For Teachers

Ditch the Candy: Cavalier Teachers Share Their Favorite Sugar-Free Incentives

By Kara Wyman, MEd November 21, 2017

Rewards work, and we all love them. But let’s face it, filling students with sugary prizes can be a double-edged sword. It’s unhealthy, distracting, and hardly a one-size fits all option. So, we asked Concordia University-Portland’s College of Education students and alumni what alternatives they use to avoid sweet treats in the classroom. When we reviewed the responses, they all seemed to tie together in that they each offer a bit of today’s most valuable asset: time.

Time to shine. Time to break away from the schedule. Time with something usually banned. What wouldn’t we all do for a little more time? Here are a few of our favorite timely incentives.

Time Off: Schedules are packed these days (don’t we know it), and a few extra minutes of recess become a reward everyone can appreciate.

Time Apart: There’s a kind of celebrity status to enjoying a special lunch with the teacher or friend(s) in a separate room arranged just for you.

Time Out of Uniform: Nothing says a student is a stand-out like a dress-down pass in a uniformed environment.

Time in the Limelight: Select a “Learner or Artist of the Week” and let them shine by demonstrating their work to a wider audience—spreading the title’s fame via emails, newsletters, and a display by the classroom door.

Time for Nutrition: You may think that a student will groan if given say, an orange or a nectarine, but depending on their home situation they may relish the idea of fresh, free fruit that they know is doing their body good. (Natural sugars are okay in moderation!)

Down Time: Card and board games are solid standbys, as are participatory screen activities like GoNoodle that get the whole class up in a break from the regular schedule.

Digital Time: Allowing a banned electronic device to have a brief comeback for ten minutes during study time can be a very attractive incentive for students who went above and beyond.

Whatever you do, kudos to you! Sugar-free alternatives speak to Concordia’s belief that for education to be effective, students need to feel healthy, safe, and valued.

If you’ve ever considered earning your MEd online, we hope you’ll explore Concordia’s offerings. Our educators work together to enhance their teaching and collaborate in an active, supportive community. Join us and earn your degree totally online in one year, gaining skills you can use in your classroom right away.

Kara Wyman has a BA in literature and an MEd from the University of California-Santa Barbara. She spent a decade working with adolescents as an English teacher, the founder and director of a drama program, a curriculum designer, and a project manager for a teen-centered nonprofit organization. She is now the Alumni and Community Manager for Concordia University-Portland.

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