The Marble Jar

by Laura Gurley on March 10, 2011

Need a positive behavioral motivator for quality character within the classroom?  Here is a simple idea that can be used at school {or at home with your kids!} . . .

First, choose a Character Trait of the Week.  On Monday, talk about the character quality you’d like to emphasize that week.  Write it on the board or display the quality so that the students are reminded of it daily.

Next, try getting a small glass jar and putting it somewhere easily seen in the classroom.  Beside the jar, put a cup or container of marbles. For each time a student is noticed exhibiting the featured character trait, recognize that student in front of the class. Make a big deal of “Johnny’s patience waiting in line” or “Madison’s sharing at centers” or “Tyson’s friendliness to the new student.”  Have that student put a marble into the glass jar.  The whole class can work together to fill the jar by Friday.  If they do, the entire class is rewarded with a special prize– a piece of candy, a Free Homework pass, extra time at recess.

This is a positive tool and should be treated as such.  If you choose to have certain students come to the front of the classroom to take away marbles because of their “bad” behavior, it destroys the sense of teamwork you want to foster in your class.

And, like most tools, even the marble jar will get “old” if you hammer it every single week.  Use it occasionally alongside the character traits that lend to being easily displayed in the class.  For example, honesty may be a hard one to “catch” students enough to fill up the whole jar.

Keep it light.  Keep it fun.  Keep it positive.

Have you tried a reward system like this before?  How has it worked?

  • kendal

    we have a similar system school-wide this year. (i teach in a public middle school.) We reward students with “keys” for kindness – pretty much any unsolicited, above and beyond great behavior. we write on paper key cut-outs or just a random slip of paper. we talk it up big in the classes and display the keys on our doors or a wall in the classroom. we have rewards set in place for classes with the most keys, individuals with the most, and etc….i thought the teens would scoff at it, but they’ve gotten into it! it gives a chance for ANY kid to receive positive recognition.

    • Laura Parker

      Kendal, I love that your entire school is encouraging character. It must be so much more motivating to have the whole group focusing and encouraging the same ideals in the kids. And who says middle school kids don’t get into these kind of games!?

      Keep up the good work, friend.

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