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The Smiley Game & The Frowny System

Teachers the world over have their own way of rewarding children for good questions, attempting answers, having positive attitude to learning and being helpful, happy and ambitious. It isn’t rocket science, just find an explicit way of showing students that they are moving in the right direction; names on the board, gold stars, house points, the list goes on.

My system is one that I use every day, for every lesson, and so far, it has never let me down. This works especially well for boys, but all children are motivated by different things.
The Smiley Game
The basic principle is the same as used by thousands of teachers. Draw a smiley face on the board and any students deserving a reward has their names written on the board under the smiley, nothing new there. The problem I have with this is that a student could get their name on the board at the start of the lesson, then do nothing for the rest of the lesson and still be rewarded.
My system is as above, but only a finite number of names can be written on the board (I normally use between 3 and 5). When the last name is written on the board, any subsequent names result in the first name being rubbed off. The aim of the game is to get yourself back in the board. Whoever is on the board at the end of the the lesson gets the reward. Now I know what you are thinking, “what is the point of trying hard at the start of the lesson if I am just going to get my name wiped off? I will wait until the end”. Well first off, not all good behaviour gets your name on the board, and if you ask to go on the board it prevents you from being added, this is a reward, not a bribe. If you think an individual has done something amazing and deserves to stay on the board until the end you can always draw the “Shield of Awesome” around them so that they don’t get rubbed off (see picture).
Sweeten the deal
So that students who are rubbed off the board still receive something, my rule is that any students written on the board get level one reward (school system), the ones on the board at the end gets a sweetie. I am originally from Yorkshire, and careful with money (mean), so I have an extra rule which saves me a lot of sweeties. If students leave the room without asking for their sweet, they can’t roll it over to the next lesson. Usually students are so happy they are on the board, they forget to ask. I probably go through a packet of polos every one to two weeks (30p?).
The Frowny System
This doesn’t need much explanation, if students are struggling to meet your expectations then there name is written under a frowny face. Engaging and differentiated teaching should negate the need for sanctions, especially if you are rewarding positive attitudes to learning, but all students can have a bad day.
If you do need to use sanctions then I have a few rules here which seem to work. If students are written on the board under the frowny face, there are no further actions other than their name written on the board as a reminder that they need to focus. Further poor choices made by students results in marks written by their name, three strikes and your out (of the room). Students cannot “work off the points”, for me, this makes the system meaningless, but do whatever works for you.
  • Alexis, a very confident girl, asks a good question about the strater and her name goes on the board.
  • Paul, Lizzie and Rocky all attempt the starter questions. Lizzie and Rocky’s names go in the board, but whilst Paul attempted the question, he could have given a more sofisticated answer and need to challenge himself more.
  • Paul gives a better answer and goes on the board, Alexis gets wiped off the board.
  • Lucia answers a question but asks to go on the board so is not rewarded
  • Helen, a very shy girl, does not asks questions, but when you ask her to give an example from the learning objective, her response is good and her name is added to the smiley, knocking Paul off the board.
  • Jacob his paying on his phone and has to be spoken to about his behaviour. His name goes under the frowny face
Hopefully you get the idea. If you have any questions or thoughts about these or any of my blogs, please contact me @lessontoolbox or comment below. I am always looking to make things better.


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