I've always liked the idea of getting students to take responsibility for the way things are going in their classroom. I also like the idea of not singling students out all the time for positive (or negative) behavior. Sometimes high school students don't want to be recognized all the time for doing the right thing. And while I do reward individual students with a raffle ticket system, I also wanted a way to reward whole classes.
The first challenge was finding several decent size (non-breakable) containers since I would likely have five or six classes. All the containers had to be the same or classes would complain about another class having a small jar, hence being easier to fill.
I decided to go with Powerade bottles, which my husband so kindly drank to empty for me. They are plastic so they won't break if there are any whoopsies around my desk, and large but not too large.
I washed out the bottles so they wouldn't be sticky or smell like Powerade and removed the label. I used nail polish remover to get off any off the sticky stuff remaining.
I decided to do different levels of rewards because I know my students do better with more immediate gratification. Level one is a night of no homework, level two is a class treat, and level three is a game day. All three are relatively no-cost or low-cost for me.
To create the different levels, I measured the height of the bottle, divided it in three, and wrote on it with a permanent marker. Next time I'd look for a similar size drink bottle without the indents/hand grips. They were a bugger to write on.
The second challenge was finding an inexpensive, quiet replacement for marbles. First, I tried cotton balls, but they stuck together and were nearly impossible to get out of the jar. That was no fun.
I settled on using medium size pom-pom balls to fill the jars. You can get a pack of about 80 at the dollar store for $1. They are also colorful and more visually pleasing than cotton balls would have been.
To make sure I bought enough pom-pom balls, I filled one bottle up to see how many packages of pom-pom balls would be needed for one (about one and a half) and then multiplied that amount by the number of bottles. In the spirit of keeping this project low cost, I didn't want to have extra bags of pom-pom balls opened up and not returnable. They don't have a lot of uses in high school.
Finally, I needed on a container large enough to store all of my marbles. I chose this very large, also non-breakable container (it's an empty whey protein container, again courtesy of my lovely husband). Just as with the Powerade bottles, I washed it out to get rid of the powder and the smell and removed the label.
To keep track of which jar belongs to each class, I just put a sticker with the period number on top of the lid (this class is a block period that takes place during first and second period). Now I just have to remember to fill them!
For more ideas for building community in your classroom: