Who Rules the School? Boys…or Girls??

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by Kristin M. Woolums, M. Ed.

You know those little box tops on the packaging of General Mills products? I discovered a way to turn them into GOLD! Well, maybe not literally, but these are some very valuable commodities in my classroom, and they are quite an unexpected motivator!

My school collects General Mills Box Tops – it’s a great program that pays $.10 per box top directly to my school. In an effort to boost collections, my school began a “Who Rules the School?” campaign in which the students could place their box tops in the “boys” or “girls” box, and one box top (or Campbell’s soup label) equals one vote. The box with the most votes wins not only the coveted title of ruling the school, but a free dress day (the students wear uniforms at my school). This always causes a big buzz around the school, so I decided to take it one step further! Since I’d accumulated lots of these Box Tops, I decided that instead of dividing them up half for the boys and half for the girls (which wouldn’t get either side ahead and seemed like a lot of work for me), I would give them away for correct answers during math class. All I can say is…Wow!… participation, correct answers, laughter, smiles, friendly competitive spirit… all of this suddenly increased! Who knew?!

It didn’t stop there, either! The students came into class saying, “I think I got all my math homework right. I can’t wait until math class!” After my initial thought of “Who are you, and what did you do with my students?” passed, I realized I had just stumbled into a super motivator, and I could hardly believe its effects! So of course, as a teacher, I milked it for all it was worth: I used it in other subjects, for when I caught someone doing something without being asked, for those that were prepared for class, and for those that asked good questions during class. The opportunities were endless! I especially liked that it gave an opportunity to reward students who aren’t normally in the class ‘spotlight’ or not as academically strong… pretty soon, everyone had earned rewards.

Perhaps the neatest part of the process was that when we all walked down the hall to the voting boxes, the students had such a proud look on their faces as they deposited their “votes.” Funny…some girls chose to place their box tops in the boys’ box and vice versa (How cute! 5th graders… I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand them!).

Ground rules: I give boys and girls equal opportunity when giving away Box Tops, and I tell them that the Box Tops are to be treated carefully – if they’re lost, so sorry! Also, if your school doesn’t do a school-wide Box Tops campaign, you could easily have a class-wide competition instead, or if you see many classes during the day, change them to “Which Class Rules?” If free dress isn’t applicable, perhaps other prizes could be free homework pass(es), extra recess or computer time, etc.

So, who rules the school? Maybe it’s the girls, or maybe it’s the boys. But in my book, General Mills Box Tops rule, hands down!

Kristin M. Woolums, M. Ed., teaches fifth grade at a private school in Atlanta and works at The School Box at Southlake during the summer months.



Filed under Behavior Management, Classroom Community, Cooperative Learning, Motivation

6 responses to “Who Rules the School? Boys…or Girls??

  1. I love this idea! My school also collects box tops but most students do not participate. I’m going to share this idea with our principal and pta president. Maybe we could get more participation. I would love to use my box tops as rewards for correct answers.

  2. Rachel

    I have never personally used Box Tops before, but I have cut them out and donated them to classrooms or schools during my time as an undergrad student. I think General Mills is amazing for offering such an opportunity for schools. I have seen some pretty cool prizes won from using Box Tops. I mean, why not do this since it is so simple? People eat General Mills products all of the time, and it takes seconds to clip the Box Top. As a teacher, I think it would take a little exposure from myself to parents in order to get them in the habit of clipping and collecting.
    I also like the idea of motivating students to have a competition, but I think it’s also important to not let students compete against each other, because not every household buys General Mills products. I really like the idea of the teacher passing them out and then the students being able to vote on something. Voting can also teach about political systems. Very good ideas!

  3. Jeanne

    I love these ideas. To motivate my kindergarten class, I would offer stickers for each box top turned in. I made sticker books for each student at the beginning of the year, and stickers were like “gold” to them.

  4. elizabeth

    I love the idea of making sticker books, Jeanne! That makes stickers relevant to every student, even if they don’t collect stickers at home. Love it!

  5. Debbie Do

    I have been saving box tops for many many years. My children are all grown now and I still save them for our Christian Day School at our church. I am going to pass along these wonderful ideas. I think that the teachers should send out a message to the families that they pass along to friends and family to help. This has always been a win win situation. I am all for the students getting excited about learning and being rewarded for a job well done. I am happy to say that my daughter has just received her teaching degree. Can’t wait for her to get a position at a school so I can help her class save box tops.

  6. ecossick

    Great comments, everyone! Debbie Do is our comment winner for this post. Best of luck to your daughter, Debbie!