Teaching second-grade inclusion was more complicated than teaching kindergarten virtually. That’s because of the diverse behavioral needs and academic performance levels. I wanted to motivate my students, but they all had different goals. I knew I couldn’t use a color chart, so I tried something different. I created a prize box with a twist.
I call it the Surprise Box. This is a box where I keep secret surprises in drawers. These drawers have coupons, prizes, and sometimes whammies!
It didn’t always look this organized. In fact, we started this system using cups with numbers on them. It got in the way and became a hassle changing the cups. I kept refining my prizes until I created a system that works.
I’m so excited to share with you my Surprise Box!
Now, I told you that the needs of my students are diverse. I set personal goals with each student. They write them on an index card and keep them at their desk.
Students who met these goals consistently earn a ticket for the Surprise Box and sometimes create a new goal.
The tickets are special because the students write how they earned their tickets. Writing how they got the ticket helps them remember how they acquired it to tell their families, reinforcing good habits.
Students then place their tickets in a basket. I keep the basket near my Surprise Box. The drawers are covered with numbered labels, so students don’t know what’s inside. In the morning, I check the drawers to ensure each one has a prize. It takes 30 seconds.
For prize ideas, check out my post here!
Sometimes I place class coupons for things like bringing an item for show and tell, no shoes, etc. I might put a small prize like sticky hands or slap bracelets in other drawers. You can read more about the rewards in this post here.
In the afternoon, we have clean-up time. Once students clean their areas, I draw three names from the basket to select a number. We love this time of day! It gets entertaining. The kids get quiet, and their eyes get big. Laughter erupts when I call names to come to select a number.
When the student picks a number, I let them open the drawer to reveal their surprise.
Some of my students who need more support receive different colored tickets without knowing why. I pick these tickets if I see they need an extra boost of motivation, which helps prevent meltdowns.
Our Surprise Box changed our classroom culture in so many ways.
For one, students support one another. If they know I’m giving a ticket to the cleanest table, they not only clean their table, but they help their classmates get organized and clean.
They also learned good sportsmanship. I would give extra tickets at the end of the day to students who would say, “Wow! I’m so happy for you.” or “Congratulations!” This type of attitude reinforces a supportive learning environment which improves classroom culture.
Additionally, students are excited about coming to class and giving their best effort. They have hope that they will earn a surprise. Once they receive a ticket, they know it’s only a matter of time.
One thing I never do is throw away the tickets. They stay in the basket until I call their name. Even at the end of the year, when there are still tickets inside, I will call every name until each one earns a prize.
If you are ready to start your own Surprise Box, check it out!