April 18, 2016

Warm Fuzzies, The Reward Book, & Intrinsic Motivation

Something that I have used in my class for the past couple years are “warm fuzzies”. (Clearly it’s gotten a little sloppy, as I started with buckets, then cups, now plastic bags, but I love how I can move my behavior board around the room now!!) It’s a pretty cheap way to reward good behavior and has a realistic meaning behind it. In short, any time you do something successfully, help or support a friend, follow the rules, demonstrate good behavior, etc., you receive a warm fuzzy. Because naturally, when you do something good for yourself or someone else you get a warm, fuzzy feeling in your heart. Right? :)

The warm fuzzies in my class are different sizes. The size of the warm fuzzy depends on the behavior. For example, pushing in your chair is following classroom rules; however, it is expected and therefore worth a smaller warm fuzzy. Handling frustrating situations in an appropriate way is worth a larger warm fuzzy because it requires more self control and determination to achieve. “It really bothers me when you ____. Can you please ____?” is a hard phrase for adults sometimes so hearing a kindergartener say it is pretty amazing.

I use intrinsic rewards to motivate my students to be the best they can be. I’ve learned that candy and treasure boxes will get most of the kids to follow the rules, but some kids need something a little more meaningful. Little Johnny who is “on red” every day (another reason I do not use color charts) is not going to change his behavior for a beaded mardi gras necklace at the end of the day. It might catch his interest, but so will the student student sitting next to him as he begins to play sword fighting with his pencil.  The best way to increase behavior from ALL of your students is by finding out what intrinsically motivates them. So if sword pencil fighting motivates Johnny to get his work done, then let him play with pencils as a reward....in the corner...away from all other children...

Intrinsic motivation is defined as performing an action or behavior because you enjoy the activity itself, whereas acting on extrinsic motivation is done for the sake of some external outcome.

For example, you are extrinsically motivated to go to work because you are getting paid to be there (ok, so teachers are not a good example of this because some of us are actually intrinsically motivated to be at work- we enjoy teaching and gain happiness from it.) However, other people in the world go to work for the sole purpose of getting paid. This is extrinsic motivation. Doing something you don’t want to do in order to not get punished is also an example of extrinsic motivation. When Little Johnny thinks to himself “I don’t want to clean up the blocks right now, but I am going to because if I don’t I know I will get a time-out” is an example of extrinsic motivation. Johnny is following directions, but he’s not very happy. 

Finding out what your students are intrinsically motivated by may seem like an easy task. “I know Little Johnny likes to run around the room so his reward should be extra playground time.” This might motivate Johnny, but he may also think playing outside is too exhausting and doesn’t like to get sweaty. If this is the case, Johnny is not going to be as motivated to earn his reward. The best way to figure out a difficult student’s motivators is to just ask.

Find out what they really like and create it into a reward. There are many reinforcement surveys on the internet that are designed for challenging students who really need a specific, well-thought reward. Other students will enjoy just about anything you offer. Almost all of my students get tired of having their shoes on at some point in the day- and I totally understand their frustrations- I hate wearing shoes too! They are motivated to make the right choices by being able to read a book with their shoes off and feel comfy while at school. 

Some of the more popular rewards in my classroom are...

Read to another class

Shoes off for the day
The photo taken above was the first day I introduced this reward and all student got to “test out” having their shoes off. However, I would strongly advise not having the whole class’ shoes off for long periods of time. There will be a lot of shoes and laces flying everywhere if that fire alarm goes off lol!

Read in the *special* blue reading chair

Teacher’s helper for the day
Want to know what the heck these are? Click here!

Playdoh for morning work

Blocks for morning work
My district unfortunately doesn’t encourage play in kindergarten classroom so these “rewards” are actually developmentally appropriate learning experiences for my students! ;)

And many others such as...

A good phone call home (I always think it is so sweet when students choose this reward. These are the students that are begging for positive recognition from their parents. I am always SO happy to make these phone calls!)
Nurse helper (walks with hurt/sick students to nurse)
Line leader for the day
Class DJ (Choose our brain breaks!)
Sit at the teacher’s desk for the day

I create new rewards as my students come up with them, but I start with a basic list of reward ideas they can choose from called the Reward Book

Download my reward book & try out intrinsic rewards in your classroom for free by clicking the picture below! :)

I’m interested to know other teachers’ thoughts on warm fuzzies, intrinsic motivators, and the reward book. What are your thoughts?! Leave a comment below! :)




  1. Love your post! Do your students only get the reward when their bag is full, or each time they get a warm fuzzy?

  2. Love your post! Do your students only get the reward when their bag is full, or each time they get a warm fuzzy?


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