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Classroom Coupons: Increase student motivation!

The school year is coming to a close and you’re probably starting to think about what you’ll do differently next year. If you’re looking for a new classroom management system you may want to consider classroom coupons; it might be just what you’re looking for.

What are classroom coupons?

Classroom coupons are an adaptable system, more formally known as a ‘token economy.’ There are many different types of classroom coupons, but they generally fall into two categories:

1: Reward Coupons

  • This type of classroom coupons is a reward in and of themselves. Each coupon typically has a picture and some text. When the student receives the coupon they can save it to use later. Some ideas for this type of coupons include:
    • Lunch with the teacher
    • Line Leader
    • Special Treat
    • Computer Time
    • Homework Pass
    • Choose a book for Read Aloud
    • Wear a Hat
    • More ideas
  • Decide when you will give out coupons each day. Perhaps you’ll give out two each time the students line up. Maybe you’ll give one during morning work and one after lunch. Or maybe you’ll give each student one for turning in their homework, participating, being on time, etc. You decide when to give them and give them in a manner that works best for you and your classroom. A mix of set times and some random seems to work best.
  • When using reward coupons, variety is key. It’s a good idea to have a variety of coupons or reward ideas so that kids don’t get bored with the same selections
  • You need to decide if you’ll give the coupons out randomly or let the kids choose which one they get. Either way you’ll need a system in which they can be easily visible to both you and students.

2: Ticket/Money Coupons

  • This type of coupons is a bit different. Instead of having a reward printed on the ticket, students get these tickets and save them up to ‘spend’ like money later on.
  • There are a variety of ways you can create coupons for this system. Just look online and you’ll find a plethora of adorable tickets, class money, etc. that you can buy online, print, laminate, and use. Other ideas include:
    • Choose a color of paper, laminate it, and cut it into strips. The strips are tickets.  
  • Buy rolls of tickets (the type you see at a carnival.)
  • Pennies. Real ones are cheaper than plastic pennies. Mark them with a permanent marker so that students can’t bring in pennies from home.
  • Digital tickets. A digital point giving program like Class Dojo can be used
  • With young students it’s a good math activity to have them count out their coupons in groups of ten.
  • You can have a weekly class activity that students buy their way into. You can also use the tickets as money to buy toys or even reward coupons.

Why Coupons?

  • Coupons are wholly positive. Focusing on positive behaviors is far more effective than punishment.
  • It’s not comparative. A pull a card chart or a clip chart is something the whole class sees. With coupons, the student knows their own progress and they aren’t comparing themselves to others.  
  • It is very very cheap. Teachers are known for their high incomes. Or not. Chances are that you don’t have much extra money to spend. They can be as cheap as copies and lamination.
  • Coupons are flexible. It is is easy to mix it up throughout the year to keep interest high; adding new activities or prizes as the year progresses.

Problem Solving:

  • Of course, no system is perfect or without issue, but the potential problems that come with coupons are easily overcome.
  • Students stealing other students coupons: Before starting a coupon system, many veteran teachers have concerns that students will steal other students’ coupons. Truthfully it will probably happen a time or two. The best thing you can do to head this problem off is by building a strong classroom community. Second, make the consequences of coupon thievery clear when introducing the system and then follow through when it does happen. If you suspect a student is stealing coupons but you aren’t sure, start tracking only that student’s coupons. If a student is having a chronic issue with stealing talk to them about why. Sometimes students steal when they feel discouraged about their own potential to earn them on their own.
  • Storage solutions: Personal ownership is a really important piece of using coupons. Students learn accountability by being in charge of their own coupons, counting them, and deciding when to spend and when to save them. Some teachers prefer whole class storage solutions such as a pocket chart. Others prefer a system where the child has a small Tupperware container or plastic baggie to keep their coupons in.  

By: Amy Curletto 

Amy has been teaching for 12 years in grades K-2. She has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and also has endorsements in reading and ESL. Besides education, her other passion is writing and she has always dreamed of being a writer. She lives in Utah with her husband, her 3 daughters, and her miniature schnauzer. She enjoys reading, knitting, and camping.

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