How class blogs (and other methods) can replace classroom sticker charts

23rd April 2012  |  by Greg

Some questions?

  • Why do the most challenging children in school often get the most “Good behaviour” certificates?
  • Is it ok to give a student a Mars Bar because they didn’t throw chairs that day? (I admit that this is rhetorical.)
  • Why do the hardest working children get the least recognition?
  • How do we celebrate effort and success without making it a competition?

Rewards – the bluntest of instruments

There is general agreement that rewards are a good thing. However, I think it’s important that every school and every teacher takes a careful look (if they haven’t already) at the unwanted consequences of contingent reinforcers (if you do this, you’ll get that reward). Rewards such as classroom sticker charts can be very effective at promoting activity but I’d suggest they’re not so good at promoting things like imagination, independence, cooperation or a love of learning itself. In fact, writers such as Alfie Kohn suggest they actually damage children’s intrinsic motivation.

There are other disadvantages too:

  • Children learn to do the least possible to get a reward
  • They can start to ask; “What do I get?”
  • They don’t tackle the root cause of the lack of effort (you might find Restorative Practice useful for that)

You can’t make cooperation a competition

I’ve come across a couple of amazing school blogs recently that create a brilliant alternative to the traditional classroom sticker chart. (See below for the links.) What they do is celebrate and recognise children’s efforts and achievements without making them into a competition. Here’s why I think they are better than sticker charts or good behaviour awards/certificates.

In my experience, stickers are given out using one of two methods:

  • The stickers are given out fairly and the hardest working and highest achieving children are given the most stickers. Children who are less motivated, for whatever reason, lose the race.


  • The stickers are given out according to need. The most challenging children get the most and the above pattern is inverted.
For me, neither of these scenarios make much sense.

Move from individual, measurable rewards to recognition and celebration

Rather than having sticker charts and good behaviour certificates, I suggest moving the emphasis towards strategies schools probably use already (or could easily start tomorrow):

  • Celebration assemblies     

Most schools have a version of this. Children bring work they are proud of or are nominated by teachers or their classmates. Achievements from outside school are also recognised. The impact of these events can’t be underestimated.

  • School and class blogs    

Just like an online assembly that can celebrate all day, every day

  • House points when competition is appropriate    

Competition is good and house points for sports days or remembering homework, for example, is a great way to use competition. I’d avoid them for behaviour though.

The only reward I’d recommend – Class-wide rewards

These are for short periods of time eg the beginning of term or the run up to Christmas, where individual children can receive rewards that the whole class benefit from. After all, we want the class to support children who’s behaviour is more challenging. Giving them individual rewards can have the opposite effect. More details about class-wide rewards are in the free-to-download, 50 Minute Behaviour course.

Class treats/”Golden Time”

This strategy is as old as teaching itself and it’s a great way to help a class bond and create a sense of belonging. That’s why I think all children should take part and whether it happens should not be contingent upon behaviour or be part of any individual reward (or consequence) system. It’s too valuable. I’d also suggest that the time is always learning/play related, so sorry to the movie lovers.

All you need is a Posterous account

The Posterous app means you can snap and publish (subject to parental permission of course) in a matter of seconds. Seen something that you want to celebrate? Just take a photo and publish to the web in less time than it takes to fill out  a certificate!

Need inspiration

Those fantastic school blogs are here:

Moortown Primary School

Dallow Primary School

Middleham Primary School

What about you?

Are you an advocate of the sticker chart?

Do you have a strategy for recognition that I’ve missed?

Do you have a celebration blog you’d like to share? I’m particularly looking for secondary school examples.

Why not let us know?


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