March or a bunny in April. You can often find stuffed animals at thrift stores, or your students may gift them to you. They do need a good wash every now and again, so keep that in mind. You will want ones that are machine washable. I always wash mine in a pillowcase.

#3: Positive Notes/Phone Calls Home

Image of a teacher writing a note with a large pencil, and a red rotary telephone. Text: Positive Note/Phone Call

This strategy is always super effective! I always tried to send home one positive note or phone call for every child in my class before parent-teacher conferences. If possible, first contact with parents should be positive.

Letting your students choose a note or a phone call is also fun! If the child is there when you make the call or write the note even better! They can hear/read what wonderful things you are saying about, and that goes a long way to help make sure that their behavior continues (hopefully).

Stickers are #4!

Image of a child pointing at a shout out sticker and giving a thumbs up.  Image of Shout Out Stickers.  Text: Stickers!

Ah…stickers. I loved using stickers in my classroom for a variety of things! I always find it funny that with all of the toys and technology out there, students still LOVE stickers! Especially with the sticking them on their water bottle fad! Stickers are engaging, fun, and inexpensive. You can give stickers as rewards, you can give stickers to shout out academic or behavioral successes, you can use stickers in your writing center to spark ideas, and of course, putting stickers on papers is always a great way to show students that they are doing well!

Classroom Management Strategy #5: Whole Class Incentives

This one is one that I liked to use when it was a crazy busy time of year, think December or right before Spring Break. There are a million different ways to do this and for different amounts of time. You could create a poster using large paper and draw a symbol of some sort (star, flower, smiley face) every time your students were doing what they were supposed to be doing. Every symbol drawn would be a minute of extra recess, free time or computer time.

You could set a class goal for a longer period of time. When you have a certain amount of symbols, points, ect…they can receive a bigger incentive such as popcorn, watching a movie, bringing in a stuffed animal, using a pen for the day, wearing pajamas, etc. My favorite (and I saved this one for the last month of school) would be to bring in a blanket and build a giant classroom blanket fort! This was always so much fun.

#6: Incentive for Cleaning Up

Image of students holding trash from the classroom floor.  Text: Magic Trash

I love this one: Magic Trash! Before the end of our school day I would walk around the room and choose a piece of trash or something else on the floor that needed to be cleaned up. Then, when our clean-up song came on (mine was HELP! by the Beatles…parents always appreciated this) I would watch for who picked it up or put it away (not in an obvious way of course). The rule was you had to clean through the entire song, then meet me at the front of the room with your trash when the song ended. Whoever found the “magic trash” would get a small reward of some kind (sticker, classroom money, etc…). If it wasn’t clean enough, I would change the magic trash to be something still on the floor. My floor was always magically clean at the end of the day. I would even get compliments from the custodian!

Classroom Management Strategy #7: Building Relationships

Last, but not least is the one that is VERY popular right now. Before I start, I know that this strategy is important, but it isn’t going to solve all of your classroom management problems and don’t let anyone tell you that it will. None of these ideas will. The fact that you are reading this post shows that you care and you want your students to have fun, learn, and behave, but a lot of that is on the child and YOU… Teacher CAN NOT do it all and shouldn’t be expected to.

Building relationships takes time and effort that we don’t always have. One way that I built relationships in my classroom was by using a morning meeting. We did a morning meeting every morning. I often gave the students time to talk when the meeting was over, and I joined in with a group.

Another way to build relationships is by using small group instruction and individual conferences (for reading, writing, and even math). I would always start these with a short time to ask or answer a question about the students. Of course, I would answer this as well. These usually take longer, but done well they are an invaluable use of your classroom time!

Independence. Creating ways for your students to be independent in the classroom also goes a long way to building relationships. Students feel ownership over the classroom and they are proud of helping out and keeping it clean and well organized. If it is a task that students can do on their own, let them! It goes a long way.

Classroom management is tough. It’s not easy, but when your students are behaving and on task, it does make the job a bit easier. I hope that you found these classroom management strategies helpful. Pin the image below so you can refer back to this post if you need a new idea!

Thanks for reading!

Image of a group of students giving a thumbs up. Text: Classroom Management Strategies. Fun and Cheap Classroom Rewards and Incentives.

Happy Teaching and Learning,


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