February 14, 2019

How to Create School Wide Incentives that are Educational and Fun

Create school-wide incentives that are both educational and fun. One school shares their story!
LiveSchool 101: Happy Teachers, Engaged Students, and Better Data

Students of Del Valle Elementary in Del Valle, TX used to get OWL bucks for positive behavior. But they were impossible to track, and often didn’t even make it from printer to prize redemption.

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J Maines, Interim Principal, knew they needed a better solution.

There are some big problems with using paper bucks to run a PBIS program and J knew their reward system wasn’t working. He identified a few of the problems they had with paper behavior rewards:

  • Tangible behavior bucks get lost easily. Students stuffed their OWL bucks into baggies, a back pocket, or their desk. They only received a few recognition “dollars" each day; and if one of those precious bucks should float away while boarding the bus or drown in a puddle of O.J. at lunch, that reward was lost forever.
  • Paper bucks have to be printed. School administrators end up spending time and money printing and distributing paper bucks.
  • They’re hard to track. It’s next to impossible for the school to tell if teachers are giving bucks out consistently. With little to no oversight, it’s hard to make sure students are getting recognized frequently enough to reinforce positive behavior.
  • They’re not specific to the behavior rubric. There’s no way to tell what type of behavior earned that dollar. So there’s no data to reveal which behaviors are consistently rewarded, and which are not.

Teachers were exasperated, and J understood why.

There were too many things getting in the way of it working properly.

J launched the behavior app strategically for maximum buy-in

J introduced LiveSchool to the most tech-savvy grades first. He knew they’d love the convenience once they gave it a shot.

Soon, word got out organically. It was only a matter of time before teachers in other grades were asking for LiveSchool. When there was enough demand, they launched the app in the entire school.

Students and parents gather at a PBIS school event
Eventually, the whole school shared one system for rewards positive behavior

A school-wide behavior rubric created common expectations.

Del Valle follows a behavior rubric called SOAR: Safety, Ownership, Achievement, and Respect. With the custom rubric feature in LiveSchool, J was able to identify specific behaviors that demonstrate each of those values. Then, if the school was having problems with kids running in the hallway, he could check the data and see that teachers weren’t giving out any positive points for hallway behavior.

Now, students are consistently rewarded.

The Insights feature reveals top performers. J can easily celebrate the teachers who give out the most positive points, and keep everyone engaged.

He can even spot trends and changes for individual students. J is able to identify students who aren’t earning many points, and use the data to make a support plan for them. And if parents question whether their student is being fully supported and recognized by specific teachers, J can reference real numbers to illustrate what’s happening in the classroom.

The school uses experiences (not just tangible rewards) as incentives.

Del Valle typically sees a rise in office referrals in February, so they decided to reverse the trend. To incentivize good behavior through the long winter months, they planned a Field Day for 4th and 5th grades. The more points each student earns, the more activities they can participate in. When students reach the maximum threshold, they get the full Field Day experience with all 20 events.

J has already seen a change in the way teachers address behavior issues in class. 

Instead of, ‘Would you please stop talking?’, it is, ‘Oh, didn’t you sign up for the relay race? Hey, make sure you’re earning your OWL bucks, so that you can go to the relay race.’

They’re able to turn an admonishment into a positive motivator for their students.

A school principal poses in front of a dinosaur exhibit
Del Valle principal poses at a dinosaur exhibit - students who earned enough Owlbucks get free admission to the museum-like display

Students get more recognition through the app than they ever did with paper dollars.

With their paper system, Del Valle teachers were giving out 3 or 4 OWL bucks every day. Now, they distribute an average of 25 points daily through the app. They’ve even seen a reduction in office referrals!

And J has seen a major transformation in the school that goes beyond the numbers. Teachers don’t have to worry about tracking points, replenishing paper bucks, or giving out points that disappear into the abyss of a backpack. They can fully commit to shaping their classroom and instruction style to recognize positive behaviors.

We’re past all that functionality. It’s all in the app. We’re on to the big things that affect instruction.

Of course, J is thrilled with the dramatic change for students as well.

That has a magical effect on kids. It’s been a silent problem in all schools, where the good kids doing the right thing don’t get as much attention as the kid who’s off-task doing the wrong thing.

The school gathers at a holiday assembly, showing staff on stage singing and students singing along
Del Valle dramatically increased the number of behavior rewards teachers give to their students.

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Launch a points system
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