In our homeschool this week… I updated my “prize bucket” for my six-year-old Joel. The prize bucket is something I started for him a few years ago to provide motivation for good behavior and achievements. I keep random things in it that Joel might like: stickers, candy, cars, balloons, airplanes, etc. Up to this point, I haven’t been very structured about it. Whenever we had an especially good day or he did something really good, I would let him pick something from the bucket.
Recently I noticed that all of the “cool” prizes always disappeared first, and things like sticker, pencils and playdough were always left in the bucket. So I decided it was time to revamp the system.
First, I collected a bunch of new prizes — from Christmas clearance and Target’s dollar bins — and I have given each of them a points value. Stickers, pencils, PlayDough and stuff like that are worth 10 points, candy is 20, cars and little toys like that are 25, kites and little kits are 30, LEGO kits and bigger toys are 50, and large games and LEGO sets are 100.
Then I made a list of all of the things Joel can do for school to earn points. A perfect math sheet or phonics sheet gets 1-3 points, an A on a test gets 5-10 points. He gets 1 point for every book he reads or 25 points when he finishes a “reader” book (like the McGuffey Reader). Then there are things he can memorize, like the continents and oceans (which are worth 25) or the states (which are worth 50), and he gets 3 points for every scripture verse he memorizes. When he can get 100 addition problems right in less than 5 minutes, he will get 50 points. I will also be giving him good attitude points on occasion.
My hope is that the prize bucket will motivate him to work harder and go above and beyond the daily expectations. I also think it will bring some fun into the process of working toward his goals and rewarding him for achieving them. I am trying to keep the points-to-prize ratio hard enough to challenge him (so that he isn’t getting a prize every day) and yet not so hard that he will get frustrated and give up.
So far it seems to be working! I unveiled the new and improved prize bucket system to him this week, and he was so excited. Yesterday, he read three extra books and then today, besides doing all of his schoolwork very well, he read the last five lessons in his first McGuffey Reader so that he could “buy” the Matchbox Space Shuttle he had his eye on. He was very happy and proud of himself for working so hard and earning a cool prize.
How do you motivate your younger students? Have you ever tried a prize system? What does your incentive program look like? We’d love to hear about in the comments below.