Friday, March 11, 2011

Straddling the Reward Fence

I must admit I'm a little on the fence about Accelerated Reader rewards. I just don't know. I believe what Alfie Kohn says about rewards and punishments being two sides of the same coin, etc... But, it is really hard to put into practice, and I'm not so sure it applies to "surprise" rewards.

So, we had an AR party today for the students who made their goals (all but 4 students). No one knew in advance that there would be a reward (including myself), so it wasn't a carrot/stick scenario. When a child asked today, "Are we having an AR party?" I replied that I didn't think we could, since the ones who can't participate may feel they are being punished. Almost unanimously, the students said, "That's a head start for next 9 weeks. It's not a punishment. Reading is fun." Now if you don't know my kids you might think they're saying what I want to hear, but here's the thing: Those kids were sincere. They truly do see it that way. It is part of our class culture this year. They have very positive attitudes and for the most part are pretty mature in their thinking.

So, we did it. And we enjoyed it. The ones who were reading in the hallway had the opportunity to join us if they got their points before the party ended--they didn't. Right or wrong? I don't know...but I do know we had a great afternoon! Maybe one day I'll pick a side and stay on it. For now, I'm still searching and straddling.


  1. You're not alone on that! I just finished student teaching in November and got my teaching certificate. Rewards were one thing that I used during student teaching but was uncertain how I felt about them. AR parties are a HUGE struggle for my mind!

  2. Could you just let the whole class celebrate all the fun they had reading and the learning that took place?

  3. There is definitely a BIG difference between if /then rewards and unexpected rewards.

    Check out Daniel Pink's book, Drive for lots more info on this.

    According to Pink, if /then rewards require people to give up some of their autonomy and ends up turning the rewarding activity (reading in this case) into work. Surprise rewards don't have this effect.

    I still kind of like Sue's idea though...

    - @newfirewithin



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