Setting up an office incentive system doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming. There are many ways you can do this, giving you the flexibility to find something that works best for you. When paired with the correct expectations, an office incentive system creates mutual respect and encourages accountability. Below I have outlined the 3 different incentive systems I use with the following ages: prek-2nd, 3rd-4th, and 5th-8th.
This system is the most simple. Students earn 2 stars or stickers on a chart for each scheduled session they see me. Each star or sticker is paired with an expectation: 1 for following my rules and 1 for trying their best. For every 5 stars or stickers, they earn a prize from my prize bin. I purchase most of my prizes from the Target Dollar Spot because I can find a lot for a small amount of money. What I tend to buy they typically carry all year round, just different themes. Those items include mini erasers, stretchy animals/characters, party favors (especially around Valentine’s Day), small stamps, candy, pencils, wind-up cars, and much more.
Once students are in 3rd grade, I try to make my incentive system a little more difficult. Right now I use a social work “game board” that students move around throughout the year. Each space on the board includes a question and they earn 2 spaces for each scheduled session they see me. The board also includes 2 prize spaces that earn them a prize if they pass or land on them. The prize spaces are 10 spaces apart, an increase from the 5 stars or stickers of the previous system. Prizes I recommend for this age include mini containers of slime, pencils with a decorative eraser or topper, large shaped or character erasers, mini games like Connect 4 or cards, magnets, etc. Oriental Trading has a lot of great items that come in large packs for cheap.
This incentive system is the most involved. Students earn 2 tickets for each scheduled session they see me. These tickets are also paired with expectations: 1 ticket for trying their best and following my rules, and 1 for answering a prompt on their card.
Each student I see has a pocket with an index card I keep on a bulletin board. At the beginning of the year, I write or type prompts on their card that pertain to the skill(s) we are working on and add or update as needed. The prompts remind the student what we are trying to learn/improve, give me an idea of their understanding (great for data), and act as a way to keep them accountable for their progress. You can learn more about how I do this in my Data Tracking Kit, which includes a guide and prompt suggestions by topic.
Students save their tickets and cash in for 3 levels of prizes: 5 tickets, 10 tickets, and 15 tickets.Prizes they can trade for 5 include individual or cheap candy (think Smarties or gum), pencil grippers, and small erasers. For 10 tickets I stock locker magnets, mini packets of candy, mini games, maze pens, small containers of slime, scented highlighters, etc. For 15 tickets students can earn large packets of candy or candy bars, mini bags of chips, liquid bubble pens, extra fidgets, toys from the bookfair, etc. You can check out some of these items under my Incentive & Prize list on my Amazon storefront.
When Stars, Stickers, Spaces, or Tickets Aren’t Earned
If students don’t follow one of the expectations given, one of the stars, stickers, spaces, or tickets are not earned. Let’s say a student is following your rules (systems prek-4th), but not trying their best. They could still earn 1 for following rules, but not 1 for trying their best. This doesn’t happen too often and my students usually earn both, especially once procedures are understood. Using an office incentive system maintains those expectations and keeps sessions on track. I also find it to be particularly helpful with students who don’t want to be there or have IEP minutes and are working towards a goal.
I hope you find this information helpful, or encouraging if you are looking to set up a system for the first time.