Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What's in your prize box??

The prize box....

The one item in my room that can bring screams of joy or tears of unhappiness (when they watch a group member get to go and it's not their day).

But, but, but....I want to get a prize too!!!
Apparently, the kids aren't the only ones who stress out over the prize box. The subject of the actual prizes has come up in several discussions among the SLPs in my district. What is appropriate? Is candy better than toys? How often should they get prizes? Where should I get the prizes from?

Here is what I do:
  1. Look for discounted items at local party supply stores (namely, the Paper Factory and Party City)
  2. Shop the party section of Dollar Tree so I can get larger packs of items
  3. Shop the party section of Walmart for discounted items
  4. Buy a few hot wheels cars when they are on special at Walmart or Walgreens
  5. Buy still packaged McDonald's toys from Goodwill/Salvation Army for .50 cents
My most recent purchases for my prize box. Playdoh, hot wheels, rings, watch, party packs, and mini purses.
Some stuff that I've held back for a month. I don't like to put everything in there at one so there is always a mix of things.
Here you can see crowns, lockets, a craft kit, frame, and jump rope. 
I am terrified of buying candy for my prize box due to the unknown. There is just too much of a risk of giving a child with allergies the very thing that they aren't supposed to have or they get mad when their friend picks out something they can't eat. I don't want or need that kind of drama in my life. The only candy I will give my students are Smarties as reinforcers for kindergartners. The older kids just get sticker charts.  

My students have to earn twenty stickers to visit the prize box. They have the opportunity to earn two per session (basically 15 minutes of good behavior towards each). This roughly equates to one trip per six weeks with the exception of Christmas when they all get a free trip. They also have the opportunity to earn an extra day via my "Kiss your brain" jar. They have to work together to fill the jar with 400 pom pom balls. Most of the other SLPs in my district have a 5 sticker policy. I guess I'm just stingy but I don't want my students to become so dependent on the prize box. It shouldn't be their sole motivation (neither should the games and that is a battle that I fight constantly as is). 


  1. I feel really tough! For kids in grades 1-5, I do 5 stickers, but they only get stickers for doing HW. Every week that kids do their HW, they get a sticker and they get to put their name in a weekly drawing. Each week, I draw one name at the end of the week, and that person gets a trip to the prize box.

    My prize box is actually modeled after The Speech Ladies' (http://thespeechladies.blogspot.com/2012/03/treasure-box.html). I use scratch tickets for things like games on my iPad, game day, free HW pass (but they get a sticker), 10 minutes of sitting in my chair, etc. I also have some pencils/erasers, but the tickets are definitely the most popular.

    For my kindergarteners, I do one sticker per week that they do their best in speech. I might give a bonus sticker for that week if someone is demonstrating really good behavior.

    And I hear you about the games! I do roughly 1 game day a month, and my kids ask me EVERY session if we are playing a certain game. I think next year, I will be putting up some curtains in front of those shelves!

    1. I've heard about the ticket idea. Many of my kids don't get a lot from their caregivers (lots of reasons) so I figure the toys are much appreciated.

      I got desperate one day and used large sheets of construction paper to hide the ones that aren't in my closet. Out of sight, out of mind. I let them pick from a choice of 3 and that has helped decrease some of the problems.

  2. I give a sticker for each homework they complete and then they got to the treasure box after they earn 5 on their sticker chart. I only give homework once a week, so it takes a little over a month for them to earn a trip to the box. I have similar stuff as you in mine, and my school has a no food for reward policy, so I don't even have to consider giving candy....although I wouldn't use it as a reward.

    1. I'm glad I'm not the only one who makes them wait a month :P My school lets us give them food that is in wrappers (or teaching kitchen experiments). Food is definitely not my thing. I haven't had to use any Smarties though this year. :)

  3. I work with a middle school population and really struggle with how to "reward" my students. I always imagined myself working with the little ones, I love this box idea. After reading your post this morning, I went to the dollar store after work to start my own "prize" box. A lot of my MS students LOVE colored pens and markers. I have no idea why but whenever I offer them colored pens to write with, they're suddenly more engaged and willing to do work. Anyway, I bought a couple of colored pens, gel pens, funky pencils, tattoos (boys have been requesting angry birds lol), small nail polish bottles for the girls haha (pack of 8 for $3). I figure that's a good way to start- then I can add on age appropriate items. I'm wondering how/when I will reward them though. Thanks for the idea!!!!

    PS: ALL of my 6th grade students come in from elementary school and BEG to play games EVERY session.

    1. I'm glad my idea has helped. :) When I did an internship in the prison system we used Jenga or Connect Four with them. lol...it's a never ending cycle.