Reward Tags {Tips & Tricks}

Reward tags have been a serious game changer for me and my students over the past several years. And, over the years, I've picked up a few tricks for effectively and easily using them in the classroom. Curious?

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Before I share my tips and tricks, let's cover the basics.

What are reward tags?
Reward tags are little tags that students earn for working hard, putting forth effort, having positive attitudes, setting a good example, and so on. Students can earn new tags at any time and as often as you are willing to pass them out. The tags are added to a chain necklace where they can be easily stored and shown off.  Students love adding new tags to their personal collection and never grow tired of earning a new tag.

Just like any resource, there is no single right or wrong way in which to use reward tags. They can be used however you'd like. You can be systematic in passing them out, or you can strictly pass them out when you see that students have earned them. You can choose to reward effort only, or also recognize academic accomplishments. It's completely up to you. I tend to use them to recognize character, attitude, behavior, and effort because that's what works for me. You can read more about how I use reward tags in my classroom HERE.

Alrighty, let's get to those tips and tricks!

Stockpile Your Reward Tags
The purpose of reward tags is to recognize student effort on the spot, so you want to make sure that you always have plenty of tags available to pass out. It's a good idea to have a variety of tags prepped ahead of time. This way, you have options when it comes time to awarding a student with a new one.  Having a stockpile will give you plenty of options.

For me, the best time to build/replenish my stockpile is over the summer. I have the time during the summer to leisurely make what I need. I can print them out and laminate them without feeling the pressure to get them all cut out that same day. Don't get me wrong, I still make some tags throughout the year, but making sure that I'm fully stocked and ready to go when day one rolls around saves me a lot of time in the long run. And, we can all benefit from that.

I keep five full trays of reward tags behind my desk. This is a lot of tags, but I don't have to worry about running out and I have plenty to choose from. Don't worry about starting off with this many tags from day one. You can always add to your collection over time. Just make sure you start off with a healthy sampling that you can choose from.

With that said, reward tag prep is pretty quick and easy, so chances are you can make more than you think at once (see last tip). 

Communicate Your Expectations
Before you begin using reward tags, be sure to clearly communicate your reward tag system with your students. This means that you will want to sort these details out ahead of time. Explain to them how they can earn tags, when they will get to wear their tags, when/if they will go home, and expectations when they are being worn. 

In my classroom, my students can earn a tag at any point in the day. They could even earn two in a day. It's all up to them and the choices they make. My students know that their tags stay at school until the very last day of school. I tell them that they are responsible for their reward tags. They know that I won't replace lost or damaged tags. They know that they get to wear their necklace anytime they earn a new tag, and that everyone gets to wear their necklace on Fridays. They also know that they need to keep their hands off of their necklace. Otherwise, they have to take it off.

Just like anything else in your classroom, when students know your expectations and the procedures to follow, things will run more smoothly.

Label Your Students' Reward Tags
I like to label my students reward tags with their numbers. I write their student number on the back of the very first tag I give them. This way, we always know which set of tags belongs to which student.  If you don't use numbers in your classroom, you could write your students' names on the back of one of the tags instead.

Have a Plan for When Necklaces Break
If you decide to use necklaces, keep in mind that a few students are bound to break or lose their chain. It happens. But, when it does, be prepared. When this happens in my classroom, I place the students' tags on a loose binder ring. I've never had a student complain about this, they're just happy to have their collection in tact.

The rings can be placed on a student's desk, rather than wearing it as they would a necklace. Or, it can be placed on their backpack.

Make Sure You Can Easily Get to Your Reward Tags
Trust me, it is so much easier on you if you keep your reward tags in a place with easy access. I keep mine on the top shelf of the bookcase behind my desk. I can easily see what I have and I can easily grab a tag when I need one.

This set up may not work for everyone, and there really is no right or wrong way to make your tags easily accessible, just make sure that they are. When you see them yourself (and can quickly get what you need), you are more likely to remember to pass them out consistently to your students.

