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Old 01-09-2013, 10:50 PM
ChoiceAdvocate ChoiceAdvocate is offline
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 16
Euless, Texas
3rd Grade Teacher
Paying students (in non-money) to behave and do well

I am a first year teacher at a charter school in Euless, Texas. I just want to let everyone know about the motivational experiment that I am running in my classroom to motive and reward desirable behavior amongst my students.

My plan is a simple plan it is to reward students based upon performance, behavior, and good deeds.

I issue out tickets for good test scores, staying on green in behavior standards {red (lowest, yellow, and green (highest)}, and a small reward for participating in the charitable class competition (collecting cans for the food drive, collecting box tops and labels for education thus far).

The combined score of their behavior (Tracked on a weekly 5 day scale and adjusted for short weeks.) and their grade average.

{Ex: If a kid has had 5 green days in a row (100% behavior) and an A+ grade average (100%) we take the average of those two and make the order of who goes to the store first.}

I try to get 5 kids a day so that all 25 kids can have a chance to visit.

These tickets issued can be used in my class store in which I sell items bought from mostly dollar tree, thrift stores, garage sales, kid’s meal toys from McDonald’s, and many other sources. I also have kids donate toys from home (with a parent’s note) for a discounted price in tickets.

Of course not every student has always responded well to the positive motivations, so I also have negative motivations…

I levy ticket fines for missing/late/bad homework, failing grade on test, and poor behavior. They aren't allowed to spend tickets at the store unless they pay off their ticket fines first. And the ticket fines are steeper than the reward. There is a big message sent that there is no reward for slacking.

Students also get a chance to experience the real world through trade, negotiation, and barter amongst themselves. Although the last three ideas were not mentioned or promoted, they were not prohibited and the kids engaged in the activity on their own will.

So far I’ve seen kids make paper fortune tellers, “kootie catchers”, or boyfriend/girlfriend detectors out of paper and sell them to other kids for tickets.

There is one thing that they cannot do: buy tickets or prize box items for money. The tickets act as a de facto currency, and as such only I command the money supply. So even though individual students could sell their earned tickets for cash, no other tickets are created unless the students behave well , do good work, and participate in the school fundraisers.

So in other words, rich kids can’t buy their way into wealth.

(The amount of tickets given for toys have been substantially lower than their sell price, and in all cases, the kids earn more had they simply did well and behaved. Which there aren’t exactly any rich kids in my class as the school is considered Title I)

The students love the system, they love buying toys and selling homemade items to other kids for tickets. They absolutely hate ticket fines, but will do everything to get back on the positive side before their store day. Parents have told me that their kids have improved exponentially and some have even donated teaching supplies to me to use wherever I teach. My school has had 3 class wide competitions, in which so far my class has won twice. I rarely have had any poor behavior students that I have to send to the office.

I have learned myself how much that this experiment has also aided in me teaching lessons on economics. I have examples that they can relate based off of their experience with the store. They understand supply and demand, currency, and even taxation. They have learned property responsibility, ownership, bargaining, saving, and even security.

They have learned the hard lessons of following the rules (one kid got his prized magnet rocks taken up in another classroom only to have another kid steal them) and living with their choices as I won’t replace their items or lost/stolen tickets.

