Motivation Magic!

Good Morning!  Einstein, my sweet cat, says “Happy Sunday!”  Of course, everyday is the sabbath for Einstein.  😉

I have a trick to keeping the classroom tidy and clean.  It works wonders!  I use two strategies – procedures and group tally marks.


Clear procedures save hours of struggle in the classroom.  It is one of my best tips for classroom management on multiple levels.  I love the book “The First Six Weeks of School” from the Responsive Classroom folks.  It gives great tips for setting up those procedures.  Here is how I employ procedures to keep the class tidy:

My students are divided into five color groups.  Each group has their own table with their own “supply tub.”  (Tubs are from Mardel’s and I found little matching cups for each color group at IKEA!)  Gotta love that place!)  There are rules or procedures for keeping the supply tub.  I start the year with just crayons, glue sticks and scissors.  The procedures are:

  • crayons go in their cup with the point up.
  • scissors go in their cup with the point down.
  • glue sticks go in their cup with the cap side up (so I can see that the caps are on!)
  • name tents go on the side of the cups.

Once they have these mastered, I add pencils and markers.

  • pencils go in their cup with the point up.  The erasers and pencil sharpener are kept in the same cup.
  • markers go in with the cap side up.  (so I can see that the caps are on!)

 You can see the pencil sharpener in the same cup as the pencils – all points up.
I have my color groups posted on my white board (this is a photo from several years ago).  The names of the color groups are under the color marker.  The color groups sit on the carpet together in a row.   
  • I give tally marks for groups who are following procedures on the carpet, during table work, and other special activities.  (Table procedures – all chairs pushed in, table cleared off, and nothing under the table or chairs.)
  • I mark those under their group on the white board.  
  • I check their supply boxes and tables after table work (several times a day) and give 5 points the best kept table and supply box.   Some days the groups can have up to 35 – 40 points.
I begin the tally marks as the reward itself.  I like the group rewards vs. individual rewards.  I do not use rewards for individuals in my classroom as a rule.  I love the team work of the groups and the holding each other to account to care for their group resources.  
After 6 to 8 weeks I move into – the groups “earn” the reward of markers.  Next comes glitter glue pens.  We are still here.  (There is one time a day when the groups are free to use the glitter glue pens.)  Oh!  Get this!  I have the group vote on the glitter pen they want!  It is so cool to see how after the first few times – they figure out how to get the majority rule!  Each group has about 4 glitter pens now. I found them at Michaels – very cheap!  Next the groups can earn colored pencils.
The tally marks are put below the row of each color group.
 There are those prized glitter glue pens!
It astonishes me how much pride and work they take to make sure their group’s table and tub are in good tidy order.  Recently, the children have taken to cleaning the table and chairs with baby wipes.  Go figure!  But rock on!  Love the cleaning vibe happening!
Next Sunday, Guest Blogger Kerry Weisner shares her procedures that she uses to order her class.   So excited to share her wisdom!
Have a blessed day!

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Love this idea…but what ideas of yours don’t I love? I thought this year that if I gave students their own pencil boxes that they would take care of their supplies better, but I am discovering that this isn’t happening at all. They are losing everything constantly and have gotten very posessive. I have grade ones also, but they do sit in groups. This is a new plan for sure…thanks Sally again! Marnie

  2. I did the same thing one year and hated it! They could not handle taking care of their own box! I could not handle it! This is so much more my speed!

  3. Skylar says:

    This explains much about our wal-mart discussions yesterday:
    1. Why Sam was so sure his teacher wanted glitter glue pens for Christmas
    2. Why he kept asking me to buy baby wipes. “Mom, they can clean up marker messes! SERIOUSLY MOM!”
    Thanks for sharing the insight into his gift ideas and cleaning tips:)

  4. LOL! Sam is right! Glitter glue pens rule the room right now!! That cracks me up! Interestingly, his group is very on top of keeping their area spotless. They have been known to keep the box of baby wipes near their table!

  5. Rebekah says:

    Did you purchase all the writing/art supplies yourself? When I taught, parents contributed supplies and I made it clear the supplies were for the whole class. But I always encountered some resistance from parents not happy that their child had to share their supplies. Sigh…

  6. Each family purchased markers, pencils, crayons, glue sticks and scissors as a part of school supplies. Some arrive with names written on them but we do use them as a community resource. I have not had any problem yet. I do buy the art supplies for the rewards.

  7. I really like this.

  8. Unknown says:

    I tried community supplies at tables this year and it was terrible. I love your ideas for the rewards of more supplies for tables that take care of their stuff. I will definitely be trying your strategy next year!

  9. Anna Watson says:

    I found this post via pinterest 🙂 I’m not a teacher, but I am a mom of four ages 5-11 and I love this!

  10. Anonymous says:

    I’ve done a combination of team tubs and individual tubs for the past few years and finally found that you have to tailor what is a team supply and what is an idividual supply to the kids you have that year. This year’s kids did great at taking care of their own tubs with art supplies (crayons, markers, glue sticks, scissors) and everything else was a team supply (white boards, dry erase markers, pencils, erasers, highlighters…) My last year’s class tubs were set up a little differently because they also lost lots of stuff early on (glue sticks and markers were big lost items).

  11. Tamar SB says:

    What a great system. I am just curious, do you ever find that one or two kids at their table are really on top of this but cannot earn points since the table mates aren’t doing there part? That would be my concern, that some kids lose out b/c of others. BUt I guess peer pressure would do a nice job here.

    • Actually, it has happen a few times and what I have found is that that grouping may not be the best. I try to re-group the children so that there are never two who are not doing their part. I have found that helps.