If you're wondering, my tags are stored in floss organizer boxes from the craft store (Amazon sells them too). I cut the lids off and glued some ribbon around the outside. Necessary? Not so much, but I'll be the first to admit that I'm obsessed with ribbon and bows and pretty much add them to everything. Hehe.

Organize Your Tags
I try to keep my character trait/citizenship related reward tags together. Along those same lines, I keep the tags that can be used to recognize good learner habits together.  I think you get the idea.  By keeping like tags together, it makes it easier (and faster) to locate tags when I need them.

Be Consistent
Just like any management system, be consistent. Aim to pass out at least one or two (or even three) reward tags a day. Want to aim for more? Go for it, but don't go overboard. Students need to earn their tags. If you hand them out like candy, they lose their value. And, if you forget to pass them out for several days, the kids will begin to think that they aren't important. Make sure you pass them out regularly, whatever that looks like for you and your management style.

Help Yourself Remember to Pass Out Reward Tags
We all know that consistency is key, but sometimes, we get off track. On occasion, you might find yourself slacking when it comes to passing out new tags. I've been there. Sometimes things get crazy, you might be focused on other things and forget to focus on your students' efforts and accomplishments in the classroom. This doesn't make you a bad person, it means you're human.  When I find myself getting off track, I pin tags to my shirt.

If I'm wearing them, I remember to pass them out. You could pick a "generic" tag that could be awarded for a number of behaviors or work habits, or pick a specific behavior to target (see next tip). 

Target Specific Behaviors
If you notice that your students need to work on something in particular, tell them that you will be on the lookout for students who are demonstrating that behavior or habit.  For example, a while back, I noticed that my students were getting a bit sloppy walking through the halls. So, I began telling them that I was looking for one hallway champ each time we went anywhere as a class. I held the tag in my hand as we walked through the hall and as we navigated the halls, I reminded them that I was on the lookout for a champ.  They all wanted to add this tag to their collection, and it really helped motivate them to walk through the halls in a straight line while using appropriate voice levels.

Streamline Your Reward Tag Prep (No Scissors Needed)
I love to print stuff, and I love to laminate stuff.  The machines basically do the work for me, so what's not to love?  But, I do not love cutting.  Not with scissors, anyway.  Maybe you can relate?  If so, this next tip might speak to you.

I use a Fiskars paper trimmer to cut apart my tags. This little tool makes it really easy to prep several sets of reward tags at once, and my hands don't cramp up in the process.

First, I print my tags on card stock, and then I laminate the whole sheet using my personal laminator. You can find these on Amazon and at Target (Target is usually cheaper).

If you have a reliable laminator at school, by all means, use it! Our school machine isn't always reliable, so I tend to use my personal laminator for most of my laminating needs.

Finally, I use my paper trimmer to cut the tags into rows (3 rows per page). From there, I cut the rows apart into individual tags. It saves me time and there is no hand cramping involved. I can cut out multiple pages of reward tags in a matter of minutes. Pain free!

When using a paper trimmer, a built in guide wire is a must.

The wire helps you cut precisely.  I purchased my Fiskars paper trimmer at Michaels and used their weekly coupon to cut down the price even more.  I actually use this paper trimmer to cut out all of my lamination.

Once your tags are cut out, hole punch them. Annnd, you're done!

A Freebie for You
I truly hope you were able to take away a tip or two today.  I'd love for you to grab this free reward tag to add to your collection. Click HERE to grab the freebie. The download includes a full color version as well as a black & white version.  Simply use the version that meets your needs!

More Reward Tag Related Posts
I have a few other reward tag posts that you might find helpful. Check them out here:
Raving About Reward Tags
Reward Tags {All Your Questions Answered}
6 Reasons to Use Reward Tags in the Classroom
Getting Started with Reward Tags
Tips for Prepping Reward Tags

Reward Tag Resources
Looking for a more complete reward tag collection?  Be sure to check out my resources on TPT.  I have lots of options available.  Click on an image to learn more. :)

 I also offer black and white reward tags for those who prefer a more ink friendly option.  :)


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  1. These are such a great idea! I love the ones that you have, but I also love how easy it would be to adapt them to meet certain classrooms' needs. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I'm so glad you like the idea! They are such a useful tool, and I agree, it is easy to adapt them to meet the needs of your classroom, school, management style, etc. Thanks for stopping by today!


  2. Thank you for sharing! I started using these a few months ago and the kiddies love it! How long did it take you to build up so many? Stay awesome!

    1. That's awesome, and you ask a very good question! I would say that it didn't take me too long to build up my collection. I've definitely been accumulating tags over the years, but I usually make most of them during the summer, and add a few throughout the year as needed. During the summer, I make whatever I think I might need (and replenish the tags I am running low on at the end of the year). Some of my tags are in color and some are black and white. The kids don't care either way, and having both printing options allows me to very easily add new tags as needed throughout the year. :)

      Thank you so much for stopping by today!


  3. Thanks for your answer. :)
    How did you prop the whole box up on the shelf? It looks kind of like stadium seating? Did the box come with the slant to make it taller in the back than the front?

  4. Or is it just the angle of the picture?

    1. You bet, Erin! I think it might just be the angle of the photograph making it look that way. I set the organizer trays on my bookshelf and they sit flat on that space. :)


  5. Thank goodness for crafty & creative people like you!! I look forward to using these next year. I have been out of the classroom for 4 years as a reading specialist and now going back to teach 1st. I was so happy to find something new that I think will be helpful with management. My question is do you have any document that lists what the brag tags mean? I know that some of them are obvious but I was wondering about the others. Thanks!

  6. I love this! Trying it next year. I just had one question. Have you ever had any issues with students and sensitivities to the metal? Or what do you think would be a good alternative? My sister has a metal intolerance and breaks out in a rash when she even has a belt on, so I was just thinking of that happening to one of my students - yikes!

    1. Hi!

      That's a great question! I haven't yet run into this, but you never know when you might have a student with a sensitivity. One alternative would be to place the tags on lanyards versus the beaded chains. You could also place the tags on plastic loose leaf binder rings. The rings could be attached to a necklace that you make out of cording or sturdy ribbon. Hopefully those suggestions will give you a few ideas for alternatives to the metal chain. Thanks for stopping by my blog!


  7. I love this! Thank you for being so detailed. I am doing this with my 2nd graders this coming school year! I am so excited and have already been printing away. Thank you for the freebies! When first getting started those always help.

  8. Hey! I love this idea! Do you send a letter to your parents about this??

    1. Hi Jessica,

      I don't send a letter home to parents, but I do include a bit of information about them in the Classroom Management section of the parent handbook that I send home at the beginning of the year.

  9. Do they earn some of the same tags at times or are they always differnt? It would be hard to track. Do you keep a log of who earn tags and what type. Thanks so much this is a great idea

    1. I don't keep a log of what I've passed out. It just doesn't work for me. I do have friends, however, who do keep logs (because it works for them). It really boils down to preference and style, and what works for you.

      There have been a few times when I've had students earn the same tag more than once, but they usually don't mind. My philosophy is, if they are demonstrating a specific behavior more than once, it's OK to recognize it more than once. Generally speaking, the kids don't mind earning the same tag more than once. With that said, if a student does mention that they've already earned a tag, I might let them pick a different one to add to their collection. I hope that helps. :)


  10. Thanks so much !! I'm ready to search for those chains :-)

  11. Hi there! Can you tell me specifically which floss organizer you purchased? How many compartments does it have? I have looked on amazon, but it is hard to tell in some of the pictures and I don't want to have to send them back. I'm a little OCD too, so I really like the way you have yours set up.
    Thank you,
    Dawn Haines

    1. Hi Dawn,

      There is a link in the post that should take you to the organizer that I use, but it's easy to miss. Here is an Amazon affiliate link that you can copy and paste:

      The organizer has 17 compartments. You can also find these organizers at craft stores (they are usually found in the aisle where they keep the DMC embroidery floss). :)



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