Try some of my fun, engaging games and activities for free!

Join now for access to the freebie library filled with exclusive resources you can’t find anywhere else.

Low-Cost/No-Cost Reward Ideas for Upper Elementary Students

When your students need encouragement and motivation, consider implementing some of these low-cost/no-cost reward ideas for upper elementary students!

Although we wish that learning new things and growing in knowledge and understanding was enough to motivate our students all year long, deep down, we know that most people need some kind of reward or recognition if they are going to keep going when the internal motivation starts to dwindle. 

10 low cost/no cost reward ideas for upper elementary students

As an upper elementary teacher, I know that my students are motivated by a variety of different things, and what motivates one student isn’t necessarily what motivates another.

That is why I like to have a bunch of ideas ready to go at the beginning of the year so that I can quickly adapt to my students as I figure out what makes them tick.

If you think that your students are like mine and may need some motivation, but you don’t have a lot of dollars to dedicate to this project, then this list of low-cost/no-cost reward ideas for upper elementary students may be exactly what you need!

(This post features affiliate links. This means that, at no cost to you, I get commissions for purchases made through the links in this post.)

10 Low-Cost/No-Cost Reward Ideas for Upper Elementary Students

#1 | Praise and Recognition

There is a reason that one of the love languages is words of affirmation. It’s because, for many of us (students included), physical rewards and gifts fall second to having people speak highly of us or praise our work.  

With this in mind, take the time to acknowledge student’s hard work, improvements, and positive behavior. Publicly praise them during class discussions, share their accomplishments with the whole class, or write personalized notes expressing your appreciation. 

This type of recognition can significantly impact students’ self-esteem and motivation.

#2 | Special Privileges

Offer students special privileges as rewards for their efforts. Give them the opportunity to choose their seat for the day, be the class helper, or have a few extra minutes of free time. These small privileges make students feel valued and trusted and can be implemented without financial cost.

Students who seem to be looking for attention or who seek attention in less positive ways will be the ones who like this option the best!

#3 | Homework Passes

If you give homework in your class, consider rewarding students with homework passes that allow them to skip a specific assignment or reduce the workload for a day. 

Think creatively here… this doesn’t have to be eliminating a whole assignment; this could just be reducing the number of questions assigned, getting to work with a partner, getting a teacher review on a project or writing assignment before it is turned in, or anything else that may be ‘helpful’ with a homework assignment.

This can be a motivating incentive for students to stay on top of their work and also provides them with a well-deserved break.

#4 | Extra Free Time

Give your students some extra free time as a reward. 

They can use this time to read a book of their choice, work on a personal project, or participate in a preferred activity like shooting baskets in the gym or walking around the playground. 

#5 | Lunch with the Teacher

They love me! They really love me!

It’s true, and sometimes it’s even a little crazy to think, but sometimes, your students just really want to spend more time with you!

It sometimes really surprises me that extra time with me can be considered a reward, but for many students, it is!

When your students win a lunch with the teacher, they can bring their lunch to the classroom, and you can engage in casual conversations, play educational games, or simply enjoy quality time together. 

#6 | Recognition Bulletin Board

Create a recognition bulletin board where students’ achievements, accomplishments, or outstanding work can be displayed. 

Find some free space in the classroom to showcase student artwork, writing samples, or certificates of achievement. I’ve seen teachers do this by making a wall display that looks like a refrigerator, which I thought was super cute. Since they used school supplies to make the display, this really was a creative way to implement the reward idea!

This visual display serves as a constant reminder of their successes and encourages other students to strive for excellence, just like putting students’ work on the fridge at home!

Bonus Idea: In this post about the Giant Candyland Game, we discuss ways you can use the game as a reward system for students!

#7 | Virtual Rewards

If you’re techy, use those skills to provide virtual rewards to students. Use digital badges, certificates, or stickers to acknowledge students’ achievements. Most online learning platforms will allow for these types of features to be used, but many teachers just don’t take the time to set them up. 

Be the teacher who does!

#8 | Book or Game Borrowing Privileges

Of the low-cost/no-cost reward ideas for upper elementary students on this list, I think this one has a lot of room for creativity!

Allow students to have exclusive borrowing privileges from the classroom library or game collection. They can choose a book or game of interest to take home for a specified time. This reward encourages reading or fosters social interactions through gameplay.

Maybe you have super special books set aside just for this specific reason. They can be kept in a special treasure chest or a ‘locked’ part of the bookshelf. There are a lot of fun options to play with here that can make this seem super special!

#9 | Class Coupons 

For a some simple reward ideas for upper elementary, you can always create a set of class coupons (or two) that students can redeem for various rewards.

Coupons can include options such as “Sit at the Teacher’s Desk,” “Choose the Class Read-Aloud,” or “Pick a Brain Break Activity.” Students can collect and trade these coupons for special privileges or activities.

# 10 | Student Spotlight

Highlight individual students through a weekly or monthly “Student Spotlight.” 

Choose a student to be featured and share interesting facts about them with the class. Although this isn’t technically a reward, this recognition can really make students feel special, and it gives other students a chance to learn more about their classmates!

Rewards don’t have to be expensive! In fact, many of these low-cost/no-cost reward ideas for upper elementary will actually be much more memorable for your students than the cupcake erasure they earned with their classroom bucks.

Remember that each student is different, and what works to really motivate one student may not do anything to motivate the student sitting next to them. Consider sitting down at the beginning of the year to talk with each student and come up with an individual reward system for each student that they feel excited and motivated about!

Share it:


You might also like...