41 Best Whole Class Reward Ideas for Teachers

whole class rewards definition and examples, explained below

Whole class rewards can be great for motivating your students. They are rewards that you provide for your students for collectively doing a great job as a team of students.

Whole class rewards have some amazing benefits, such as:

  • Creating Positive Interdependence and Shared Purpose: Positive interdependence occurs when students share common goals. With the common goal of the whole group reward, students see that they’re all in it together. They have to work together to achieve their goals, helping them to build a sense of community, commonality and shared purpose. 
  • Improved Student Behavior: Students who have a common goal will regulate one another. By creating a whole class reward, every student in the class acts as your personal policeman.
  • Better Rapport with your Students: You can have a lot of fun with a whole class behavior management strategy, helping to create a great relationship between you and your students.

Whole Class Reward Ideas for Teachers

1. Class Party

Ages: All Ages

When all your students achieve their common goal, throw a class party for them! The party can involve games, snacks and movies. Don’t forget to crank some great child-friendly movie soundtracks (Sherk is my go-to choice – it’s an oldie but a goodie!) Consider doing games like pin the tail on the donkey and duck-duck-goose. Games can be differentiated for older age groups.

2. Glow Sticks Dance Party

ir?t=help prof 20&language=en US&l=li3&o=1&a=B00N1QPNMAAges: 3 – 12

Not just any dance party – a glow sticks party! Get a pack of glow sticks , turn down the lights, close the blinds, and let your students dance up a storm! Kids love to make multicolored light trails, bracelets and necklaces from the glow of the glow sticks. Here is a 100 pack of glow sticks from Amazon.

3. Food

Ages: All Ages

Food is of course the most obvious but also a really effective reward. Bring in a cake or candies that you bought from the store. Beware of allergies and ensure you have some healthy food options. I like to canvas my students’ parents before using food in the class to make sure they’re all on board. One crowd sourcing strategy for your food option is for every student to bring a plate of food to share with the class.

4. Field Trip

Ages: All Ages

A field trip can be as simple as a trip to a free local museum, a walk through a local wooded area, or a trek to the local pool. Students don’t care where they’re going – the fun is that they’re going somewhere new! The field trip can even have educational value. Consider finding a field trip location where you can tick off some important learning outcomes in your curriculum.

5. Play Time

Ages: 2 – 12 

Play-based learning is great for the development of skills such as creativity, imagination, teamwork and risk management. But … students love it! Offer students free unstructured play time in exchange for their hard work. While they think they’re getting a reward, in reality you are encouraging great skills. Consider outdoor play time (such as the sort of play time encouraged by the Forest Schools Movement).

6. Movie and Popcorn

Ages: All Ages

Movies and popcorn is a classic, but this is another activity that students love. To perk this activity up a little, consider letting the students choose a movie to watch. Get them to contribute their own ideas into a ‘group vote’ for their choice of movie. Another option is to get one student who particularly excelled to make the movie choice themselves.

7. Dress Up Day

ir?t=help prof 20&language=en US&l=li3&o=1&a=B00RN33SWOAges: 3 – 8

Dress-ups is a day where all the students come into class dressed in a theme. My favorite theme is to dress as your favorite book or movie character. Or, if you have been reading a book with your class, ask them all to dress up as a character from a specific book. You can pair this day with a range of fun activities linked to the dress-up theme, including art activities and movies. Check out this police, fire and hospital dress ups kit from Amazon.

8. Outdoor Lesson

Ages: All Ages

An outdoor lesson is an incredibly simple but effective way of exciting your students. Use this option on a warm day where the class can sit under a tree and paint a landscape, learn about Indigenous history, or simply lie around and listen to a story. Outdoor play can help students become more familiar with the seasons and their local ecosystem while also making learning more fun.

