This post contains affiliate links. If I earn anything, I’ll use it to buy more prizes for my VIP section. They say thanks!
I created a V.I.P. section for my classroom two years ago. It was a simple idea, for a simple reason, and it was one of my best ideas in my years as a teacher.
Why would I want a VIP section in my classroom?
My students are assigned paper planners every year. As middle school teachers, one of our tasks is to convince students that their planners are essential. Obviously, this is not an easy task. Most middle schoolers think that planners are COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY. After all, they can remember everything. They can remember their homework, why would they ever need to write anything down? (This phrase is most commonly uttered by students who never ever have their homework.)
For many years, I would have my students write down their homework for the week on Mondays. That way, I only had to deal with finding planners – or really, digging out planners from the backpack/locker/recycling bin or wherever it had been stowed by the student. I always found myself cajoling my students into bringing their planners and writing down their homework. Of course, some of my students were reliable and consistent, but many weren’t. It was a constant headache.
Adding in the VIP section
This past year, I decided to try a “VIP section” of my classroom. Basically, I set up a couple of comfy chairs from Target with a lower coffee table. (The chairs were my big splurge for the year and the coffee table was found within the school and free!) I told students that the area was my VIP section. Students could win entry to that section by writing down their homework in their planners each Monday. On the first day of school, I had students write their names on a popsicle stick and I added each class to a cup.
Now, each week, I pull a new VIP winner from the cup. That student gets to sit in the VIP section for the week – as long as their homework has been written in their planner. Every time a student’s name is pulled from the cup, they are pulled from the rotation until all student names are pulled. Students can also pick a friend to sit with them each week. This means that all students can be picked at any time. Because students don’t know whether they might be picked from week to week, they need to have their homework and their planners filled out EVERY week.
I also provide students will little mini prizes each time their names are picked. I have a box full of water bottle stickers (I included an outdoors collection, a Friends collection, and a Stranger Things pack by popular request) and puzzle erasers (I love this little animal collection, this collection of vehicles proved to be very popular, and this little collection of food is always fun also). This year I actually added in a bunch of ink joy pens, as they have become extremely popular among the middle school crowd. Those who are picked get to pick one prize from the box.
Normally, I’ve found that prizes don’t really work. However, I like using prizes in this situation for a couple of reasons.
- The prizes are not tied to academic achievement, but rather behavior.
- The prizes are random and unexpected. This means that students aren’t always demanding more and more. When they win, they truly seem delighted. I even stopped giving prizes for part of the year last year, and they were still happy!
- The gift of a prize helps to build the community of the classroom. I had a student who liked the water bottle stickers so much that she found the same pack on Amazon for herself and her friends. She couldn’t wait to show me that she had found them.
As one can probably conclude, this process is quick and relatively simple. It takes very little class time, and I actually take less time each week getting students to write down their homework. Those who are in the VIP section get to sit in that area for the rest of the week, and I rarely have to reminders or expectations later in the week. Sometimes students need an external motivator as their internal motivation naturally builds. I hope this can be the case with my students and their planners.
Adding a VIP section to your class
I highly suggest adding a VIP section to your classroom. You might not have a homework/planner situation for your classes, however, you might have a different issue you need to address. I really suggest thinking about how you could implement a VIP spot and build community in your class.