Okay, full confession time.  I used to use candy as rewards.  I started using this “trick” during my first year of teaching because I was desperate and considering other career options, and when I realized that having candy gave me a semblance of control, I kept at it.

Until recently.

After years, tears, and successfully mitigating hundreds of unique situations (anyone else have a student bring in a gallon of milk, full size box of Lucky Charms and ceramic bowl to class?), I feel more (keyword “more”, not fully) confident as a teacher.  This year I decided to phase out the candy bribe.  After all, I am the teacher. I am the adult.  I don’t need Willy Wonka to bribe my students for me.

So how did it go?

Surprisingly, it went well!  I still needed a type of reward, because I implement a PBIS system in my classroom.  I wanted the reward to be meaningful.   In the end, I gave my students four choices – and the overwhelming winner every time surprised me.

The reward choices were:

  1. Candy (okay, okay, I said I was “phasing it out”)
  2. A coupon for a free pizza from a local pizza shop (Call your local businesses!  You’d be surprised at what you can get!)
  3. A “No Homework” pass
  4. The chance to be a Teacher for the Day.

When faced with these four choices, nearly every student chose…Teacher for a Day!  Yes, you read that correctly – even when candy was an option, they still chose to teach their fellow peers!

What is it:

It is what it sounds like.  The student gets to teach the class for a day (well, for 30 minutes of one day).  And they get to teach about ANYTHING.  With so much of their days scripted and decided for them, I realize that this is what hooks them.  Here are some of the lessons topics I have enjoyed so far: The White House, Science, Unicorns and Pugs.

The Set-up:

I make students fill out a planning sheet before teaching the lesson.  For some students, I printed copies of an article they found.  For another student I made sure the projector was working so he could show a video.  Another student wanted me to check allergies so she could bring in a food.  You would be surprised at the resources the kids will find if you let them.

Click here to download my Teacher for a Day Planning Sheet for free!

After I review their planning sheet, I find a day that works.  I know, I know.  Time isn’t a luxury to teachers.  We have testing, and planning for testing, and pre-testing, and post-testing…but even with all of that this was something that I decided was more important.  I figured I could spare 30 minutes to let my student share knowledge with his or her peers.  I think it’s worth it to find the time to make this concept work.

The Execution:

Here are some key points to follow to make Teacher for a Day successful:

  1. Call the student Mr. or Mrs.  They LOVE this, and the other kids do too.
  2. Sit in the teaching student’s seat – after all, you are a student!
  3. Raise your hand and ask questions
  4. Allow the student to lead (this part is hardest for me; I have to stop myself from jumping in and stealing their show)
teacher for a day 1
My second graders were completely engaged with this student’s Teacher for a Day lesson!

The Benefits:

This reward has been an ultimate win for me.  First of all, it is FREE! (We teachers love that word!)  Second of all, it builds confidence.  One of my students is always very shy, but she really came into her own when she was able to lead our class in a science experiment.  Third, it supports the idea that EVERYONE can be an expert on something!  Everyone has useful knowledge to share.

Now you can keep the candy where it belongs…in your secret Teacher Candy stash!


Do you implement a PBIS system?  What rewards do YOU use in your classroom?