9. Computer Time

Ages: 7 – 18

Students (and, especially boys) love computer time! Computer time doesn’t have to be just idle time. Digital game-based learning such as learning using sandbox games like Minecraft has huge benefits for digital literacy and creativity. One option I often use is to ask students to create their on phenomenon-based learning activity where they use computers to explore a phenomenon like “asteroids”, “moon landings”, “pirate ships” or “the Jurassic era”.

10. Music Time

Ages: All Ages

Simply allowing the occasional music-based activity can excite students. Next time you have an active learning lesson like painting, science experiments, or a game-based learning situation, offer music in exchange for positive on-task good behavior. Ensure the music is age-appropriate, or allow students to choose their favorite soundtrack. YouTube will be your best friend for finding any song under the sun.

11. Paper Airplane Comeptition

Ages: 7 – 15

Teachers often hate paper airplanes. But you can turn this into a structured learning activity by teaching your students how to make a range of airplane designs. Get them to pick their design and color in their plane. Then, the whole class stands on a line and throws their plane to see who wins! Make sure you don’t let the students throw the plane until it is race time. Here’s a whole-class kit from Amazon.

12. Story Time

Ages: All Ages

Never underestimate the power of a good story. Children of all ages (and yes, I’m including adults here) love to be read to. Use story time as leverage: “We’ll read a whole chapter of Harry Potter if you finish this task in time!” The students don’t need to know that you have to finish that book by the end of term: all that matters is that this is an activity that gives you a great deal of leverage over your students!

13. Student Choice Project

Ages: 7 – 18

A student choice project is a project where the students get a vote on what they want to do. For example, you can offer students a choice of researching castles, self-driving cars, the Amazon rain forest and … pirates! Let students have a vote on their project of choice. But remember, you need to let them know that they only get to research this project if they complete their core curriculum work first.

14. Change the Class Layout

a diagram of a classroom with a table groups layout

Ages: All Ages

How often do you change up your classroom layout? I personally shift between a table desk layout and a rows layout regularly (depending on the age of my students). A good option is to introduce your students to a range of classroom layouts and let them make a choice about which one they would prefer. Of course, this is a reward for good behavior – so your students will hopefully be at a stage where they’ll behave no matter the layout. Here is a list of the 12 best classroom layout arrangements for you to get some inspiration.

15. Crazy Science Experiment

Ages: All Ages

As a reward for their hard work, offer your students the opportunity to conduct a fun science experiment. A great one is a volcano erupting – the more dramatic, the better! Another simple but fun science experiment that causes eruptions is the mentos in coke can experiment.

16. A New Pet

Ages: 3 – 12

A class pet can have huge positive benefits for your students – so hang the idea out there as an incentive for your students! It will teach them how to care for nature, and help them learn about things like life cycles and ecosystems. Examples of class pets include fish, axolotls, bearded dragons, mice and turtles. I like to stick with fish because they’re low-key, low-maintenance animals for the class.

17. Library Visit

Ages: 3 – 12

Offer your students the chance to spend 30 minutes at the end of the day in the school library, or even better – your local community library! You might also be able to line this library visit up with book reading sessions from guest authors coming to town, or other children’s activities that the library is operating.

18. T-Ball

Ages: 7 – 18

The classic game of T-Ball is a love for all generations. A quick game of T-ball at the end of the day isn’t just an incentive to have fun, it might also be ideal for helping kids to let off some steam. I like using this strategy if it’s been a long boring day in the classroom.

19. Geocache Hunt

Ages: 7 – 18

A geocache hunt involves getting students into small teams to search for a hidden goodie via GPS. Geocaching has great benefits as it supports team building, orienteering and geography skills. If you don’t have geocache technology available (there are a ton of free geocache phone apps), simply create a clue hunt for students to do a similar search around the school.

20. Joke Time

ir?t=help prof 20&language=en US&l=li3&o=1&a=1641526378Ages: All Ages

This is a fun and easy end-of-day activity. Get yourself a cheap joke book and spend 10 minutes at the end of the day (if the students have done well!) to tell some jokes. Add a twist to this by getting students to come to class with jokes they found at home, and let them tell the joke themselves! Low on books? Here’s a book with over 800 jokes from Amazon.

21. Homework Free Week

Ages: All Ages

If you have had a long, tough term at school, consider letting the students choose one week of the term to be homework-free. Alternatively, you can set a reward such as: “If I get 100% of students completing their homework this week, you get next week off!” This will incentivize students to all complete their homework on time.

22. Grab Bag

Ages: 3 – 12

A grab bag is simply a bag full of cheap goodies. They can be as simple as tennis balls, candy, toy figurines, or anything else you have lying around (or anything you can find at the dollar store!). Invite each student up to get one item out of the grab bag. Consider blindfolding them so they can’t see what’s in the grab bag! (They’ll inevitably start trading items at the end, anyway).

23. Stickers for All!

Ages: 2 – 6

This is a great whole class reward for Preschool and Kindergarten aged students. It’s incredible how much kids at that age love stickers! If you have a sticker chart on the wall, consider offering to give every student in the class three more stickers if they all do a good job that day. Or, stick a sticker on their shirt on the way out the door.

24. Invite the Principal to Class

Ages: 5 – 12

School principals often love to come into a classroom and see how things are going. To line up a principal visit with good behavior incentives, tell the class you’ll invite a special guest into the classroom if they behave for a whole week. Some things the principal could do include: reading a book to the class, running a painting class, or telling some jokes!

25. Forts Day

Ages: 3 – 7

Classroom tables are great foundations for forts. To add to this foundation, bring in some old sheets and towels to help the students to build some amazing forts. You could get the students into small groups to build the forts, or build an enormous whole-class fort. Once the forts are built, consider allowing some unstructured play time or getting them all to lie in the forts and rest while you read a book.

26. Make Slime!

ir?t=help prof 20&language=en US&l=li3&o=1&a=B07L8RZC3CAges: 3 – 12

Everyone loves a bit of slime on a Friday afternoon! Slime can be a fun tactile activity all on its own. You can make your lessons about following recipes, testing viscosity, or simply building things. Another slime idea might be to create letters and words out of slime to help during literacy class. Try this slime kit from Amazon.

27. Cooking Class

Ages: 7 – 15

The best thing about a cooking class is that it ends with something yummy! It’s a lesson that students absolutely love, so leveraging it to encourage hard work and positive behavior can be powerful. Set high expectations and follow-up with a class where students learn to bake a cake or some cookies.

28. 15 Minutes Extra Recess

Ages: All Ages

It’s a simple teaching tool, but it works. Simply encourage hard work and focus in return for more play time during recess and lunch breaks. To add to the fun of this, consider offering to spend that 15 minutes playing with your students – set up a fun game of hopscotch or tag!

29. Board Game Afternoon

Ages: 4 and up

I love a board game afternoon – especially on a rainy day! Let your students choose from a range of board games such as Guess Who, Clue, and Snakes and Ladders. To further leverage this reward, let students who excelled to get their first pick of board game. You can buy Guess Who on Amazon.

30. Art Class

Ages: All Ages

Art classes can get messy, but they’re great for helping your students with their creativity and self-expression skills. Consider getting an easel, paint brushes, and paints … and letting your students express themselves! Extensions to this task could include asking students to paint a scene from a book, their idea for a book cover, or perhaps a self-portrait.

31. Musical Chairs or Duck-Duck-Goose

Ages: 3 – 6

Musical chairs is a simple game, but young kids absolutely love it! It can also be done in a quick 30-minute end-of-day session. Similar options (especially for preschool ages) include duck-duck-goose and pass the parcel. I’m a fan of duck-duck-goose because all students are included throughout the game (rather than the ‘knockout’ nature of musical chairs).

32. Teacher vs. Student Game

Ages: All Ages

I’ve noticed that my students love playing a game that’s student vs. teachers. They love to work together as a team to try to beat their teacher! One way I do this is run a quiz. If they get the answer, they get a point. If they don’t get the answer, I get a point.

