A few years ago I faced a new school year with a group of kiddos famous for their behavior, and not in a good way. That was the year I tried every trick in the book when it came to classroom management techniques. Honestly, most of what I tried didn’t work. One management strategy that DID work was using Happy Rocks.
How Happy Rocks Work
Happy Rocks are simply little “rocks” with happy faces on them. These rocks are handed out for very important and positive behaviors. When a student earns a Happy Rock, they get to keep it on their desk for the duration of the day and then take it home and keep it forever! The kiddos love the part about taking them home. Parents love it, too, because it is tangible proof of positive behavior. Many of my students kept the Happy Rocks they earned throughout the year and were quite proud of their collections. Some even made their own versions and brought them in to give to me!
At the beginning of the year, every student earns a Happy Rock for making it through the first week of school because, after all, it’s a big deal. I give each student a Happy Rock and a slip of paper explaining how they can be earned.
Then throughout the year, I hand out Happy Rocks for many different reasons. Sometimes they are handed out for specific events or earned during times that the students expect and look forward to. Other times I hand out Happy Rocks for those unexpected student shining moments that deserve to be acknowledged and celebrated.
- Secret Student – Each day, I choose a student from the class and that student’s identity is kept secret. I tell the class what kind of behavior I expect to see from the secret student during a particular time such as while walking down the hall, during buddy work, during independent reading, etc. Sometimes I might watch the secret student’s behavior for an entire afternoon. At the end of that time, if the student demonstrated the requested positive behavior, their name is announced to the class and they are rewarded with a Happy Rock. (The kids LOVE this and it had the most positive impact on behavior overall.)
- Behavior Certificate – Where I teach, we have a school-wide positive behavior system in which we distribute golden “bucks” to students for positive behavior. This is done as frequently as possible. When students have earned 15 of these “bucks,” a special certificate is sent home to recognize a job well done. In my classroom, a Happy Rock goes home with that certificate.
- Birthdays – Happy Rocks are given to each student on the day of their birthday celebration.
- Math Fact Milestones – I use an online program called XtraMath with my kiddos to help them practice their basic math facts. When a student masters a particular mathematical operation, they are rewarded with a Happy Rock.
Since that first extra-challenging year, Happy Rocks have become an important part of the culture in my third-grade classroom. They have certainly made a positive impact on student behavior overall. That also means that they’ve made me a happier teacher. Best of all, Happy Rocks are super easy to make and they’re super easy on the pocketbook.
Make Your Own Happy Rocks
I start by visiting the nearest Dollar Store and purchasing glass beads or glass gems. I can purchase one bag of about 50 beads for a dollar. I start off the year buying 6 or 7 bags. These last me at least 3/4 of the way into the school year as I only hand out 1 or 2 Happy Rocks a day on average.
The only other material needed is paint pens. Sharpies are my favorites, but there are plenty of options out there. I use the black and white pens the most, but I like to mix things up sometimes with a few extra colors for added interest.
To make the Happy Rocks, start with the eyes. Draw 2 vertical lines and the eyes are complete!
Paint a U shape under the eyes for a smiling happy mouth. That’s all there is to it. See? Super easy.
Since so many of my students have enjoyed collecting and displaying their Happy Rocks, I keep my eye out for different colored glass gems and add new colors to hand out regularly. It seems to boost students’ motivation for positive behaviors.
Finally, I found a super inexpensive container and decorated it to hold the Happy Rocks. I keep this on my desk and filled to the brim at all times.
Give Happy Rocks a try in your classroom and see how they work for you and your students. How else would you use them to promote positive behavior? Please come back and share your experiences with us so we can all learn and grow. Be happy! 🙂