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Principal Ideas: Reading, Rewards, and More

Just think of Principal Ideas as a virtual show-and-tell for principals. Each week in the coming school year we'll present five new principal-tested ideas. Send in your idea today! See the sidebar to learn how to be part of Principal Ideas.


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Share an Idea!

The ideas presented in this article come from the Education World archive and from principals just like you. Since these principals have been kind enough to "show and tell" an idea, now it's your turn! Share an idea you've used to
- Celebrate Students
- Plan a Special Event
- Welcome Students Back to School
- Make Graduation Day Special
- Liven Up Your A.M. Announcements
- Motivate Teachers
- Involve Parents
- Raise Money
- Plan an Effective Staff Meeting
- Get Some Good PR for Your School
or any other topic of interest to principals.

Send your idea today to principalideas@
Be sure to include your name, your school name, and your school address because if we post your idea in Principal Ideas, we'll send you an Education World mug!

Getting to Know New Students

A great way to welcome and get to know any new students who arrive during the school year is to have an informative luncheon. Our school's attendance clerk keeps a running tally of all newly enrolled students. Once the list reaches ten pupils, I take that group to lunch. During the luncheon, I can dispel myths, discuss upcoming events, and field all questions the new pupils might have. Doing this is very easy and highly beneficial for everyone.
Thanks to Kelly Henson, at Cactus Shadows High School in Cave Creek, Arizona

"Get Caught Reading"

I established the Get Caught Reading program to encourage students to be capable readers and, more important, readers by choice. When any member of the staff "catches" a child reading at any time other than when he or she has been asked to read, we take the opportunity to give that child a ticket. The child fills out the ticket and puts it in a basket in the office. We also give a big "I'm so proud of you!" hug and congratulations. At times, we sweeten the reward with a lollipop, sticker, or something like that. On random days of the week, I draw a few names from the basket. Prizes -- often books, of course -- are awarded. I have done this at both small inner-city and large suburban schools, and it has worked extremely well in both places. The benefits are many:

  • Children are encouraged to choose to read when they have free time.
  • Reading becomes the status quo for bus rooms, cafeteria, and moving through the lines.
  • Overall behavior improves.

It is so gratifying to see children reading all over the school!
Thanks to Robbie Robinson McGowan, principal, Brickey-McCloud Elementary School in Knoxville, Tennessee

Field Trip Rewards

Students in grades 6 through 12 at our school have a perfect attendance field trip for each semester of no absences. It occurs at the end of the school year. We take the kids to a local state park for hiking and a hot-dog cookout. We also have a "No Detention Field Trip" each semester. The first semester students in grades 6 through 8 go on a ski trip at a man-made ski resort in suburban Chicago. The second-semester trip is to a local water slide/mini-golf park.
Source: Denise Funfsinn, WANTED: Rewards, Rewards, and More Rewards!

Free-Break Lottery

At each faculty meeting, hold a lottery drawing for a "free" two-hour break during which time you will cover a teacher's class. The break can be redeemed at any time, but it needs to be arranged at least a week in advance.
Source: "Sixty-Five Ways to Recognize Teachers During Teacher Appreciation Week -- and All Year Long" ( -- April 22, 2003)

Teacher-of-the-Month Bulletin Board

Establish a bulletin board on which to spotlight a different teacher(s) each month.
Source: "Sixty-Five Ways to Recognize Teachers During Teacher Appreciation Week -- and All Year Long" ( -- April 22, 2003)

Back-to-School Events

During the summer months, as new families register students, I take time to give each student and family a personal tour of the school. The tour gives kids a feel for the building, and parents hear about programs and get a sense of the school. If I'm busy or out when new families register, the secretary sets up a time for them to return for a tour. Then, two days before the start of school, a meet-the-teacher ice cream social is held on the front lawn of the school. This is a chance for students, parents, and teachers to meet face to face. Kids find their classrooms and even see their desks. It's a very popular event. It also helps keep curious and anxious kids and parents from dropping by at the school all during August. It gives teachers time to prepare their classrooms without the interruptions caused when kids and parents show up one by one.
Source: Lolli Haws, "Schools Find Many Ways to Say 'Welcome Back'" ( -- August 19, 2003)

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