Sticker charts, prize boxes, classroom stores, teacher bucks, coupons... most elementary classrooms have a reward system of some kind in place to encourage and reinforce good behavior among students.
If you are looking for a fresh reward system that is uniquely Catholic for your school or CCD classroom, why not try Saint cards? Those beautiful and special Saint cards can familiarize your students with their heavenly helpers, give them models of virtue, increase appreciation for the richness of our faith, and promote devotion to these prayer warriors. The backs of the cards also often contain biographies of the Saints, Scripture verses, or prayers, which adds more educational value to the collection.
Interested? Here's how I do it in my classroom:
- At the beginning of the year, I discuss virtue with my students, and we talk about how the Saints are models of heroic Christian virtue. I challenge them to grow in virtue through our year together, and they all receive a binder ring with a card that says "name is growing in Saintly Virtue." They get to attach their Saint cards to the ring, and we keep them on a chain of giant paper clips hanging in our classroom Faith Corner.
- The idea is that the students is being rewarded for showing virtue of
some kind (we are working on what that means and how we live it out) and
that the Saints are our models of virtue. They get to choose a Saint
to remind them to keep making good choices. This metal recipe box was our Saintly virtue box (I upgraded to a larger box this year, but don't have a pic...). The Saints are organized with little tabs alphabetically. I restock the box about once a month to keep the options fresh. All of the Saint cards are pre punched in the upper left hand corner using a standard hole punch. This makes putting them on the binder ring quick and easy.
You could use this reward system however it works best for your age of students and set up of a classroom. My students can earn cards in a few ways:
- Individually- Student earn and get to choose a card on their own through our classroom management system. Things like outstanding behavior, demonstration of virtue, and extraordinary academic effort are denoted on our classroom behavior chart and students are able to choose a Saint card.
- Class Behavior- My students can also earn cards as a group. Part of my classroom management system includes a class jar that we collect clips in. The class earn clips for outstanding behavior, receiving compliments from other adults, achieving a goal, etc. When the class earns ten clips, they all earn the same Saint card. I then pull out the next stack of Saint cards and they know what they are working towards earning with their next ten clips.
- Gifts- Just like God's grace, sometimes we receive something that we don't necessarily deserve :). Throughout the year, I surprise all of the kids with special Saint cards just as gifts. We mark days like the beginning and end of school, Christmas and Easter, and our school feast day with Saint cards freely given.
Where do I get all the Saint cards?
- Sometimes I buy them. If there is a card I want for a special occasion or am just feeling like shopping for some unique additions, I will visit our local Catholic bookstore. I also will buy packs of popular Saints in bulk from places like this and this. Yes, it is pricey initially, but the packs last me several years and the cards work out to cost pennies each.
- I get a lot of Catholic "junk" mail, and those mailings often contain prayer cards. I also have a lovely group of church ladies who save me all the cards they receive in the mail as well. All of those cards help add variety to what I buy in bulk. My principal has started saving them for us from the mail the school receives, too! I'm always on the lookout for more people to share with us!
- Occasionally, I will get a stack for free. When visiting a church or shrine or other Catholic places, they often have holy cards available for visitors to take. I often will tell them that I am a Catholic school teacher and ask if I can have 25 or 30 for my students, and they always say yes. :)
- I also print or make my own Saint cards. I have a stash of pdfs that I just print on colored cardstock on our school copier. Cut, punch, file, and I have super cheap cards. A lot of the pdfs that I have are from this site before they started charging for membership. If you really want to start using this reward system, it might be worth it to become a member so you can use their files. I also will occasionally design my own Saint cards, especially if we are studying the life of a particular Saint. I also have made cards to give on the occasion of special events, like the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI and the election of Pope Francis. These cards that I print myself are always the cards that I use for whole class behavior as mentioned above- it would be too expensive to use purchased cards for that purpose.
Kids love to collect things, and if baseball cards or game character cards have worked, why not Saint cards? My students have loved working towards adding to a collection as the school year went on.
- The students will scope out the Saintly virtue box and often have a plan as to who they would like to collect next. (This makes those random individual cards that I get in the mail all the more valuable!)
- When we are working towards a classroom reward, the students always know what Saint card they will be earning. We learn about that Saint and ask for their help as they strive to earn them for their collection.
- A most favorite day is when we have our trading day at the end of the year. Sometimes I have one just before Christmas and at the end of the year. The students get all of their cards off of the chain and spread them out. At this time, if they have ended up with duplicates of any cards, they can trade them in with me. They also can walk around the room and barter with classmates to trade cards. I love watching and listening to this process! They get so excited, but are still so polite. This year I heard things like: "I'll trade you my Sacred Heart of Jesus for that Image of Divine Mercy" "Nope, that St. John Paul II is staying here." "Whoa! St. Rose of Lima! Wanna trade for St. Agnes?" They get to make up their own dream team.
- And finally, the students get to take home their Saint card ring at the end of the year. They have quite the collection of these holy cards, and I have heard from many former students that they have kept them (yay!) and have even added more to it. I think it is an awesome keepsake, but more importantly a great resource for prayer and learning.
So there you have my classroom reward system! I like it more and more each year, and hope that it continues to bear fruit in the lives of my students. If you have any ideas or additional resources, I'd love to hear them!