Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Marble Jar

Over the summer, I decided that my incentive programs were getting a little out of control. I had contest upon contest upon contest, which meant that at the end of every term I was buying rewards for 5-7 students. It really started adding up! I decided to simplify things this fall with a more streamlined incentive. While still fostering competition, this incentive also rewards personal achievements. And with only 2 winners at the end of the term, it saves my wallet as well! :)

Enter the studio marble jar:

A simple concept! At the first lesson, students were given a goal sheet to fill out and place in their binders:

Then each week as they come to lessons, they get to put a marble in the jar for each goal met. If they met their practice goals: 1 marble. If they memorized a song: 1 marble. There are also some more long-range goals on the sheet that we'll be working on for a month or more, but the whole idea behind this contest is that they will see rewards every week (through marbles in the jar) from working hard at home to meet their goals.

At the end of the term I will draw a marble at random from the jar and that person will receive a special prize. The second winner will be the person with the most marbles overall.

So far this week, the marble jar has been a big success! Simple concept- big results! LOVE IT! What are you doing this fall to motivate your students?


  1. Sarah,

    Does each student have their own jar? If not, what method have you found for identifying the marbles in a collective studio jar?


    1. Betsy,

      I probably should have specified that in my post, but there is one jar for the whole studio. I have students put their name or initials on the marble before placing it in the jar. MUCH easier to keep track of than a whole bunch of individual jars :)

  2. Sarah, I have just found your blog. This is a great simple idea. I have used the penny jars for a couple of years now and I am ready for something different. What do you use to write on the marbles? do the students then get to keep them at the end of the year? (yikes, I'm picturing you, sorting them out by name, so probably not?). Also, what is the chart we glimpse behind the marble jars?

    1. Hi Kathy,

      I have to confess that while I'm calling it a 'marble jar' I ended up getting some pretty colored gemstones at the local craft store. They were much more attractive and fun than the clear round marbles I also found. So that's what I'm using, and since they have a larger surface area they're perfect for writing. The kids use a permanent marker and that works just great.

      I haven't decided what to do at the end of the term ;) Probably depends on how many marbles are in the jar at that point and whether I want to sort through them all!

      The chart behind the marble jar is to keep track of how many marbles each student has in the jar. This gives the whole contest a bit more of a competitive feel, as students can look from week to week and see who's in the lead. It also motivates individual students as they see their row of stickers growing.

      Let me know if you decided to try a similar idea in your studio and how it works!

  3. I love the colors you use on this sheet. It keeps you reading!

  4. Now that I think of it- i already have an incentive program going for this year. Do you think you could post this goals sheet without the marble part on the bottom? It would be so useful for my older students!

    1. Revised goal sheet is coming to you via email! Let me know how it works :)