So many teachers at our school struggled when we first began to utilize iStation in our elementary school classrooms. We had to give every student at least 30 – 45 minutes each week on the program, and of course, factor in time at the start of every month for an iStation test. One of the biggest complaints was student boredom, but I found that having iStation rewards for students was a game changer.
Another complaint was that the amount of student data could be overwhelming, but I wrote all about how to read your students’ iStation reports and actually get useful information – not to mention you sound super smart at the parent teacher conference! Then, I even created a student data tracker to keep kids engaged who are intrinsically motivated to succeed.
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Why Create an iStation Rewards Program?
For students who struggle with intrinsic motivation, creating a rewards program for iStation can work wonders. By the time kids’ get to the middle of elementary school, they need to have a natural DESIRE for success in schools.
Unfortunately, that’s not realistic in every community. By attaching an external reward to the behaviors and effort we want to see, these kids at least get to experience the joy of success. And once they’ve felt their hard work pay off, we hope they’ll desire it in the future even when there’s not a tangible “prize” to be earned.
In order for teachers to get quality student data, kids need to try their best. In order to show growth over time, they need to show effort on every single ISIP test. If you’re like me, you’ve got kids in your class who just aren’t ready to engage with difficult, repetitive work, unless there’s a little treat at the end. That’s why a rewards program can make a huge difference.
How to Create an iStation Rewards Program
I think the best system revolves around coupons because it’s free. Especially in upper elementary, a treasure chest of cheap toys or a single piece of candy may not be motivating enough. Coupons can be great, because students choose their own reward, and it’s FREE.
Here’s how my reward system works.
- I create a set of coupons with rewards on them that can be spent in my class. If you’re interested, I’ve got my coupons available for printing here. Most of the options below are actually printed on reward coupons in my class, that way students get the benefit of choice.
- Students who show growth on the ISIP test over the previous month get to choose a coupon.
- They redeem their coupon whenever they desire. Sometimes this is the same day, and other kids will hoard them for months.
- Finally, if you start with a small collection of iStation rewards, don’t be afraid to rotate them out so that they don’t get bored. Coming to school to discover a whole new set of rewards is pretty exciting for kids!
My classroom economy already runs on these coupons, so iStation performance is just one more way to earn a coupon. Usually, students must accumulate 10 Dojo points to draw a coupon, but iStation growth is worth a free coupon of their choosing!
Focus on Growth Rather than Achievement
With iStation rewards, it’s really important that kids don’t compete against each other, but rather against past versions of themselves. Kids learn to read at such a radically different rate. It’s entirely possible that if you set up your iStation rewards program around achievement, the same two kids will win every month. That’s too demotivating!
Focus instead on each child’s growth trends. It’s easy to find this information in iStation. Keep reading to learn how to gather the information you need.
How to Quickly Find Your iStation Rewards Data
To see your whole class’ growth data on one screen, follow these instructions.
- Login to your teacher iStation account.
- At the top, select Classroom and drop down to the class you need.
- On the left sidebar, select Goals.
- Look at each student’s gray bars for this test and the previous month. If their bar rose higher, they scored better and you can say they are growing. Reward these students.
PS – The blue bar shows the goal that iStation automatically sets goals for each student. You can change these if you want, but it’s pretty tedious!
If you’d like more information about iStation reports, I’ve got an iStation bundle that will explain EVERYTHING you could ever want to know about pulling useful data.
iStation Rewards for Students
Some of these could be on a coupon, but if you want to bypass having a whole classroom economy, these are easy to plug and play!
Monthly iStation Rewards Certificates
If you’ve got younger students, they might really love receiving a special iStation certificate. You can issue one to every child who grows each month, or make them even more special by rewarding the top two growers.
Stinky Feet Treat
This is one of the most popular rewards in my old third grade classroom. Most kids love the fun of taking off their shoes in class! I do think this works best as one of several reward options, since not every single kid gets a kick out of it. Get it? Hah.
None of the teachers on my team minded the stinky feet treat, so we let kids leave shoes off even as they traveled the hallways. They had to go back on for recess, lunch, and specials in the portables.
Cuddle buddies is a fun one! Kids up to about 3rd grade really love stuffed animals.
