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Whether you are teaching independently or in a teaching company, it’s good to give the students recognition with a rewards system in place.
While online ESL companies such as Vipkid, Dada, and Qkids all want you to take your job seriously, you will still need to think about how you will keep the students engaged and ready to learn English, especially complete beginners.
One way to do this is by setting up a rewards system and giving students rewards when they complete a task.
Let’s take a look at some of the reward systems for online teaching that you can use for your own classes.
How can you reward students virtually?
There are several ways you can give the students rewards. You can tell them they are doing an excellent job and then give them a ‘star,’ which is often a built-in reward feature on an online ESL platform.
You can also offer a secondary reward, and children really appreciate this. In other words, you could give them your reward in combination with the built-in rewards system on the ESL platform. Let’s talk about some of the rewards you can provide to young students.
Reward System Ideas for Online Teaching
Let’s look at reward systems that you can use in the online classroom now. Here is a mixture of both paid and free rewards that will make your teaching that much easier.
A fun rewards system that teachers use is the fishbowl. You can make one at home quite easily. Find a picture of a fishbowl online and print it out. You can find popular fish or sea creatures online too. Typically you want at least five sea animals for your fishbowl.
Print out the fishbowl and sea creatures. You could stick the fishbowl onto your whiteboard, your wall, or cut it out on thick paper. You can even laminate it if the thick paper is not an option.
Every time the student gets the answer correct, you can reward them by giving them a star on the online teaching platform, and stick one of the fishes onto the fishbowl.
You can find some kind of adhesive material so that the sea animals can easily hold onto the fishbowl, for example, you could use double-stick tape, glue dots or velcro adhesive dots to each fish. This will allow you to use the reward system again and again.
Another very popular way to reward students is by giving them a scoop of ice cream every time they perform well. Students love candy and ice cream, so providing virtual ice cream when they excel is a no-brainer.
You can actually buy the ice-cream cone props on Amazon. If you don’t want to buy it there, you can easily make one at home.
To make this prop, simply find an ice cream cone on the internet and scoops of ice cream. The scoops of ice cream should be separate from the ice cream cone.
You can not only use the ice-cream prop to reward students, but you can use it to revise colors. I include this reward in my props section.
3. Class Dojo
If you teach using Skype or Zoom, why not use Class Dojo? Class Dojo is a way to reward students for their exemplary behavior and stay in touch with parents.
This website won’t work with all online teaching companies, but you can check in with your company to see if this is possible.
Class Dojo allows each student to set up their avatar in a couple of minutes. You can give students exclusive rewards on their profile for: helping others, participating, staying on task, teamwork, persistence, and working hard.
These rewards allow students to accumulate ‘points.’ You could agree to do something fun with the student when they have accumulated a certain number of points.
4. Positive Feedback
Don’t forget to tell students they are doing fantastic and encourage them when they get an answer right. This positive reinforcement will help them do it again.
Telling the students that they are doing a ‘good job’ will give them the courage and confidence to continue speaking English in class.
We want to keep the students talking as much as possible, so this is an excellent way to give them feedback without obstructing the teacher and student’s communication process.
You can say things like:
On Manycam, you can search for any picture you want in seconds and display it on your screen.
Here are some possible rewards to give students using Manycam.
- Ask them what they want today (i.e. stars, hearts, cartoon characters) or choose a reward based on what they have learned that day. Give them a multiple rewards over the course of the lesson.
2. Play a game such as tic-tac-toe. Use it to revise grammar, vocabulary or phrases learned in the lesson. Manycam has already some prebuilt games such as this one:
3. Put something together with the student, for instance, build a snowman.
Read my blog post about using Manycam in the classroom to find other ways to use it in the online classroom.
It’s my #1 rewards system and don’t know how I survived without it! Download Manycam for free to try it out.
6. Play Games
You can play games as a reward. The student loves simple games such as Tik Tac Toe and Shark Attack (previously called Hangman).
You can find the games I play with students here. Games are so much fun for the students and can really encourage them to get through long and frustrating material. Even older students love playing games as a reward, so you should not shy away from these whiteboard games if your online ESL company permits it.
I teach English with a company called Dada and occasionally play games like this with my regular students at the end of class.
You may also be interested in: The Best English Teaching Companies in 2022.
7. Create with Canva
If you have to make modifications to your printouts, consider using Canva, a free tool that allows you to make easy designs.
You can add images, background, text, download designs, and more. I use Canva to create all my social media graphics, teacher designs, and everything else.
It is not like using Photoshop; it is much more beginner-friendly, and I think anybody could get the hang of it.
You can use Canva to create a certificate for students, for example.
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8. Mr. Potato Head
Don’t want to use paper or virtual rewards? Another reward I’ve seen teachers using is the Mr.Potato Head reward. Teachers put Mr. Potato Head back together again by adding his eyes, ears, mouth, and nose.
This is not only a good secondary reward but will give students the tools and resources they need to learn the parts of the face.
9. Play a Song
Can you sing, play the guitar, ukulele or have some other unique musical talent? You could consider playing some songs for the student to listen to and even better, sing along!
If you aren’t very musically inclined, you could even direct them to a Youtube video that they could play and listen to while sharing your screen.
10. Physical Movement
You could also get the student moving around or interacting using a thumbs up, a high five or peace sign.
Students like to express themselves and how they are feeling through physical movement, so they always take opportunities to get students moving by mimicking actions and consolidating their learning.
You can get the students to:
- Give you a high five
- Simon says actions like stand up, sit down
- Give them a heart by making the shape of a heart with your hands
- Put your hands in the air with excitement
- Give your student a thumbs up
Why Should You Use a Rewards System?
There are many benefits to using a rewards system. Consider the following:
- Students feel happier
- Teachers win the student’s attention.
- Students feel more confident speaking the language.
- Teaching is made easier with more productive lessons.
- Students are more likely to repeat the action that was positively reinforced.
- Students will participate more.
- Students are motivated by success and want to do well.
- Students enjoy the language and the online class.
These are the many ways you can reward students virtually. Students and parents will appreciate the effort and will enjoy the fun rewards. In turn, students will feel more motivated to learn and will look forward to seeing you again.
You can check out other things that teachers use in the only classroom here and other props for children, which will make your online teaching even more comfortable.
What is your favorite reward method? Let me know in the comments section below.
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Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.