Reward Games

When your students are really really good. As in, “homework-done-on-time-participating-like-nobody’s-business-contributing-to-a-safe-and-enjoyable-classroom-environment” kind of good, what do you do to reward them?

If you are working in adult education, you might be thinking, “My students’ progress is their reward.” And in this case, I am inclined to agree…for the most part (Honestly, I use reward games with adult learners, too, depending on the game!). However, when you are teaching young learners, a small reward can go a long way. That being said, as teachers we don’t have a huge amount of expendable income to spend on physical prizes. So, here is where reward games come in. When I was exclusively working with young kids, I used fun games in place of a prize box. My kids loved it and it was easy on the finances (and often provided a chance for some incidental language practice). Here are a few of my favorites.

(Quick note: most of these games require a bit of space to move around in and may get a little loud.)

1. Honey if you love me

Students form a circle with one player in the middle (This person is “it”). The middle person (it) must approach players in the circle and ask, “Honey, if you love me, give me a great big smile!” The person being questioned must answer, “Honey, I love you but I just can’t smile.” If s/he does smile or laugh, s/he becomes “it” and the previous middle person joins the circle. The person who is “it” is not allowed to touch other players but may make as many funny faces as s/he wishes.


One person is “it”. The others must all sit down and be the audience. “It” says
“Serious time has begun, no more laughing, no more fun. If you dare to crack a
smile, you are out.” Then “it” makes funny faces, or sounds, or tells
jokes or does anything except touch a member of the audience, to get someone to
laugh. The first person to laugh becomes “it” and the previous middle person joins the circle.

2. Fruit Basket

Divide the class into 4-8 groups and have them move to different spots along the wall of the room or play area. You can even have the students sit in chairs in a circle. Give each of the groups a fruit name such as apples, oranges, bananas and watermelons. If you have a smaller group, you can assign each child a fruit name.

Call two of the fruit names and those groups have to run and change places. They maintain the same name throughout the game.

When you call “Fruit Basket” all of the children run and sit in the center of the room or circle of chairs.

3. Pirate Ship

Before you begin, the children should be taught the commands which the activity involves (see below).

Children make a line in front of the teacher. The teacher is the captain of the pirate ship. The teacher shouts a command and the children have to perform the activity associated with that command, acting like pirates. You can really do whatever you would like with this game, but here are a few of my favorite commands.

Command Action
Attention all pirates! Children stand at attention in a line in front of the teacher.
Scrub the Decks Children crouch down and pretend to clean the floor with their hands.
Walk the Plank Children have to walk in a perfect straight line one foot exactly in front of the other with arms outstretched to the sides.
Shark Attack Children pretend their arms are the mouth of a shark “swim” around the room “chomping their teeth” (moving their arms up and down).
Hit the Deck Children lie down on their stomachs as quickly as possible.
Stormy Weather Rock from side to side.

Also, you can play this game like Simon Says. This means the students would only do the action if the teacher says, “Captain, says_______!” If your students are ready, they can take turns being the captain.

What games do you like to play with your young students to reward their good behavior? Share your ideas in the comments!

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