Silly Hat Day In School

One of my son’s teachers came up with a scheme for motivating her students to do well. I’m sure many similar schemes have been devised in the past, but I thought I’d share it here.

Earning Money

First of all, the teacher identified the kind of behaviour she wanted to encourage. Perhaps being helpful, or quiet when she was talking, or asking good questions. I’m guessing. Then, when students did what she wanted, they’d be given ‘class dollars’, which were recorded on a chart in the classroom. When son came home and said he’d earned $300, he was quick to explain that this wasn’t ‘real money’.

Buying Rewards

When a student had earned enough cash, he or she could exchange it for real rewards. This is nice, because certain fixed rewards (a certificate, or a star) while having broad appeal, might not appeal equally to all. Having a broad choice of rewards allows each student to aim for the one they feel is the most valuable. (It also teaches them about money, which is valuable in its own right)

Creative Prizes

The thing that struck me as most creative (and the reason I’m mentioning it at all on this blog) is that the rewards would have cost the teacher (or the school budget) nothing. Each one was a zero-cost prize of great value to at least some of the students. I found out about the rewards scheme when my son asked me for ideas for a silly hat. “It’s Silly Hat Day tomorrow.” he explained. When I asked why, he told me one of his classmates had bought a Silly Hat Day for $300, and all the details came out on further questioning.

Some of the rewards available were

  • Silly Hat Day
  • 20 minutes computer time
  • 10 minutes free time
  • Allowed to take shoes and socks off for 10 minutes

I don’t know whether a student could pay to make their classmate put their shoes and socks back on again!

The teacher took these rewards seriously. When only four of my son’s classmates brought in a silly hat, she put aside whatever other plans she might have had, and the kids spent an hour making silly hats, so that the boy who bought the Silly Hat Day got his money’s worth. Was this motivational? Well, my son bought another Silly Hat Day just a few days later, so at least somebody must have liked it….

Very creative. And the teacher who implemented this scheme was in fact a trainee teacher doing her practicum. She should go far!