      Mostly, however, the groups really strive to get the next supply. It is that excitement and commitment that really drive this approach.

  12. lvrana says:

    Good organization! We always have had individual supplies, but this year will be team teaching so need to try community supplies. I bought shower caddy’s to use and ? your idea of rewarding them with fun supplies!

  13. I also love the idea of earning fun supplies. It’s amazing what they will do for colored pens. I do have one question though…what do you do when one member of the team is a real “pill” and keeps the others from earning their beloved supplies?

  14. Anonymous says:

    Loved your ideas! Will use in my room this year!

  15. Misty says:

    I have been searching online for days for the exact tubs you used. Can you help me locate them?

    • I purchased them from Mardel’s Christian Supplies. Hope that helps!

  16. Misty says:

    I have been searching for those green tubs everywhere. Can you help me find them?

    • So sorry Misty – your comments just showed up on my dashboard! Look at Mardels. They are a bit expensive.

  17. Anonymous says:

    What do you do when you change students’ seating? Which group gets the tub with all the rewards and who gets the tub that is missing everything?

    • Great Question! I do work on supporting the groups that are not earning the extras. When I move a few students – they become a part of the new group. Sometimes that can really jump start a failing group! It is important to have strong leaders in each group.

      Finally, I never move more than one person at a time out of a group. I adjust groups based on their effectiveness and I will tweak the groupings. Occasionally – if I move a leader to another group that is not doing as well – this student will sigh with hesitation or frustration (because of the loss of the old group) but it has not been a big deal.

  18. Hilary says:

    Hey Sally! I am new to teaching this year (Kindergarten) and in my student teaching experience in kindergarten the children had their own cup of crayons. I already have table tubs for the children to share and think it might be good to just share the crayons as well in the tubs. I don’t know if you’ve taught Kindergarten before but do you think kinders are okay with sharing a set of crayons at their table or do they need their own set? Thanks!

    • Yes! I have taught kindergarten for the last four years and I had the children share crayons. The trick I have found is that you need to have enough cups so there is no arguing. I had 2 cups of crayons in my bucket as I had four children at a table. Two children can easily share a cup with no problems.

    • Hilary says:

      That sounds perfect, thanks so much for the tips!

  19. Hedwig says:

    Once a group earns a reward, do they keep it for a certain amount of time or for as long as they are in the group?

    • For as long as they are in the group. I work with my class as a community not as individuals. So all rewards are for the group — not the individual. It is amazing how it brings the class together as a whole.

  20. travelnteach says:

    My students are to bring in their own supplies however, to make things run smoother I do have extras. For pencils I have a cup filled with one per child. There is a sticker on it to identify it as a class pencil and I also put their class number on it. (each of my students has a number based on alphabetical order). When their pencil breaks during Writers’ Workshop or something like that they can simply get up and get their “spare” pencil. It is then returned at the end of the lesson or day. One of class jobs is to keep those pencils sharpened and to check on them to make sure they are returned. With the stickers I can spot who is using the borrowed items from across the room.

  21. I love, love, love that idea! Thank you so much for sharing it!

  22. KinderKapers says:

    Where was this post at the beginning of the year! I wish I had found it then. Of course it is never too late to start. I love the idea of earning the markers and glitter pens.


  23. Amber says:

    First of all when I saw Einstein it brought a tear to my eye because I also had a yellow tabby, named Simba who passed away on Easter Sunday this year. You are on target with your team and table management which also encourages your students. I would like to know if you have trouble with students pulling the eraser out of the pencils, and taking crayons and breaking things?

    • Sally says:

      I do not have those issues. (Maybe an occasionally eraser issue) With the erasers – I keep a box of slip-on erasers and super glue them to the top. I focus on proper use and spend a great deal of time on procedures on how to use the materials. I partially started this to stop the crazy crayon situation. Crayons can be a wild beast! But with time and procedures (motivation!) – it worked like magic!

  24. Diane says:

    Do you reward one group at the end of the day or can more than one group earn a reward?

    • Sally says:

      Absolutely – I reward more than one group if it is close! More Motivation!

  25. Kelly says:

    You stated that after 6-8 weeks of practice with the supply tubs and tally marks as reward you move to adding extra art supplies to the tubs. How do you determine when a group gets the markers as a reward? Is it a certain number of tally marks per day for a predetermined amount of days or how do you decide they are ready to earn the rewards? I would love to use this in my classroom this year and I would appreciate any and all extra information you can provide me. Thanks for your awesome ideas!

  26. Angela says:

    I love the way you set up your tubs and how they earn their materials. How do you choose your groups and how long do they stay together? Do you switch groups weekly? Thanks!!

    • Sally says:

      Yes – I did choose the groups. I do not switch groups weekly. They stay together 4-6weeks. I like to let the groups guide me – I listen and see how it is going. It really changes year to year. I switch groups every quarter – to keep building new friendships and community. It allows the children to get to know each other in a collaborative setting. Hope that helps.

      • mandy falgout says:

        do you ever make a kid their own team b/c they were sabotaging the team’s efforts? i am in a really challenging year with first graders and need ALL the help i can get. i would love to just be able to have coffee with you or have you come to my classroom….

        • Sally says:

          Where do you live?

          • mandy falgout says:

            Seoul South Korea. I’m teaching at an international school here.

  27. laxmi says:

    cool….does any one have ideas for tuning in..for the PYP kindergarten units?
    For example ‘healthy living’ Plants , express yourself. Kindly share.

    Thanks Dally again for another great idea

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