Getting Started with Reward Tags

Classroom management is a huge part of teaching, and it shouldn't be complicated. Once you have established an overall classroom management plan, it's helpful to have a go to tool that can be used to motivate and encourage your students to follow the expectations of your classroom.

Reward tags are a wonderful classroom management tool that do just that! This post will detail everything you need to consider when getting started with reward tags.

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What are reward tags?
Reward tags are a classroom management tool that allow you to quickly and easily recognize positive behavior and student effort. The tags are collected throughout the year and added to a chain necklace. Students find them to be highly motivating and fun to collect.

Students earn these tags for working hard, making good choices, participating in class, working well with others, meeting goals, making academic progress, demonstrating a positive attitude, following the rules, setting a good example, and more.

Psst...students don't have to add their collection of tags to a necklace. A loose leaf ring, as shown above, works really well too!

Why should I use reward tags?

  • They are easy to implement and use.
  • They are low maintenance.
  • They provide immediate feedback.
  • They encourage positive behavior and social skills.
  • They make students feel proud.
  • They are fun.

Click here for more details.

Determine Your Why
Once you decide that you want to use reward tags, decide why you want to use them. What I mean by that is identify your purpose for using them. Do you want to recognize effort? Encourage positive behavior? Motivate your students to do their best academically and socially?

There are many ways in which they can be used:

  • to recognize academic achievement and growth
  • to reinforce behavior
  • to remember special days and events
  • for all of three of these purposes

I personally use them for all three of these purposes. This is just my preference, however.

Once you decide your purpose for using them, print out a small selection of tags that meets your needs. So, if you want to focus on behavior, print a starter set of tags that will allow you to focus on reinforcing behavior in a positive way.

When I first started using reward tags, I only printed one tray's worth of tags. This way, I was able to see how they would work for me and my students. Once I realized how well they were working for us, I started making more tags and expanding my collection.

How do I use them?
So, you've decided you want to use reward tags. You have a starter set ready to go. Now what?

You need a plan. You need to determine what your reward tag system will look like in your classroom. It's important to remember that you need to adopt a system that will work for YOU. Otherwise, you will have a hard time sticking with reward tags.

I am often asked how I run my reward tag system including how/when I award them, how often I award them, when my students get to wear them, whether I let students take them home, whether I track what I pass out, and so forth.

Here's a nice neat bullet list of  how I use reward tags in my classroom:

  • I recognize both behavior and academic achievement. And on major holidays, my students get a special holiday tag.
  • I pass my reward tags out in the moment, when I see that a student is deserving. 
  • When I give a student a reward tag I explain to them the specific reason they are earning that tag. 
  • Students are not allowed to ask for a reward tag, nor do I replace any tags they might misplace.
  • I do not track what I pass out. 
  • I aim to pass out several tags a day. 
  • I do not worry about whether a student earns a duplicate tag, and they usually don't mind if they do.
  • My students wear their reward tags whenever they earn a new one, and everyone wears their necklace on Fridays. 
  • Students can add their earned tags to their necklaces during independent work time. They may not get up in the middle of a lesson to add it to their necklace.
  • If a student can't keep their hands off of their necklace (allowing it to be a distraction), they have to hang it up and do not get to wear their necklace the rest of that day.
  • Reward tags are stored in the designated space in our classroom, not inside desks.
  • Students do not take their tags home. They'll likely get lost if they do. The tags stay at school until the last day when they are sent home for the students to keep.
  • If a student breaks his/her necklace, they get a loose leaf ring to put their tags on. They don't seem to mind when this happens.
Please remember that classroom management varies from teacher to teacher. Two teachers can both use reward tags, but they certainly do not have to use them in the same way. While I use the tags as described above, a former colleague of mine found that it works best for her to track what she awards and passes them out once a week during their weekly classroom meeting.

Reward tags are a very versatile tool and can be used however the user sees fit.

Do I need to create student buy-in?
You don't need to do anything over the top to create buy-in. In my experience, kids love earning reward tags. They love thumbing through their collection and showing their tags to their friends.

With that said, one easy way to get students excited from the get go is to award all of your students with a few tags within the first few weeks of school. You might give them the following tags:

As with any classroom management system, make sure you explain your expectations before you start using it.

