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  • Writer's pictureGaila Cohen Morrison

Dear Gaila - To Reward and How to Reward - Those are the Questions (Part II)

Last week I shared with you my concern about rewarding and giving children so much candy and junk food. I do believe in rewarding children for a task well done. I just do not believe that it must be done with sugar and sweets. Sometimes an encouraging phrase is reward enough. In other cases, a child needs significant motivation in order to conquer reading and writing. What non-candy rewards can be appropriate?

Any reward from a teacher has value

Teabags. Without the tea. Yes, you read that right!

A wise professor of mine from McGill University taught me that anything a teacher gives has value - even if you rip out an old calendar page, a student will cherish it! The value of the object given is not as important as the person giving it.

Therefore, we give our younger students empty teabags. They are pretty looking, they smell nice and, most importantly, the teacher makes a big deal out of them. The students set aside boxes and pencil cases for collecting teabags. Besides taking up some (small) amount of space in the house, there are no disadvantages to the joys of collecting teabags. They do not rot the children's teeth, ruin their brain or demand money or effort from a teacher (besides drinking tea every now and then).

Once teabags start to lose their shine, we use stickers. Not the cool, shiny ones that cost a dollar each. My sister-in-law in America saves the picture from the address label of charities and sends me a supply once a year. We put them on compositions well written, shirts after reading nicely or a chart in their notebook for homework done. They are tiny, simple stickers – but they come from the teacher!

The rewards are directly connected to the amount of effort put in.

Teabags and stickers are don't cost money, they are easy prizes to acquire, they are not bad for children, and thus, they can be given out generously. A struggling child can be given a prize for each step that is hard for them – whether it is for each sentence or for whole compositions.

Teabags and stickers are just examples I happen to use. Be creative. Find out what can work best for you as a teacher and parent. You will discover that it is not what is given but rather how it is given and from who.

Next week I'll share with you the secrets of the next level up - A.H.A.V.A. dollars! Stay tuned to hear about this exciting new currency to really motivate your students and children!


Gaila has almost 40 year of experience teaching and runs A.H.A.V.A., a non-profit to promote English literacy. Would you like to ask Gaila a question? Email us at or send us a message. Look out for more Dear Gaila columns

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