So if anyone is looking for a way to increase participation and good behavior, this idea might be worth a shot. (Kids tend to spend the majority of cheap items from dollar tree and thrift stores. And never underestimate what kids will buy no matter what shape it is in. They will buy it if it is at the right price. And they are always happy. Some of the kids in my class around Christmas were even buying presents for their parents and siblings.)
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Old 01-10-2013, 08:19 PM
MsB2012 MsB2012 is offline
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 111
Fort Worth, TX
4th Grade Teacher
Do you worry about kids cheating the system or counterfeiting tickets?
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Old 01-10-2013, 08:57 PM
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terptoteacher terptoteacher is offline
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 1,728
3rd Grade Teacher
I use a similar system, but I don't link my management/behavior system to academics. I want my struggling learners to have the same opportunity to shine as those high achieving students.
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Old 01-11-2013, 01:31 PM
Rox Rox is offline
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 530
Special Education Teacher
I wish the research reflected your experience, but from what I have read, this kind of system doesn't build intrinsic motivation, only extrinsic. When they move to a different teacher, will they continue the behavior or will they expect a ticket for it?
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Old 01-11-2013, 06:34 PM
ChoiceAdvocate ChoiceAdvocate is offline
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 16
Euless, Texas
3rd Grade Teacher
Originally Posted by Rox View Post
I wish the research reflected your experience, but from what I have read, this kind of system doesn't build intrinsic motivation, only extrinsic. When they move to a different teacher, will they continue the behavior or will they expect a ticket for it?
I will write notes to the parents at the end of the year, who pretty much already know about the system, to let them know how well it has worked for their child. If the parents want to continue the system, I fully expect them to do their own thing based off of grades and behavior.

Some parents won't care, and it is possible that if the parents don't show any motivation to reward their children that some kids will go back to slacking. I am not really expecting the next grade up's teacher to attempt this.

I am going to try to convince the administration to make this a school wide thing with me issuing the tickets to teachers to distribute anyway that they like and maybe having the store day on Friday for the best performers and Saturday for those who could use the extra tutoring. We'll have to see has goes.

One principal has already commented that she loved the idea of my store how it has worked for my class. So we will have to see. My main reason to do this was simply to see if kids would treat school like a job if given the chance.

As far as the motivation, I am still waiting to find a teacher who would forgo their pension and donate all of their pay to charity. In my mind, we are all motivated by extrinsic pursuits, so why not just get the ball rolling early?

Ms B: I have a unique hole punch and I sign an initial on each ticket. The kids themselves have also taken a unique measure to ensure no one steals their tickets, they write their names on the back.
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Old 01-11-2013, 06:42 PM
JustMe JustMe is offline
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Posts: 8,133
Too much work, time, and management for me, but if it's successful for you...!
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Old 01-11-2013, 08:50 PM
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Linguist92021 Linguist92021 is offline
Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 3,508
Central Valley of California
High School English (Alt. Ed.)
I don't like to link academic to reward either. Their reward for that is an actual grade. I would rather reward effort and behavior, not behavior and tests scores.
What an A is to one student, a C would be to another. A struggling student may be very proud of himself to finally get a C and should be praised for his efforts as if it was an A. But if the focus is on actual grades, such as 'good' ones, he will never feel successful in your class.
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Old 01-11-2013, 10:13 PM
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Caesar753 Caesar753 is offline
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 12,300
I've heard of many teachers using this sort of system. I personally wouldn't use it because it seems like it's too much work for me. I don't like to implement procedures or programs that are too heavy on the planning.

Have you looked into the research on these sorts of programs? Do you worry that it might be unfair to some of your students? I mean, if a student can't afford to bring in canned food for a charitable event, and they don't get tickets for that, is that fair? Do you think that your students who struggle academically might shut down, thinking that they won't get a ticket anyway so why bother trying their best on an assessment?
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Old 01-12-2013, 01:10 AM
ChoiceAdvocate ChoiceAdvocate is offline
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 16
Euless, Texas
3rd Grade Teacher
From what I've seen so far, effort has increased by leaps and bounds from students where at the beginning of the year there was none. I have had on child go from a 1st grade reading level to a 3rd grade reading level within the first semester. So effort is definitely rewarded, because they want to get the tickets so that they can buy the prizes.

As far as fairness, it honestly hasn't been my concern because fair is a very dubious term that can take on way too many ideas and definitions. Its very existence has lead to so many bad ideas historically and has been used all too often to justify very destructive behavior. I don't incorporate fair as much as I do agreeable. I am teaching through non-intervention skepticism, bargaining, and value by simply allowing the kids to make deals amongst themselves.

