Marbles in a Jar

This is an idea for improving the co-operative spirit in the classroom (or as some may refer to it, “classroom management”). I learned it from a teacher trainer in Canada, as part of a seminar on “Assertive Discipline.”

Basically, you get a jar (an old jam jar will do, or else some small piece of plastic tupperware works, too). You also get enough marbles to fill up the jar, and store them in a bag or another jar/tupperware container. Basically, at the end of class, depending on the behaviour and observed effort of the students, you add a certain number of marbles to the jar: the more marbles you add, the better behaved, focused, and on-task the students were. When the jar gets full, there is some sort of reward: a snack, an extra break during class time, the chance to play a favourite game together…

I don’t remove marbles from the jar, no matter how rough a day it is. Also, you can control how many marbles go in, so that you can vaguely predict how often the jar will become full.

As the teacher-trainer said, the marbles in the jar are a good idea, because there’s something tactile about them, and the students can feel a sense of accomplishment as the jar slowly fills up.

During class, I keep a visual indicator on the board to show the students how they’re doing. I use a smiley face, and when things are going well, I make the smile bigger, add hair, a nose, and other details. When some students are being disruptive, I erase bits and pieces of the drawing. You can also use something as similar as “points,” with a point erased (or added) appropriately.

For “rotary” teachers, or those with many classes, consider a big chart or stamp board that you add stamps or stickers to, instead of marbles (with more than two or three classes, the marbles and jars get harder and harder to keep organized!). It doesn’t have the same tactile effect, but it can still work.

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Author: Teaching Recipes Staff
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