First consider what incentives do. They are supposed to serve as a scaffold for student learning. As such, it's meant to be a temporary thing even though this varies depending on the students. You don't wanna overuse it lest it takes away from the focus of learning. That's just my philosophy. Something that's worked for me is in using tokens as rewards to make sure my kids are paying attention. If they discover a mistake I make on purpose or not, I award them with some token so I know they aren't on auto-pilot. And then they just pay attention better and I stopped awarding them so the instruction flows.
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In my class, I offer two types of "incentives:"
1) The top 5 students (academic) at the end of each quarter have the option of helping me teach for a week of the following quarter. They have input when I am drafting my lesson plans, help me design new activities, and tutor the other students. Even though they work twice as hard as everyone else, they rarely turn down this opportunity.
2) The top 2 students (Engineering Design Challenges) in each class receive a free special lunch (pizza, etc.) at semester and at the end of the year. At the end of each unit, the students are put into to groups and asked to construct an artifact to accomplish a given task. Each member of the top group gets a point added next to their name on the board. I find that this a wonderful incentive not only for my top kids, but also for my students that may not perform well academically, but have a competitive spirit.
Often extra credit points are a big incentive for students, or even little prizes like pencils or candy can work wonders for students of any age!
I provide incentives for good grades and bringing in homework. At the end of each quarter I provide a lunch which consists of pizza.The students can bring in extra snacks. Also, once a month we have reading cafe. This is when the students bring in their favorite book to read and their favorite snack to eat. They read and eat while classical music is softly playing in the background. They also get to sit with whomever they want.
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