In the classroom, students who get the right answers on tests are rewarded with good grades and often other tangible items such as certificates and trophies. But when do we reward students for creative thinking or being willing to persist in search of the right answer?
A few years ago I created "Brain Bucks" to reward students for finding creative solutions to problems or putting forth extra effort in completing assignments. I even used them to reward students for catching me in a mistake! I kept an envelope with Brain Bucks at my teaching station and looked for opportunities to reward good thinking. When someone came up with a new way to solve a problem or answered a question that had stumped many others, I handed that student a brain buck and said something like, "Wow! Way to use your brain today! I would never have thought of solving the problem that way!" My students quickly realized that I valued creative THINKING more than simply getting the right answer. Eventually, other students began to look for good thinking in others. I would frequently hear someone say, "Mrs. Candler, I think she deserves a Brain Buck for that idea!"
You can download your own Brain Bucks for free from the Classroom Management page on Teaching Resources. They are available in green and also in black and white if you prefer to print them on green paper.
Since Brain Bucks are just slips of paper and not real money, students need to be able to redeem them for something else that they value. I connected them to my full classroom economy system. Students earned money for jobs in the classroom as well as for having their homework for the whole week, and that class money could be used in our class auction at the end of each grading period. You can read more about my classroom economy system in the Classroom Economy freebie. Just download it from my TpT store to get started.
Brain Bucks are a fun, effective, and cheap way to encourage students to think outside the box! For more ideas on classroom reward systems that might work with Brain Bucks, take a look at the responses to a question that was posted on my Facebook page. You'll find dozens and dozens of great ideas there! If you find new ways to use Brain Bucks in your own classroom, please share them here!
Laura Candler, Teaching Resources