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Recognition System


Affirming students' positive behavior choices reinforces the learning process and builds a motivation momentum.  Reinforcement is an essential feature of the learning process and students benefit from hearing that they made a good choice.  There are two important features of a school-wide student recognition system:  behavior specific praise and reward tickets.

Behavior Specific Praise.  The accepted rule for behavior specific praise is to use a 3:1 ratio,  three positive comments to every one corrective or critical comment.  By increasing the rate of praise statements students receive we increase the likelihood that they will engage in the positive behaviors again in the future. Delivery of behavior specific praise is guided by a three part formula

Praise Tickets.  Tickets (or coupons) are a way of increasing student motivation and adding another layer of reinforcement to the praise you are delivering.  In short, tickets are fun and increase students' motivation to to make a good choice. Whether a small behavior (e.g., holding the door) or a big behavior (e.g., helping a friend who is being bullied) tickets can help us reinforce the kinds of student behaviors we want to see. Among the benefits of using a ticket system include:


  1. Encouraging students to continue engaging in positive behaviors.
  2. Reinforcing the benefit of making good choice, so that when a student faces a ‘tempting’ bad choice they have the history of positive interactions with staff to firm up their resolve.
  3. Encouraging students working on a behavior improvement goal to keep trying.
  4. Contributes to the development of positive adult-student relationships.

School teams plan ways for students to use accumulated praise tickets based on the developmental needs and interests of their students. The most typical ways school teams have students use praise tickets are weekly raffles and trade-in (for items or activities).   School teams need to carefully plan how they will sustain their system including the necessary funding and procurement of incentive options.


A ticket system will work best when all staff in the building use it consistently.  Sometimes, teachers would like the opportunity to personalize the ticket system for use in their classroom.   It is helpful to articulate the practices that everyone needs to use and the ways in which staff can personalize use of the tickets in their assigned area.    For example, consider how this elementary school structured their system:


Everyone needs to do these:

You can personalize by:

  • Everyone uses the same praise ticket.
  • Everyone distributes praise tickets daily for student behaviors that we would typically say 'thank you'.
  • All classrooms have a bin to put the tickets each week.
  • Students deposit tickets into a grade level bin.
  • Each week 10 students’ names are randomly pulled from the grade level bin.
  • All students with tickets in the bin should have a chance at having their name pulled  (meaning, staff should not pick and choose the student winners).
  • Having a system for students to store their tickets.
  • Having classroom drawings before tickets go into the grade level bin.
  • Having classroom celebrations.
  • Having a system or strategy in addition to the tickets.
  • Use the positive referral form to nominate individual students that you believe have demonstrated exceptional behavior over the course of a week or month.

Staff Recognition.  Many school teams find it beneficial to incorporate a staff recognition component into their system.  Finding small, yet meaningful ways to celebrate the contributions all staff make to student success can be an important component of building positive climate. Examples of ways to incorporate a staff recognition component include:

Plan a Student Recognition System

Tools and Resources

Planning the Recognition System ProceduresThe first decision to make is how students will use the tickets.  The two most common options are a raffle system (students put their tickets in grade level bins and once a week winners are drawn) or a trade-in system (e.g., once a month during a designated time students can trade their tickets in for available options).  There are many options and combinations of approaches for designing your system. No matter what approach you choose, it is important to carefully plan and document your procedures.  This planning template will help you to think through some of the most important details.


Staff specific tickets.  Some school teams find it is helpful to prioritize staff and provide them with their own special ticket.  Substitute teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria monitors, administrators, related arts are examples of staff who may benefit (depending on your school need) from having their own special ticket.  These tickets may have an increased value or make the student eligible for a special drawing or activity.  As you plan your recognition system procedures, consider how staff specific tickets may help to meet your school's needs. 
Survey student and staff interests.  Incentives are most powerful when they are things that the recipient wants.  Survey staff and students to learn about their interests and the types of incentives most appealing to them. 

Positive Student Referral Form. Enhance your student recognition system with a Positive Student Referral.  The Positive Student Referral is used to recognize students for exceptional demonstrations of the school expectations and character. Examples of strategies to celebrate students who receive the Positive Student Referral include: announce recipients at quarterly ceremonies, post recipients on a wall of fame, monthly breakfast for recipients. Customize the template provided to reflect the Positive Referral process at your school.

Staff appreciation.  Looking for a fun way to appreciate school staff?  Consider holding a staff appreciate day or week during which student give out tickets to school staff.  This template provides instructions for planning your staff appreciation event and a sample Staff Appreciation Ticket that you can customize.
Suggestions for when to give out tickets.  This at-a-glance handout provide staff with suggestions and examples of reasons to distribute praise tickets to students.
Tracking distribution of tickets.  Some school teams find it helpful to have a strategy to keep track of the quantity and flow of tickets that are being distributed.  The team should determine the reason why they want to track tickets.  Two important questions to consider are (1) What do you want to learn from the information and (2) how does this information help your planning process.  This tool is one example of a strategy for keeping track of tickets.
Problem solving common scenariosSometimes, questions or problem scenarios come up when staff are distributing tickets.  Maintaining consistent use is more likely if you provide staff with some solutions to the common problems they are encountering.  This document provides suggestions for some of the most common ticket-use scenarios.
Fundraising. Most school teams find that they need to support maintenance of their recognition system with fundraising.  There are many creative options for how to raise money to support your recognition system.  Keep these considerations in mind as you plan for fundraising:
  • Develop an annual fundraising calendar that takes into consideration other existing school fundraisers
  • Recruit staff who are not on the team to help out with fundraisers
  • Try a few small fundraisers to determine which one(s) work best for you
  • Shape a signature fundraiser for your universal intervention
  • Planning is often easier and more manageable for several small fundraisers than for one large event.  Consider the resources available and determine what your team can manage
  • Follow all district procedures for raising and managing funds