How do I share my expectations?
During the first week of school (preferably the first day if you can swing it), introduce reward tags to your students. This does not need to be a complicated process. No need for parent letters. No need for fancy anchor charts. No pledges or promises to be signed. While there's no need for these things, that doesn't mean that you can't do them. Do what matches your teaching style. :)

I introduce reward tags on the first day of school. I go over my expectations and the procedures that go along with reward tags. I do this daily for the first few weeks to make sure they understand how the system works in our classroom. This is always done discussion style. We sit on the carpet and talk about the procedures. The students help come up with specific examples of the types of behavior that might lead to earning a reward tag. I pull a specific tag each day and we use that to help us come up with specific examples of how a student could earn that (or a similar) tag.

How you go over your expectations is up to you and your style. We talk a lot in my classroom, so the discussion style intro/review works for me.

However you share your expectations, be sure to:

  • Explain what reward tags are.
  • Explain why you will be using them (to recognize academics, behavior, etc.).
  • Explain how students can earn them (it's very important to discuss specific examples here).
  • Revisit your expectations daily the first few weeks of school (you do this with other procedures, this is one of your routines/procedures, so be sure to revisit it daily until your students understand your system).
  • Tell them when they can add earned tags to their necklaces.
  • Tell them about any do's or don'ts you might have when wearing their necklaces.
  • Show your students where they will store their necklaces when they are not in use.

How should I store them?
You'll need two storage systems. One for the tags you will be passing out to students, and one for the students to store their earned tags.

I like to make sure my tags are easily accessible so that when I'm ready to pass them out, I can quickly grab what I need. I store my tags in craft organizers. These organizer trays sit on the top shelf of my bookcase so that I can quickly and easily grab what I need.

My students' necklaces are stored in a place that is easily accessible them. This year, they hang on the wall under the ledge of my whiteboard. Each necklace is numbered with calendar numbers (sorry, it's hard to see the entire number above each necklace) so students can quickly and easily find their necklace when needed. The necklaces hang from a push pin. Certainly not fancy, but definitely functional and easy.

Reward tags can also be placed on a loose leaf ring, if necklaces aren't your thing. You can also let students store their collection of tags in a library pocket.

How do I prep them?
Prep is easy peasy:

  • Print
  • Laminate
  • Cut
  • Hole punch

As far as paper goes, any kind will do. Most of my tags are printed on card stock, but I recently discovered Premium28 printer paper by HP. You can find this paper on Amazon. It's a bit thicker than copy paper but thinner than card stock. Once it's laminated, it is quite durable. Since my printer recently decided it no longer wanted to print on card stock, I will be using this paper from now on.

Do I need any other supplies when using reward tags?
Other than paper to print on and access to some lamination materials, you will need some necklaces, if you decide that's how you want to use them.

You'll also need something to store your tags in, like the craft organizer shared earlier in the post.
Tip: I cut the lids off of the organizers. Trust me, you don't need them.

And, I highly recommend the paper trimmer and padded hole punch shown below. Click HERE for tips on how I use the paper trimmer.

You can find all of my favorite reward tag supplies HERE.

The Do's and Don'ts of Reward Tags


  • Create a reward tag system that works for you. 
  • Prep your reward tags during summer so they are ready to go on day one.
  • Make the tags accessible to you and your students.
  • Be consistent so that students remain motivated to earn them.
  • Explain your expectations before you start using them in the classroom.


  • Make things more complicated than they need to be (always live by the motto K.I.S.S).
  • Take earned reward tags away as a form of punishment.
  • Worry if a student earns the same tag more than once. They really don't mind!

A Freebie to Help You Get Started
Ready to get your starter set of reward tags prepped and ready to go? Here's a freebie to add to your first collection of tags. The download includes a black and white option too. Simply print that version on colored card stock. :)

Click HERE to grab your freebie. Enjoy! :)

More Reward Tag Posts
Looking for more information regarding reward tags? I've got you covered! Click any link below to be taken to that post.
6 Reasons to Use Reward Tags
Raving About Reward Tags
Reward Tags {All Your Questions Answered}
Reward Tags {Tips and Tricks}
Tips for Prepping Reward Tags

Where to Purchase Reward Tags
I have both full color and black & white reward tag options available in my TPT store. Click on an image to be taken to that category in my shop.


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