This has been a trial and error approach as I have been trying to make the system encourage hard work and not random chance. Originally, I selected order via a random number generator: a bingo ball tumbler. I found amazingly enough that 3rd graders with more tickets were striking up deals with the early rounders for them to buy items for them so that they could get them. There was no encouragement or discouragement of this behavior from me, these kids simply thought critically and ascertained a flaw within the system that they could exploit. The lucky kids agreed to such a deal because they were usually given a tip of a few tickets for doing it.

I have yet to see a child give up on the idea, if anything it has motivated every kid in the class to improve themselves. No child has really questioned the fairness of the system, they have accepted the fines and seem to have a huge sense of pride and accomplishment over the simplest if purchases.

Some of the studies that I have seen have come from the relatively new psychological economic merger of behavioral economics. Dan Ariely, who wrote Predictably Irrational, had a segment in which he talked about humans having an irrational behavior of loss aversion. Humans have been observed in studies showing that people would rather avoid losing what they have rather than gaining more given the choice.

I have seen this first hand with the ticket fines. The fines are larger than the reward, so the kids have been very reluctant to forget their homework or daily calendars. One of my best performing students came in the other day moping head down. She had forgotten her homework and knew that she owed a fine. She typically does her homework and the fines wasn't a big deal to an outside observer, because she had earned plenty of tickets and was the type who saves vs spends. She paid the fine and didn't even argue it.

There is also a joy that overcomes you when you see the look on the kid's face when they buy an item. Kids don't have jobs and they aren't allowed to work, but this system gives them the opportunity to try to see what their best effort is and to be rewarded for it.

I sort of take the view of a sports coach and apply it to education. I know that not all of my students have equal strengths and all have different abilities some better than others. My goal is to get the best effort out of everyone. And the great thing about experiments such as this, is their ability to fail. We learn a lot more from failure than we do success. And as I said, I have indeed made some adjustments. I originally didn't have an effective negative enforcement until I instituted the ticket fines. And my order wasn't encouraging a race to the top that I had wanted either, thus the change to the combined score placement.

And while I have encouraged kids to participate in the charitable donations, the vast majority of kids had earned their tickets simply by turning in their homework and getting good grades on tests and behaving well. Virtually every household has turned in cans and box tops. The kids are effective at pestering their parents to look for box tops to turn in. They are also given a single ticket for turning in 10 aluminum cans, but nobody has done so as of yet. (one kid got his entire extended family to save up 290 box tops.)

And as far as feeling successful, all of my students have been able to buy something to take home from the store. And every one of them was mighty proud of it. I am not sure if any of them have felt like a failure simply because they've earned less stuff, but I do know that so far none of them have shut down and given up yet. If it happens, I'll let you know. In fact, the accumulation of fines has lead me to discover why one child was not doing his homework, his reading level was lower than the assignment. I believe that keeping up with this system has allowed me to discover it sooner rather than later. He was able to answer the questions when I asked him, so I am thinking of simply having him come in on Saturday and putting some focus in on one on one reading and homework.

And I've had some thoughts on what to do if a kid ends up giving up on assignments and accumulates too many fines to overcome. It will be some sort of series of Saturday school makeup days with me. Like a kid's version of declaring bankruptcy. I'll let you all know if this happens and what its results are.
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Old 01-12-2013, 02:43 AM
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Cerek Cerek is offline
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 3,139
North Carolina
Middle School Math Teacher
Originally Posted by ChoiceAdvocate View Post
As far as the motivation, I am still waiting to find a teacher who would forgo their pension and donate all of their pay to charity. In my mind, we are all motivated by extrinsic pursuits, so why not just get the ball rolling early?
Money is a necessity for adults, who have bills to pay. Unless one is independently wealthy, they would need some amount of money coming in to pay those bills.

That being said, very few teachers enter the education field for the money. They, more than many others, enter their chosen field because they already have a strong, intrinsic motivation for that career.
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