5 Must-Haves for Effective Whole Class Incentives


Setting up an effective whole class reward system is more than just hanging a cute chart on the wall.  There are a few more things that you must have in order to create whole class incentives that actually work! In this post, I’m sharing five essential things that every effective whole class reward system should have.

What Are Whole Class Incentives?

Whole class incentives are reward systems that address the behavior of the class as a whole.  The students work together toward a common goal, which is tracked using a whole-class behavior chart of some kind.  (For example, my build-a-reward system is a very effective whole-class incentive.) 

Caterpillar Build-a-Reward Chart

Whole group rewards are a great way to build classroom community, since students are working together toward a common goal.  Plus, these incentives can help to create a more encouraging classroom atmosphere as you focus on rewarding students for positive behavior.

5 Must-Haves for Effective Whole Class Incentives

Deciding on a whole-group behavior incentive is just the beginning.  There are five additional things that you need to have in order to truly see results from your class reward system.

1. A Target Behavior

The key to a successful behavior reward system is to focus on one single behavior at a time.  A blanket “catch kids being good” isn’t going to be effective because “good” is too relative and subjective. Students will get frustrated with this type of target behavior because they will never know exactly what that looks like.  They just have to go about their day and wait for their teacher to catch them being “good.”

The alternative is to have a specific behavior like “working quietly” or “walking in the hall.”  If someone walked into your classroom and asked a student to explain how the class earns their reward, any of your students should be able to describe the target behavior.  When the goal is specific and focused, students will be more likely to understand what is expected of them. Students can then demonstrate the target behavior when they have a clear understanding of the expectations.

Teddy bear behavior incentive chart

2. An Appropriate Reward

The next must-have for an effective whole class incentive is an appropriate reward.  Student buy-in is a huge part of any successful reward system! Choose an incentive that will be popular with the majority of your students. If you have a handful of students who are demonstrating especially challenging behavior, try to use a reward that would be of particular interest to those students.  

3. Visual Support

Visual supports are essential to a successful whole class incentive! Young learners need to be able to see and understand the behavior goal that they are trying to achieve.  Plus, they need to have a visual reminder of the reward that they can look forward to once they meet the goal.

A great way to keep your classroom incentive visible to all students is by using a pocket chart.  Not only does this keep the reward system in view for your students, but it also serves as a visual reminder for you to be watching for the target behavior throughout the day. That leads me to the next must-have.

Dinosaur behavior incentive in a pocket chart

4. Consistency

Consistency is very important for whole group reward systems!  This is why it’s so helpful to keep your behavior chart in a high-traffic, visible spot in your classroom!  One of the quickest ways to make your reward system less effective is by being inconsistent in follow-through.

Make sure that you are consistent in your expectations for the target behavior.  It’s also important to be consistent in recognizing students when they are demonstrating the target behavior. When your behavior incentive becomes a consistent part of your school day routine, students will be more likely to work toward the reward. It will also be easier to keep them engaged in the process!

5. Commitment to Positive Reinforcement

Finally, a whole group reward system needs to remain just that: A reward system.  The final thing you need for an effective incentive is a commitment to positive reinforcement. Commit to using this tool for its intended purpose, which is to point out when students are demonstrating the positive target behavior. Don’t let consequences sneak into your whole-class reward system!

A butterfly build-a-reward chart

For example, if you use a build-a-reward system, you would not take away a piece of the reward that the students had already earned.  What if your class goal is to walk quietly in the hallway and your class was completely rowdy on the way to lunch? You would definitely address this behavior with your class and give a consequence as needed.  However, that consequence should not be to take away a piece of the reward that they already earned. That is a surefire way to increase student frustration with your reward system, which can negatively impact student buy-in.

More Tips for Whole Class Reward Systems

Check out this video for even more tips about implementing effective whole-class incentives.  In this video, I address many different frequently asked questions about whole class rewards.  Be sure to follow me on YouTube if you like these videos!

Printable Whole Class Incentives

Are you looking for a simple, low-prep whole-class reward system for your classroom? I have you covered!  My Build-a-Reward incentive charts are a great way to encourage your whole class to demonstrate positive behavior.  To save you time and money, I have compiled all of my Build-a-Reward charts into one resource.  

Whole Class Reward System - The Complete Bundle

This bundle includes reward charts that you can use anytime, as well as fun seasonal rewards to keep students motivated during holiday seasons throughout the year. If you’d like to take a closer look at all of the fun reward themes included in this bundle, you can find it in the Teaching Exceptional Kinders shop or on TPT.

Save These Tips for Whole Class Incentives

Be sure to save this post if you’d like to come back to it later!  Just add the pin below to your favorite teaching board on Pinterest.  You’ll be able to quickly find these tips and resources when you’re ready to plan your whole class incentives.

5 Must-Haves for Effective Whole Class Incentives


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *