Reward Tags {All Your Questions Answered}

I know I have said it before, but reward tags are a great classroom management tool. Wait, they are better than great. They are effective. Reward tags motivate students to work hard and make good choices. They encourage students to maintain (and adopt) positive attitudes. And, they help reinforce citizenship skills and personal responsibility.

Sounds too good to be true, right? Almost. Having used reward tags for several years now, I can honestly say that they have been a total game changer for me and my students.

I frequently get asked about reward tags. Today, I'm sharing many of those questions, along with my answers. My hope is that the information will help you as you begin, or continue, to use reward tags in your classroom.


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First, please know that there is no right or wrong way to use reward tags.  How you choose to use them in your classroom will ultimately boil down to personal preference and what you know will work best for you. Reward tags are versatile and can be used to fit your management/teaching style. Hopefully the information in this post will help you to find a system that works for you.

All of the answers that follow are based on my personal experience and management style. I'm in no way suggesting that my way is THE way. Instead, I'm hoping that you can use this information and take what works for you and modify/change the things that don't. Knowing how you're going to use reward tags is important, but it's also important that you decide how that needs to look and how that will work for you.

So, let's get started!

What are reward tags?
Reward tags are a classroom/behavior management tool that allows you to quickly and easily recognize and encourage positive behavior and student effort.  You can also recognize and reward students for their participation, positive attitudes, setting and meeting goals, making academic progress, and more. Best of all, they motivate students to make good choices and do their best.

Literally speaking, they are little tags that students earn by making good choices, working hard, meeting goals, setting a good example, demonstrating a positive attitude, and so on. Students collect tags throughout the school year and add them to a chain necklace.


Where do you get the necklaces?
I usually purchase my necklaces on eBay.  But, if eBay isn't something you're into, you can also find them on Amazon.
 
Do you have to use a necklace?  What are some alternatives?
You absolutely do not have to use necklaces. This is one of those preference things. I like the necklaces. They are easy to store and the the kids love them.  But, one alternative is to let your students collect their tags on a loose binder ring that they attach to their backpack.


You could also let your students collect them in a library pocket or a hanging shoe organizer that you might have space to display somewhere in your room.  

When do your students wear their reward tags?
My students wear their reward tag necklaces whenever they earn a new tag.  On Fridays, everyone wears their necklace.  I do have a strict hands off policy though. If a student plays with their necklace or is allowing it to distract them, off it goes. I take the time at the beginning of the year to explain this expectation and remind students that our learning is most important. If they are busy playing with their necklaces, they aren't focused on their learning.

Do you let your students keep their reward tags?
I do!  During the year, the students earn tags and add them to their collection. At the end of the year (the last day to be more specific), they get to take their necklace home to keep forever!

Do you let your students take their reward tags home throughout the year?
No. If they take them home, they may never come back. The reward tags stay at school until we are ready to send them home at the end of the year.

Where do you store your reward tags?
I store my prepped and ready to use reward tags in DMC floss organizers (the thread used for cross stitching) on a shelf behind my desk. This gives me easy access to the tags and I can easily see what I have available. You can read more about my ready to use storage HERE.


You can find these organizers on Amazon (but they are usually cheaper at the craft store).

The students also have a space to store their reward tag necklaces. Their necklaces hang on a small space of wall behind our classroom door.  I label each necklace with student numbers rather than names so that I can reuse the labels from year to year.


You can grab these free numbers HERE.

Are they difficult to prep?
Not at all! First, you print the reward tags. Next, you laminate them. Then, you cut them out. Finally, you punch a hole in the top of the tag. That's it.


Tip: I like to use a Fiskars paper trimmer to cut out the rows on each page of tags. Then, I feed the rows (one at a time) through the paper trimmer and cut off each tag.  Sometimes, I might use scissors to snip off each individual tag (it just depends on my mood..hehe). But, I never, ever, ever cut out the entire page with a pair of scissors. Ouch!

Seriously though, the paper trimmer speeds up the cutting process and allows for accurate and precise cutting. This particular paper trimmer has a built in guide wire. Simply line the wire up with what you want to cut. Easy peasy! You can purchase this paper trimmer on Amazon, or in craft stores.

When it comes to hole punching, I love using the 1/4" Fiskars hole punch pictured above.  The cushioned grip relieves any pressure on my hand and it cuts really well through laminated card stock.  You can purchase this hole punch on Amazon, or in craft stores. Fiskars has different sizes available.  I wouldn't go any bigger than 1/4" and if you prefer to go smaller, they do have a 1/8" punch found here.

I don't have a color printer at school.  How do you print your tags in color without breaking the bank?
I don't have access to a color printer at school, so I definitely understand this concern. I do all of my color printing at home (reward tags, task cards, and everything in between). I am a member of the HP Instant Ink program.  By paying a nominal monthly fee, I am able to print upwards of 300 pages per month. When I start to run low on ink, my printer lets HP know and they automatically send me more ink. It's a very magical experience. HP offers different plans, and you can change your plan at any time.You do need to have an eligible printer, however.

Another option for printing reward tags without breaking the bank is to use black and white designs that have been printed on brightly colored card stock. I use these in my classroom alongside the full color tags and the students love them just as much, and they are just as motivating as the full color version.


How many reward tags do I need when starting out?
You don't have to start with a ton of reward tags (unless you want to). When I first started using them, I prepped what I knew I would be most likely to use right away. I wanted to have variety too, so I printed about one tray's worth of tags. Once I realized how much I loved using them, I began adding tags to my collection.  Now, I have five organizer trays full of reward tags because they have become the main management tool in my classroom.

Do you send a letter home to parents explaining reward tags?
I don't send a letter home specifically about reward tags, but I do mention them, briefly, in my beginning of the year handbook (a multiple page document we are required to send home at the beginning of the year). I explain what they are, how the students can earn them, and when they are worn/go home.


Do you use any other management tools in your classroom?
Although reward tags are the main behavior management tool that I rely on, I have a secondary  management tool in place. There are a few reasons for this. One, my school encourages us to use more than one management tool. Two, I don't want reward tags to lose their appeal. You know what they say about too much of a good thing.

My secondary system is simple. Students can earn raffle tickets throughout the day, in the same manner they earn reward tags: for making good choices, working quietly, etc. The tickets are placed into a tub and each week I pull a few names. Those students get to choose a classroom privilege coupon.

What's nice about this secondary system is that I can pass the tickets out more frequently without worrying about running out of reward tags. And, as already mentioned, the tags do not lose their appeal because they are not being overused. It's important that whatever management tool you use isn't overused. Overuse leads to a lack of appreciation and buy-in.

If clip charts are your thing, or you are required to use them, no worries. Up until a year or so ago, I had a clip chart. The clip chart mostly got used when my students clipped UP for earning a new reward tag (they were able to clip up for other things too). If they clipped to the top of the clip chart, they earned a new reward tag.  It helped the students look at the clip chart in a more positive light.

How often do you give your students a reward tag? Every day? Weekly? Every other week?
I give my students reward tags when I see that they have earned one. I end up passing them out every day, but not every student gets one every day. One of my goals with using reward tags is to develop personal responsibility and conscientious decision making. One way of doing this is to reward these efforts. My personal belief is that if I gave myself a quota to fill, the rewards would not be authentic.

With this being said, there are certainly those students who have an easier time than others earning tags. If I notice that a student is having difficulty earning tags, I work with them. We identify a behavior and set a goal. Some kids need a bit more coaching and support than others.

Do you keep track of which tags you give your students?
Nope. I like to use my reward tags for on the spot recognition and the idea of keeping a log where I track who gets which tag competes with my "in the moment" philosophy. For me, keeping track of what I've passed out is just an extra step that would need to be managed.  A step that I know I would never be able to keep up with, because, well, that's me.  However, I do have friends who keep track of what they have passed out to their students. Tracking works for them, it's part of their style and approach. There's nothing right or wrong about it; it's all about preference and what works for you.  :)

Can a student earn the same tag more than once?
Sure!  If a students demonstrates the ability to follow directions more than once, it's OK to recognize that effort more than once. If you're worried about giving students duplicates of the same exact tag, don't. The kids truly do not care. They love adding to their collection no matter what. I like to keep lots of "general" reward tags on hand that can be used to recognize a variety of behaviors, like the ones below.  These types of tags could be used to recognize students who follow directions, get started right away, work quietly without disrupting others, etc.


Do your students earn anything else when earning a reward tag?
For me, the tag itself is the reward. I don't tie the tags to any other type of reward. However, if you wanted to do so, that is entirely up to you. Maybe that is something that your group of kids needs, maybe you like the idea of giving out more rewards, or maybe it's something that your school encourages. This is definitely an option that boils down to personal preference and management style.

Do you present the reward tags to individual students or to the whole group?
Most of the time, I award tags to individual students. My belief is that this helps to encourage personal responsibility and sound decision making. I also think it has more impact on the students.  But, there have been a few times where I have given an entire table group a reward tag for working exceptionally well compared to the rest of the class. And, last year on our Field Day, I gave each student a tag to recognize their positive attitudes. No one fought, no one argued, they were encouraging, they were just plain awesome that day and they all deserved recognition for it.

If you have a question that wasn't addressed in this post, leave it in the comments below.  :)

More Reward Tag Related Posts
I truly hope that you have found this post to be helpful.  I have a few other blog posts that might interest you as well:
Raving About Reward Tags
Reward  Tags {Tips and Tricks}
6 Reasons to Use Reward Tags in the Classroom

A Freebie for You
Ready to give reward tags a try?  Here's a little freebie to get you started. And, if you're a reward tag veteran, a new design to add to your collection.  :)  This free download includes a color and black/white version. Click HERE to grab your freebie.


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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7 comments:

  1. So helpful! I use the clip chart and was curious as to how to tie them together...thank you!

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  2. So helpful! I use the clip chart and was curious as to how to tie them together...thank you!

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    Replies
    1. I'm so glad you found the post to be helpful, Jennifer! Thank you for stopping by!

      Aimee

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  3. What length of chain is the best for first graders?

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    Replies
    1. I get the 24 inch chains for my second graders. That length seems to be the most common, but you might be able to find shorter ones if you're worried that's too long. :)

      Aimee

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  4. I bought your bundle! This is my first year trying them, so thanks for the inspiration. Question - The numbers you use to hang them on...do you have an editable version of that? I number my kids evenly so I need up to 42 (if not I can just make my own). Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Kelly!

      Thank you for your purchase. I hope your students love earning their brag tags :) Unfortunately, I do not have an editable version of the numbers. Thanks for stopping by!

      Aimee

      Delete

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