So I don’t know about you, but I remember pretty much every single award ceremony I had as a child. A few times I even got the “Golden Eagle” award. It was an award given to a few students each semester for conduct, attitude, etc. My parents weren’t always able to attend, but they tried. I remember the pride I felt having earned honor roll and the excitement we all felt on those days. Looking back, I think we were awarded for honor roll, perfect attendance, and a few people got the Golden Eagle. It was a positive experience for me. BUT school was easy for me. I didn’t have to try very hard to get good grades, and I was WAY too terrified of “changing my color” to ever act up. I wonder how many of my peers don’t have the same memories of their award ceremonies.
As I’ve mentioned here a lot of times, I almost always get the most challenging students. I’m proud of that and am so thankful for the relationships I’ve built. But it makes me keenly aware of how many of my students sit through ceremony after ceremony without getting any awards. Not only were they expected to sit silently for like an hour, but they were supposed to act happy for their peers who “won” when they didn’t.
After my first year teaching, I spoke with my team. “There has to be a better way,” I shared. I reflected more and more and decided to change the way I looked at awards. Should students be awarded for good grades? Sure! But maybe, for some students, getting good grades is very easy and requires very little of them. Instead, shouldn’t we really reward students for working hard in math, growing in reading, or always being a helping hand?
Now…I don’t think every kid should get an award every time. Truly, I don’t. I think it’s okay for some of our students who work really hard to get extra acknowledgement and there just isn’t that much time. But I hope at least once or twice a year, every single student gets to stand in front of their peers, hear their claps, and flash a big ol’ proud smile. If I could have it my way, we wouldn’t give out rewards for report card. Report cards are not always a reflection of effort or character. I would much rather give out a Character Award at the end of each unit or every Friday afternoon.
But I would love if we occasionally set time aside to publicly praise EVERY student…in front of their class and class parents. I created a list of awards and then asked my teacher friends to add more. I wanted to make sure there were enough and that you could find something for every student. As I created this list, I thought about what we want to encourage in our students. What skills and traits will help them be successful in their future?
Does Amazing Author have to go to the best writer in your class? Absolutely not! In fact, it might be even more powerful going to a student who GREW the most in their writing this year. If you have a student you’re really struggling with, think about the things they enjoy. Maybe they light up during science labs or look forward to time on the computer.
A special note…please don’t be sarcastic. It’s not funny to give an “extra energy” award to the sweet boy with ADHD who struggles to control himself. It’s not funny to give “Encyclopedia” to a student with Autism who persiverates on facts. My first year teaching, the staff gave each other awards. In front of about 100 other teachers, my team gave me (brand new teacher) the “Bermuda Triangle Award…because when things touch her desk, they’re never found again.” That wasn’t funny…that was mean and I was humiliated. Promise me you’ll check yourself and you’re not giving awards out that have a hidden meaning.
Each award comes in a girl and boy version…You can choose to give all of your students something different or give multiple kiddos the same award. I don’t think that piece really matters much. What matters is that each student feels recognized.
See the names? This file is editable so you can type your student names in, as well as yours and the date! So much faster! It can be a little overwhelming making sure each student gets an award, so I whipped up a quick checklist for you.
So what about Perfect Attendance? I know many schools require teachers to give awards for honor roll and attendance. I included these awards for this reason, and because (like I said) it’s great to recognize students! In my opinion though, elementary students have very little control over their attendance. I’ve had many students come to school tardy (and be excluded from the award) because their parents over slept or they had to get a sibling ready. I’ve also had students come to school sick (and contagious!) because parents felt like perfect attendance was the ultimate goal. If a student (or teacher!) is sick, they should stay home and get better! That’s why I hope rewarding Perfect Attendance eventually goes away. But until it does, you can find a checklist for that as well!
You can find these awards below!