Black dot in the white square – a simple reward strategy – Leyla Pattison


During his keynote speech at the NSTA INSET day Andy Buck gave people who participated a number. At the end a randomly selected number won a prize. Why? What was the purpose? This provided an unexpected starting point for my five minute teach meet discussion on simple reward strategies.

In our discussion there were lots of ideas on the purpose of this: it turns contributions into a competition, gave us an incentive to engage, provided a mini thumbs up no matter whether your contribution was correct or not, and you got more “tickets” if you worked extra hard. As a collective of teachers we know how to behave during a talk but giving us a carrot made us all sit up a little straighter.

The starting point for my use of raffle tickets came about in a slightly different way. While supervising year 10 students during a PSHE day, it came down to me to sanction 4 students who we unable to display the self-control the session was trying to encourage I know that, as teachers, we should not take behaviour to hearty but I genuinely felt embarrassed, cross and upset that these students could be so rude. Later in the session, I had a moment. I looked around the gym and saw 96 other students. These 96 were behaving brilliantly. They were engaged, listening and taking part in a way that made me feel proud. It made me realise that I had been focusing on sanctioning the 4 students who were unable to behave themselves at the expense of rewarding the 96 who were. I happened to speak to Chris Hildrew about the incident and he told me to focus on the white square, not the black dot. Intrigued, I went away and read about the work of Bill Rogers.

A colleague in science had been using raffle tickets to reward good behaviour in his period 5 lessons. I decided to give this a go.

I carefully explained the rules to my groups:

  • They receive 1 raffle ticket for exceeding my expectations in lessons. I decide the criteria for this. It could be for getting equipment ready and being one of the first to settle. It could be for answering a question or for completing challenge work.
  • The students write their name on the back of their ticket and the number in the back of their exercise book.
  • At the end of the lesson, the tickets go in the class jar.
  • At a time that suits me (could be at the end of a lesson, week or term) I draw 5 names from the jar and those students win a prize. This could be sweets, science-themed stationery or freebies that I have picked up at conferences.

I explained to the students that there will only ever be 5 prizes and they can only win once, but the more times their names are in the jar, the more likely they are to win.

The results were transformative. Students are quick to settle (only the first few get a raffle ticket) and engage with the lesson. Their contributions are immediately valued and good work gets either a public or private thumbs up. I never take raffle tickets away. Just as good behaviour doesn’t erase poor the same works vice versa. They see the fairness in the system and they want to win the prize.

I gave out 1000 raffles tickets in the first term of using this. That’s 1000 good things happening in my lessons. I still use the rewards and sanctions system but this is a very visual representation to me and my classes. The white square is always bigger than the black dot, you just have to make sure you can see it.


Further reading on this:

Bill Rogers – Classroom Behaviour


Sharing Good Practice – English Faculty

Having spent some time in Humanities and Maths it was now the turn of the English Faculty to take part in their teaching and learning discussions. There were two key items on the Agenda:

  • 200 word challenge
  • Teaching the poetry anthology at GCSE

200 Word Challenge

200 word challenge

200 word 1200 word 2200 word 3

 Rachel summarised as a reminder the purpose of the 200 word challenge which was to improve writing provision and performance within English. Rachel had conducted several learning walks to see how the students at Key Stage 3 were rising to the challenge of writing more extended pieces.

Students are given a different stimulus to write about every fortnight. It might be something serious, for example writing a letter to the local council to complain about lack of recreational space for young people, or something much less purposeful, like writing a eulogy for a deceased cartoon character. The aim was to write for 200 words, using their targets from the previous task and to correct their own work.

Rachel then asked for ideas on how to improve the challenge:

  • Use of a computer room enabling students to edit and make it even better. Some classes were then going to use this to enter into the Radio 2 500 words competition.
  • Students to be given a challenge of key facts or words they had to include.
  • Students to bring in their own stimulus to encourage them in their writing (also to help the English teachers to use student ideas in the future)
  • Link to the literature texts used at GCSE
  • The final question was should this be continued into Year 9, the answer was yes.


Poetry Anthology – GCSE

Luke presented a booklet which was full of advice from the exam board and his own thoughts on how to improve the student’s answers during the Poetry Section of the English Literature exam. The main discussion came down to how students should be re-thinking how they would divide up their time in the exam and what they should be including in each paragraph. For example how to be successful in comparing two poems (one known and one unseen); how the unseen poem must be explained and put into context from what they can learn within the poem.







Thank you to the English Faculty for sharing their ideas and making me feel welcome in their meeting.