33. Silent Ball

Ages: 7 – 12

Silent ball is a game where students have to pass a ball around the class in complete silence. It sounds simple (too simple!) but it’s unbelievably effective. It also gives you a few moments of silence! Here are the rules of this game that somehow mesmerizes boys and girls between ages 9 and 14. I’ll often use it as an incentive for students to focus and complete their tasks efficiently … “If you do a great job in this lesson, we’ll have 15 minutes of silent ball before home time!”

34. Origami Day

ir?t=help prof 20&language=en US&l=li3&o=1&a=0440228433Ages: 7 – 15

Set aside a whole reward day for doing origami! Origami is a bit like paper airplanes … but you can do so many more designs! You can start with simple ones for younger children or extra complicated ones for your more advanced students with better dexterity. I like to read my students the inspiring book of 1000 paper cranes (check the price on Amazon) to set the mood. Then I jump over to YouTube videos for students to follow along when creating their own origami.

35. Team Building Day

A team building day is a day you can spend doing team building activities like guiding your peers who are blindfolded, falling backward (trust exercise), and other team building activities for students. Ensure it is pitched as a fun day to get to know each other some more, have fun, and make great experiences as a class – all as a reward for their hard work!

36. Trivia

Ages: 7 and up

Promise a trivia game at the end of the day (or week) for good behavior. You could even let the students choose the trivia theme (e.g. Harry Potter) or alternatively link the trivia lesson to course content that you have recently taught. Make sure you prepare this in advance, because it takes some time to come up with some good trivia question ideas!

37. Create a Time Capsule

Ages: 8 and up

Time capsules are packets of trinkets that represent your current year. Get your students to select objects from around the classroom or write letters to put in the time capsule. Take the class outside and bury your time capsule somewhere in the school. Put up a stake showing where it was buried and who buried it. Dig it up in 20 years’ time!

38. Parents Day

Ages: 3 – 12

A parents day is simply a day where students can invite their parents into the class to show-off what they have been doing. Dangle parents day as a reward for good work – and remind students: “If you do a good enough job, I’ll invite all of your parents in to see your hard work!” This tends to work well in elementary school, but older students may not want their parents to come to school.

39. Indoor Volleyball

Ages: 7 and up

Indoor volleyball is really fun because it’s a little bit of a rule-breaking activity: you get to pull apart the class, free up space in the middle, and hit a ball around the classroom! I use balloons or other soft, squishy balls to prevent damage to the windows.

40. Visit another Class

Ages: All ages

A visit to another classroom can be really exciting – especially for younger students. Ask around to other teachers. There is usually a class somewhere in the school who wants to practice a presentation. Get your students to sit in as the ‘practice’ audience. It’ll be a win-win for both classes.

41. Write a Letter to Santa

Ages: 3 – 10

A letter to Santa will work great for younger kids, but with older ones you might need to differentiate this (for obvious reasons). Consider with older students the option to write a wish list or even a fantasy list of ideas you’d want for an upcoming trip. For younger students, ensure you provide writing support. Consider also actually putting the letters in envelopes and addressing them to the ‘North Pole’.

Read Also: A List of 101 Classroom Consequences

whole class reward ideas

Final Thoughts: Behavior Management Benefits

Whole class rewards can also be an excellent addition to your classroom management strategy. They are central to the following two strategies:

  • Positive Behavioral and Intervention Supports: PBIS is a strategy that has its roots in the behaviorist theory of learning. It involves focusing on and rewarding positive behaviors while downplaying and ‘ignoring’ negative behaviors.
  • Preferred Activity Time Strategy: The preferred activity time strategy offers students a reward in the form of doing an activity they prefer. However, students have control over how much time they spend on this preferred activity. The more efficiently and harder students work, the more time they get. e.g. Tell students they will have 15 minutes at the end of the day for a special activity. If they work hard and get all their work done, maybe that will become 30 minutes or even an hour!

Read Also: 13 Behavior Management Strategies for your Classroom

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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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