My friend, Jackie Mancini, has taught 3rd grade for several years. We used to walk every morning in the summer and talk about our ideas for the coming year. One year she told me about a book on building positive comments and actions as a way of filling a person’s invisible bucket (think self esteem and well being) and that of other people’s, too. She had been unhappy with her prize box and the way children would work for a prize, but it did not promote the sense of teamwork and respect that she wanted in her classroom. Jackie ditched her prize box, made a board with buckets (paper cups) for every child attached, and bought a slew of pompoms. She read the book, talked about how to fill another person’s bucket and your own, too, and practiced what to look for in other people in class and what procedure they would use when someone filled the invisible bucket of another child. Soon pompom filled the buckets and the class began to feel valued. No one seemed to need the prizes. This worked out well for the entire class and in the years since, Jackie uses it each year. There is a bit of an industry going with bucket filling and other books have been written for children about positive comments, as well as things you can buy online to promote this in your classroom.
The point is not to rush out and get the books and think it will solve all the problems in your class. If you have not seen or heard about bucket filling, look online and you will find lots of activities to use, as well as songs and readings of the book on YouTube. The real value of talking about this is to ask yourself what you do, each day, in a tangible way to promote positive comments and to build a classroom culture where each child is valued for who he/she is. We all have to find our own way in our classrooms, but helping children see how valuable each child is to the group ought to be part of everyone’s agenda.