Are you looking for ideas for rewards in the classroom? Want something that is not only effective but also doesn’t break the bank? Read on to find out how positive praise postcards can be your #1 easy, effective classroom reward for students. 

As a beginning teacher, I would’ve forfeited my first year’s salary to find out easy, effective classroom rewards for students. I tried lots of ideas to reward students in the classroom, but nothing seemed particularly effective. And most of the ideas for classroom rewards either cost a wad of cash or took ages to organize. 

Worst of all, those first few years of teaching are the hardest because you’re still figuring out the behaviors that annoy you and those that don’t rile you.

But regardless of the behaviors that trigger you, knowing how to improve students’ behavior is such an important skill that teachers learn.

Now, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I have all the secrets to perfectly behaved, angelic students. I don’t. 

Like every other teacher, I have good days and days meh days. But luckily, I very rarely have those truly awful days when I wish the earth would just open up and swallow me whole.

Part of the reduction in the awful-swallow-me-whole days is simply experience. Part of the reduction is in learning effective behavior management skills.

So what’s the best behavior management skill to learn? In my opinion, after setting expectations, the most useful skill you can learn to manage your classroom is learning how to use positive praise to reward students.

What? Positive praise is the best reward? And it’s free? (Or at least very cheap)?

Yep, positive praise is one of the most effective classroom rewards for students, even middle and high schoolers. And bonus points, it can be very useful as part of your classroom management plan.

What is positive praise?

Research suggests that to be effective and positive, praise needs to be:

  • specific (to a student, situation, or behavior demonstrated)
  • timely (given quickly after the praise-worthy event)
  • given for students’ efforts, progress, or behaviors instead of abilities or talents
  • sincere
  • sensitive to students’ cultural or personal preferences
  • avoid comparisons to other students
  • relate to already-established expectations for school/classroom behavior

Why is positive praise so awesome?

positive praise puts money in the relationship bank

Because it works on several levels:

  • Students doing the right thing get positive behavior reinforcement
  • It cues off-task students to do the right thing
  • Parents can easily be brought into the loop
  • It builds rapport and positive relationships with your students and their parents
  • You can use positive praise as part of a wider classroom management plan, such as if you earn X number of points, you get a positive postcard sent home

One of the most cited teaching strategies to improve student behavior in classrooms is to build positive relationships

But it can be difficult to know how to do this when you feel like your students are out.of.control. However, using positive praise as part of your classroom management plan can help you to reign in behaviors that aren’t good for your classroom and students.

Why do teachers struggle to use positive praise as a classroom reward?

Using positive praise is an effective behavior management strategy for teachers to improve their classroom management. However, positive praise can be a difficult strategy to use for a variety of reasons:

  • Teachers can sometimes embarrass middle and high school students by singling them out in class with positive praise (especially if the class is a tough one with a negative climate)
  • It’s often second nature to reprimand poor behavior as you see it instead of deliberately searching for good behavior – particularly at the end of the day/week/term/semester when you’ve had enough
  • Teachers sometimes feel insincere when giving praise for sociable behavior (because we can sometimes forget that students are still learning to behave appropriately)
  • Teachers sometimes find it difficult to give effective praise in the moment
  • Sometimes teachers just have one of *those* lessons where nothing seems to go quite right and you feel like you’re fighting to keep kids on-task all lesson – so your brain is not focused on the good stuff, but redirecting the bad stuff

How can you use positive praise more often?

One of my favorite ways to overcome these difficulties and reward student behavior is to send positive praise postcards home to students and their parents.


I find positive praise postcards to be an extremely effective classroom management technique (and an excellent classroom reward for students) for a variety of reasons:

  • You can praise shy students without alerting the entire class
  • You have the time to think about and give behavior-specific praise to a student – you can explain what they did and why it was great
  • Students love having their parents hear good things about them (especially students who often do not have good things said about them to their parents)
  • You build positive relationships with students and their parents
  • It’s easy to make sure that you are praising everyone in your class, not just the ones who consistently perform and behave well
  • You feel better about your students because you catch your students doing the right thing (and remind yourself of it when you send home postcards)
  • It’s quick and easy – just write a quick note, address it, and send it through your school mail
  • You can recognize students for having positive behaviors and interactions with peers, not just academic ability
  • You can recognize students’ efforts in class and foster a growth mindset

I have often had students approach me after class and shyly thank me for sending home a postcard. Usually, they are the sweet but easily ignored students who are calm, quiet, and get on with it.

And I have had *those* kids thank me and work towards more positive postcards by improving their behavior in class. 

Their motives are sometimes more mercenary, “Mum said she’ll give me an Xbox game if she gets another postcard.” (sigh!). But it still works to improve behavior and build positive relationships.

Want to get started using positive praise as a classroom reward for students?

First of all, check out if your school has some kind of positive reward system where you can send postcards home. It’s a feature of many school-wide positive behavior systems.

If your school doesn’t have one, you can do a quick hand-written note or have templates that you personalize, print, and send as a letter.

But if you want postcards, because let’s face it, they’re cute and easy (and you don’t need to try an fill up a whole dang page with writing), you can check out my freebie postcards.


This link has free samples of positive praise postcards that you can send home to your students. Or, you can email the picture file to them with a quick typed personal note. 

Either way, if you and your students like the postcards as classroom rewards for good behavior, you can purchase the expanded range (and high-five for your support!). Or, you can send me your first-year teacher’s salary to support me instead.

Jokes aside, find out how I use positive praise postcards…

As a free classroom reward by clicking this link. In that post, you’ll find out how I built a routine for using positive praise postcards into my school day so that they feel like an effortless way to build relationships with students and their parents.

If you are looking for more ideas for rewards for the classroom, especially if you want to integrate them into your classroom management plan, check out the posts linked below to find out more about using positive praise.

Want to find out more about using positive praise?

  • Edutopia’s article Making sure your praise is effective explains what types of praise are effective. The article gives a few different praise techniques. It also discerns between praise that is appropriate for younger students and that which is effective for older students.
  • Understood’s article The Power of Praise also explains the types of praise that encourage on-task and sociable classroom behavior.
  • This article explains what behavior-specific praise is and why it is more effective than general praise. It also has some bibliographic details should you wish to read more academic research on behavior-specific praise.
  • I love the idea of the ‘secret student classroom management strategy’. I think it would pair brilliantly with the postcard rewards because you could have the prize be the secret student gets a postcard and the rest of the class gets free time, a pencil, lollies, or whatever cheap and easy classroom rewards your students like. 

one-easy-effective-classroom-reward-for middle-and-high-school-students