Teaching second-grade inclusion was more complicated than teaching kindergarten virtually. That’s because of the diverse behavioral needs and academic performing 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 Surprise Box.
We started out using cups with numbers drawn on them. It was ugly, and I had to change out cups often. I kept trying until I created a system that works. I’m so excited to share with you my Surprise Box and how it works!
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.
Students who met these goals consistently get a ticket for the Surprise Box and 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. This basket stayed near my surprise box. The drawers are covered with numbered labels, so students don’t have a clue what’s inside. In the morning, I check the drawers to make sure each one has a prize inside. It takes 30 seconds. For prize ideas, check out my post here!
Sometimes I place class coupons for things like bring an item for show and tell, no shoes, etc. In other boxes, I might put a small prize like sticky hands or slap bracelets inside. You can read more about the rewards in this post here.
In the afternoon, we have clean-up time. If students clean up 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, I let them come 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 within our classroom.
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 out 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 get started with your own Surprise Box, check it out here!