GuidesTutorialsWebinarsResearchCase studiesWhite PapersEventsBlog

14 PBIS incentives for high school students

Mary DeanMarch 5, 2020

Teacher with high schoolers in class

High school student management can be a difficult job. Students at this age are going through lots of changes — everything from puberty and adjusting to a new school environment to learning about who they are and what they want to achieve. Even though these tough times can be challenging to navigate, there are several incentives you can use to encourage positive behavior in school.

PBIS, or Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports, is an incentive-based program that encourages students to behave well in school. High school students may be coming into their own and striving for more independence, but they still need structure. PBIS incentives offer an easy and fun way to teach them about behavioral management and prepare them for social, emotional, and academic success for years to come.

PBIS incentives come in a variety of different shapes and forms. Here are 14 highly successful ideas you can implement in your high school.

14 effective incentives for high school students

1. Jeans day

Does your school have an assigned school uniform policy? If so, offering a jeans pass as a PBIS incentive is a great option. Each student who earns this incentive is given a pass to wear a pair of school-appropriate jeans to school each day. You can also implement this on a daily or weekly basis. Some schools also choose to only allow this incentive on certain days, such as Mondays or Fridays. A recurring incentive like this can give kids something to look forward to, reinforcing the importance of repeating good behaviors over the course of multiple days.

2. Late homework pass

High school students often have many things going on in their lives at once. Many kids are learning how to drive, spending time with friends after school, or even working a part-time job. With so many things on their to-do list, homework sometimes gets pushed to the back burner. Try offering an opportunity to turn in a class assignment a day or two late. This way, the homework is still completed, but students get the benefit of spending a little extra “me” time after class.

3. Move seats

Seating charts in class help keep things organized and are also a great way to minimize chaos. Many teachers implement seating charts to break up disruptive groups or keep kids focused in class. But one PBIS incentive that many students enjoy is the option to move seats for a class period. You can still enforce requirements to this option, like refraining from chatting with neighbors during class, but it gives high school students a little extra freedom in class.

4. Nap time

Remember nap time in pre-K? So do many high school students! This PBIS incentive is a wonderful way to encourage entire classes to display model behavior. When it comes time to reward this, choose a day when the whole period can be quiet and dimly lit. Students can spend this time napping lightly, relaxing, or working on homework. The flexibility offered during this period will be appreciated greatly by your students.

5. No homework pass

High school students don’t always enjoy doing homework. Unless you’re assigning Facebook posting or coloring pages, they may not get excited. However, your students might get excited at the possibility of skipping a homework assignment. When they skip this assignment, the grade can be recorded as a perfect score, or merely an excused assignment. Administrators can also prohibit specific assignments, like study guides, reviews, or exams, from being skipped.

6. Electronics pass

Many schools have implemented a strict no-phones policy to promote class engagement and minimize distracting behavior. However, using cell-phone time as a reward can be a great way to encourage positive behavior in school. Allowing students to listen to their own music or spend a predetermined amount of time checking their phones can be an effective way to reward the behaviors you are looking for in class.

two students talking together while working on their homeworks
Photo: Google Edu

7. Skip a class assignment

Some students find themselves dragging at school from time to time. Offering a free pass to skip an in-class assignment can help insure them against bad mental health days. These passes can have expiration dates, requirements, and exclusions, meaning they work well for any class and any subject. Additionally, you want to make sure that this time is spent wisely. Specify what other activities will be allowed, such as reading or working on homework from other classes.

8. Candy chest

No matter how old they get, students still enjoy the same simple pleasures just like they did in their earlier childhood. The age-old candy chest is an excellent example of an incentive you can implement in any classroom. Choose bite-sized candy bars or, to pack an extra punch, try full or king-sized options. Survey your class to see what types of candies are favorites so you know what options your students will love.

9. Special parking space

High school students are often driving their first car with a freshly earned driver’s license. The novelty of having their own designated parking space can be a highly sought-after reward for many teens. Try choosing a spot near the front of the building and marking it with a placard for students who earn it. You can reward students with this privilege on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. The choice is yours!

10. Teacher’s chair

This is a fun twist on the pick-your-own-seat PBIS incentive. Instead of moving to an alternate student’s desk for the day, students are allowed to sit in the teacher’s chair for a day. This PBIS incentive is a light-hearted and fun activity for many students of all ages. Just make sure that no sensitive information is left open on your computer and that students won’t have access to any sensitive files or other documents.

11. Gift certificate

Many restaurants, candy stores, or ice cream shops in your community might be willing to contribute to your cause at school. Try asking local businesses to donate gift certificates as a reward for students. This can be as simple as a free or discounted ice cream treat or a free meal from a local hot spot. With this incentive, kids can enjoy a free treat on you as a reward for their hard work in school.

12. Test points

No matter how hard they study, some students don’t do as well on tests as they hope to. Extra test point coupons afford students the ability to add a set number of points to a test of their choosing. Many teachers find five, ten, and fifteen-point vouchers work best. This way, students still earn close to the same amount of points they would have, but they get a slightly higher score as well. You can also choose to exclude semester tests or statewide benchmarks from these coupons.

13. Yoga ball seat

Looking for a cheap and easy way to mix things up in class? A yoga ball or assortment of yoga balls can be just the answer to your search. Incentivize students to display good behavior by allowing them to sit on a yoga ball instead of a chair for a class period or other set periods of time. Be sure to specify the amount of time allowed and instruct students to avoid disruptive or overly distracting behavior. As long as this is implemented properly, it can be a fun way to encourage the right kind of behaviors in your class.

14. Treasure chest

Try a grown-up treasure chest. This PBIS incentive is similar to a treasure chest that you might find in a lower-level classroom, but the prizes differ. Some examples of prize ideas are keychains, lip balm, sunglasses, or an assortment of air freshener. Some teachers also use inexpensive lotion, hand sanitizer, and body spray. Reward a single behavior with this incentive or make it a requirement for students to show multiple instances of ethical conduct to earn this incentive.

PBIS incentives final thoughts

PBIS incentives are a cheap and easy way to encourage positive behavior in school. When students are rewarded for exemplifying desired behaviors at school, everybody wins! Class engagement will improve, student-teacher relationships will blossom, and kids will be excited to come to school each day. Investing time in setting up these incentives will help you eliminate problematic behaviors over the long term.

Photo: Google Edu