Everyone knows what “demerits” are and the fact that they are earned by breaking rules. Consequences follow and it is hoped that the negative feedback will help students make better choices to avoid earning demerits.
On the other hand, MERITS are a positive incentive students can earn. Merits provide recognition and reward for good behavior and for demonstration of Godly character traits.
Merit slips are similar to play Monopoly Money and are given to students for a variety of reasons to encourage and reinforce good choices.
Here are some of the things we give merits for each week in our school:
- No demerits earned the previous week
- Earning 100% on a PACE test
- Turning in Boxtops for Education
- Memorizing the Scripture passage of the week (month)
- Perfect PACE scoring Audit
- Helping the elementary supervisor by listening to students read
- Volunteering for tasks in the Learning Center or lunchroom (like organizing the scorekeys, putting up bulletin boards, vacuuming)
- Having personal devotions for at least 5 days the preceding week
- Reading for 60, 120, or 180 minutes in a week (and turning in log sheet)
The key to an effective Merit System is to have rewards that the students desire! We have a Merit Store about once each month and the teens can redeem their collected merits for items or certificates.
- Certificate to have a Hot (or Cold) Beverage in their office for a day
- Certificate to wear “Casual Wear” (still has to conform to our dress standards) for a day instead of the uniform
- Certificate to Upgrade Privilege for a Day (or for a lot of merits, for a Week!)
- Certificate to Throw Out One Test Question (also costs a lot of merits, but can be a life-saver at times). There are those times for everyone when a particular test question just doesn’t seem to have been worded carefully, or it wasn’t on the check-ups and Self-Test it seems. This certificate helps make those moments more bearable.
- We have one certificate that is called a Clock-Buster. If a student forgot to do their homework in one subject, or maybe it was just one page, they can turn in this valuable certificate and not get the lunch detention. They still lose privilege the next week, however, and their parents are informed that there was a homework problem.
- Certificate to Buy Back One Demerit. This is another “expensive” certificate, but some students would rather pay merits to avoid the consequence of that one (more) demerit.
- Certificate to Take a Day Off School (this one is the MOST merits – very few use it, but some who like to hoard their merits all year will redeem it for this one)
- At the end of each quarter we have an Auction for 3 students to choose which office they want to sit in for the next quarter. Highest bidders get to choose their seat!
- They can buy pizza on Fridays or an ice cream treat at lunch time using merits
- In the Merit Store the favorite items bought are soda and candy (they just don’t want to buy the carrot sticks, granola bars, and fruit!)
- We have also found that mechanical pencil lead and big erasers get purchased with merits
- For the elementary Merit Store we have parents donate “stuff” that they might be getting rid of that other students might like (old toys still in good shape, games, gadgets, you-name-it!)
Some tips that we have learned over the years are:
- We print out our own merits and write a student’s name on the slip along with the number of merits earned and a place for the supervisor’s initials in green ink. This has eliminated students stealing merits, printing their own, etc.
- We do allow students to give merits to a friend to be used for a privilege (like beverage in office or casual day) but not for avoiding consequences of wrong choices (like the Clock Buster or Buy Back a Demerit described above).
- On Monday mornings we have students fill out a Merit Request form indicating if they had no demerits for the preceding week, read for so many minutes, had their devotions, took sermon notes every service, etc. We then also look to see who had 100%’s on tests and then give out all the merits later that morning.
- Some “popular” certificates we keep in the Supervisor’s Desk and students can purchase as needed, even if the Merit Store isn’t open.
- We will sometimes have a contest or pop trivia quiz in opening and hand out merits for answers.
- I have a Character Appreciation Form that I like to hand out when a student has demonstrated kindness, a servant’s heart, or some other trait that is honorable. They can keep the top certificate part or take that home, but tear off the merits at the bottom and redeem them.
Some homeschool families have a “Prize Box” and the children can earn stickers on a chart and once they’ve earned a certain number they can claim a prize of their choosing. The idea of merits can be easily adapted to a homeschool setting, or used effectively in a school, to encourage and motivate students.
In the comments below share other ideas for the use of merits and a merit store!