How to Use a Marble Jar Reward System In Your Classroom

If you’re looking for a classroom management tool that promotes good behavior, you might want to give the marble jar reward system a try. 

How does a marble reward jar work?

The marble reward jar works by adding or subtracting marbles from a designated jar based on students’ behavior.

One or more marbles are added to the jar in response to appropriate behaviors while one or more marbles are subtracted in response to less-than-desirable actions.

This reward system is low-maintenance, easy to implement, and engaging to children plus requires the efforts of the entire class as opposed to individual reward systems that involve management of each child’s progress.

I vividly remember my third-grade teacher using the marble jar reward system. It worked well not just because of the visual aspect but also because of the attention-grabbing sound of the marbles in the jar as she grabbed a few.

Just seeing the marble jar on her desk every day was incentive enough for me as a child. Decades later and the memory of that marble jar still stays with me. 

That’s just how powerful the marble jar reward system can be when using it in classrooms. 

No matter the grade you teach, the marble jar reward system will serve your classroom management needs well. 

Say goodbye to managing individual student charts, signing folders each day, and keeping up with a ton of moving parts when it comes to a classroom management plan. 

This whole class reward system gets positive results because students respond to it favorably. 

In this post, I explain all the different parts of the marble jar reward system so that you can start using it in your classroom this week.

Marble Jar Reward System

Implementing a reward jar to aid children’s behavior is an effective classroom management strategy that yields positive results.

See here how to make it happen.

Preparation For the Marble Jar System

1. Take an empty glass jar.

The size of the jar matters. A larger jar works well for when you want students to work toward a bigger whole class reward such as a pizza party or extra field trip.

A smaller jar is good for rewards such as extra recess or chewing gum in class. In the end, you’ll decide what is best for the needs of your class. 

2. Grab a bag of marbles. 

You’ll need a bag of colorful glass marbles.

3. Place the jar and marbles in a visible place. 

Now put the jar and marbles in a visible place in the classroom so that all students can see it. The teacher’s desk or a shelf works well. 

When using the marble jar reward system for the first time, you may want to add a few marbles to the jar just to get things started on a positive note. 

Marble Reward Jar Rules

  • As a class, decide on the whole class reward that students will be working toward for the next few weeks or so (or whatever time frame you have in mind). This type of extrinsic motivation serves some students well. See ideas for whole-class rewards further down in the article. 
  • Throughout the school day, when you observe the whole class exhibiting appropriate behavior, reward them by adding one or a handful of marbles to the glass jar. As you add marbles, be sure to explain why the students are earning so that they remain motivated to stay on track. 
  • If the entire class is showing inappropriate behavior, take one or more marbles from the jar. Again, communicate why marbles are being withdrawn so that students have an opportunity to self-correct.
  • Try not to be too generous by giving lots of marbles at one time. The goal is for students to earn their reward with effort. 
  • Once the jar is full, students earn a whole class reward! See ideas below. 

Marble Jar Party Ideas

Yippee! The class has earned a whole class reward! 

Ideally, the teacher and students have discussed beforehand which whole class reward will be given. 

Here are some popular marble jar party ideas that the whole class may enjoy…

  • Write in pen during math block or all day (Great for younger students)
  • No homework passes 
  • Make friendship bracelets
  • Fun science experiment
  • Movie day
  • Cooking (e.g. Rice Krispy Treats)
  • Pizza party
  • Pajama day
  • Blowing bubbles outside
  • Crazy hair day
  • Ice cream sundae party
  • Sidewalk chalk fest
  • Arts and crafts day

The type of reward you choose will depend on the time of the school year, classroom goals, and the needs of your class. 

Ideally, aim to celebrate smaller rewards every two weeks or monthly and bigger results each quarter or semester. 

Of course, in the end, you’ll use your professional judgement to make a decision that is best suited for you and your students.

Important Tips for Using the Marble Jar System

  • If possible, start using this system at the beginning of the school year and be consistent with it throughout. Be clear with students about your expectations plus how the system works. 
  • Explain to students the characteristics of appropriate/inappropriate behaviors (e.g. what they look and sound like) so that they understand how marbles are earned and lost.
  • For those who need support, display an anchor chart with the desired behaviors that you expect to see from students. Reference this chart as needed.
  • Discuss prizes for the whole class reward beforehand. Doing so provides an incentive for students to follow through with expected behavior and conduct. 
  • Communicate with students that although the marble jar reward system starts in the classroom, it will be used to reward conduct observed in other areas as well such as the library, assemblies, the cafeteria, etc.
  • One disadvantage to using the marble jar reward system is that students may direct negative attention toward those students who keep the class from earning marbles. To reduce this issue, discuss with students how to handle conflict gently and with respect. 
  • Keep in mind that some challenging students may need an individualized behavior management plan in addition to this strategy. 

Final Thoughts On Using Marble Jar Reward System In Classrooms

Reward good behavior using the marble jar behavior management system. 

The visual and sound-producing aspects of this strategy make it an effective positive reward system for classrooms, no matter the grade.

If you’re ready to implement a classroom management strategy that reinforces positive behavior, give the marble jar reward system a try.