Many of us use some sort of reward system in the classroom to reinforce that beautiful behavior we all desire from our students. Systems can come in many forms, e.g. Sticker charts, token economies, raffle tickets and so on. Coming up with rewards that won't break the bank, and will be fun for students can get costly if you are dipping into your own pockets to provide tangible rewards as a dangling carrot. When I started out teaching, in my desperate attempt to keep the students excited about the rewards, I spent so much money on prizes! Little did I know that I really did not need such extravagant rewards to make that carrot look so shiny!
In a classroom where we had only one computer, time on it for any student was special, even for work. When I noticed some great online educational games, I decided to reward a couple of students with computer game time. They could play any game of their choice as long as it was educational for a set amount of time. This was a huge deal, the students loved it, it was educational, and it was free! So I decided to work it better into our reward system. Below I've outlined how I use games as rewards in my classroom, with some added suggestions depending on what you have available in your classroom if you would also like to implement games as a positive reinforcement reward.
Evaluate what technology you have available in the classroom
- First, evaluate how many computers, iPads, does your class have readily access to? The more you have, the easier it will be to reward students more frequently. However, if the technology that you have access to is limited, it can still work well. I did this with only one computer and then I also offered my own personal iPad as an additional option sometimes.
- Internet connection will make this easier and keep it free if you have available at your school. If you do not have Internet connection, then you may need to spend a bit of money just to begin with by purchasing some games that can be played offline.
- Do you have Adobe Flash Player installed on your computer? Most games will need Flash. If you do not have Flash Player installed on your computer, then you will at least need Google Chrome Internet Browser available. Chrome has built in Flash and may be the easier option for your students to access the games. You can download Chrome HERE for free.
- iPads do not have Flash available on them, but there is a way to access the games through the iPad. You will need to download the free app 'Puffin Web Browser.' Opening this app and using its browser to access the games will make most of them work. Some games still may be too difficult to play on touch screen though; so they will need to be trialed by users to see what is iPad friendly and what can only really be played on the computer.
Have a list of websites with Educational Games bookmarked
Having some websites with educational games bookmarked will help you refer students to which websites they are allowed to access and choose games from. With the abundance of free online games available on the Internet, I like to still keep them directed to educational type games that are appropriate for the classroom, but are still fun of course! Below I have provided a list of some websites that provide free and easy access to an assortment of educational games.
Decide on time and management
You will need to make some decisions about time and management in order to keep it consistent for everyone and also manageable. Below I've listed some questions to ask yourself. You can choose however it suits you and your class best. I've provided suggestions on what I have done just to give some ideas on how you could go about implementing it.
Decide how students can earn 'Game Time' tokens
You may simply want to just replace the current rewards that you are using with game time tokens, OR you may wish to implement a whole new system to introduce the new reward scheme. I've included some suggestions below:
Game Space Set Up
Just a final note on set up, particularly with tablets. You could set up a special area in your room, similar to a calm corner or reading lounge, for students to use their game time. This helps keep other students from getting distracted by those playing a game. It also sets a special place for students to really feel rewarded. Put some colorful cushions, words of praise on the walls, make it feel like a real treat.
Games are a fantastic reward, that I'm sure many students will enjoy. In my opinion, these types of rewards are a WIN WIN for both student and teacher. If it doesn't work for your class, then you can always go back to what you were doing . . . But, if it does work then HOORAY! Save some $$$ and keep their minds active with fun games!
A 21st century School Teacher, Mother, and Wife.
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