If you look on Amazon, there are sets of stuffed animals. You can have a stash of stuffed animals in a basket in your room. Larger animals are better but more expensive, so you might consider shopping garage sales or consignment stores for children, too!
You can also let kids bring their favorite stuffed animal from home and they can cuddle while working hard. This doubles for kids as an opportunity to showcase their favorite things.
Text Message/Call Home
Kids know that it’s a big deal for a teacher to call home or text with a positive message. If kids know that anyone who grows from their previous month will get a happy phone call or text message, lots of them will do their best.
I usually make this a coupon option, so that kids can have some control over their rewards.
The Red iStation Capes (for K-2)
Even in third grade, my students were super proud to wear their iStation capes. The company provides two bright red iStation reward capes that make them look like a superhero.
You can let your top two growers wear these capes for their whole school day, and just have them put them in lockers for lunch, bathroom trips, and PE.
Show and Tell Pass
Students love Show and Tell, and you can teach your class to make it a meaningful experience that doesn’t hijack your entire lesson plan.
Set up some rules around Show and Tell. I like to set a timer for 5 minutes, and I teach the student how to call on three different kids, who get to ask questions about the object from home.
Students are taught to practice their whole-body listening skills, and the student who is showcasing something from home is taught to project their voice proudly, sit up straight, and plan a short introduction to their item. Show and Tell isn’t just about social emotional learning or creating a positive classroom environment; most states have oral language objectives that must be learned.
As far as iStation rewards, I like this one because it allows you to follow up a day of quiet testing with a day of boisterous SEL!
Extra Technology Time
While I am always concerned about the amount of screen time today’s students are getting both at home and school, there’s no doubt that kids love this reward more than most.
10 minutes of extra screen time is usually all it takes to motivate kids. I let them skip a mini lesson while their friends are on the rug and play any school-appropriate game they like. We have a list of acceptable online games and programs.
Wear a Hat
Hats are a fun treat, because it communicates to the entire school that the child earned a special privilege. They walk the halls proudly, showcasing an accessory that suits their personality. Some kids love a simple ball cap, and others will go nuts with something more creative or silly. Either way, it’s not a serious distraction.
In my third grade class, we had a pretty good collection of school-appropriate Spotify playlists that we listened to during independent work. I streamed these playlists from my Smart Board.
I also had a rule that any kid who found the playlist distracting was allowed to put on headphones that were hooked up to their laptop, and they could choose a soundscape from Calm.com. They could use headphones to block out noise in the classroom.
One special reward that I used on coupons was getting to choose the Spotify playlist for the class. I called this “Be the DJ for the day.”
In my school district, we have a rule that Dojo points cannot be projected on the screen. However, an exception was made for my classroom because it was JUST used for positive reinforcement. Here’s the system I used.
- All students are working to receive 10 Dojo points.
- After a student reaches 10 points, they choose a coupon with a special reward on it.
- I reset their points to zero.
This was allowed, because I never took away points, and students couldn’t really tell at any point who was behaving best and worst. In fact, students were earning coupons so frequently that they weren’t too interested in anyone else’s performance.
One special reward that my kids loved was getting to be the Dojo King or Queen for the day. This student got to skip an assignment, and wander the classroom monitoring their classmate’s efforts. They had 5 points to give out to 5 different students who were working the hardest and producing quality work.
I loved this system, because it allowed me to monitor the classroom for actual conferencing. I could focus on improving student writing while a kid got to help with behavior in a kid-friendly way.
It was also great because my classroom culture was such that students knew the importance of not just giving out points to their friends. They really tried to approach the task the way a teacher would do it. They got to know each other’s work quality really well, so it wasn’t uncommon for a struggling student to earn a point from a friend if they noticed the work quality was higher than average or that a great attempt had been made.
I love this idea for an iStation reward because kids who grow the most on iStation are not often in the top 10% of your class in terms of achievement. This means that kids are getting really important leadership jobs in spite of not being your typical STAR student.
iStation can be brutally boring for some kids, so it’s important to do everything in your power to spice it up. After all, they have to give it their best effort to show growth, and there’s a good chance your reputation as a teacher hangs on how well they perform on ISIP tests (especially if you’re K-2). So get creative with your iStation rewards, and don’t be afraid to rotate them throughout the year if they get a bit stale!