For some time now, when I've work with kindergarten students in my room and they correctly answer a challenging question, I'll place a small sticker on their arm. "This is a Smart," I tell them. "It shows how smart you are getting." Then, when they line up to leave, I'll ask them how much they had learned in class. Little arms rise.
According to Harvard and Gerwertz, I am doing something right. Good.
I give older students paper clips for correct answers during discussions which, by the end of class, they "cash in" for a letter, then for stars on a chart which, in turn, eventually become small rewards. Especially difficult questions might earn two, even three, clips. I justify the process in that it gives a bit of playfulness to class, it gives the students a visual (the clips) of how active they are in class, and it takes very little time to manage.
But with these older students I may be omitting the very point the Harvard article makes. It should all be about what the child realizes she's acquired, not the incentives. Of course, that has always been my primary intent. I am consistent in my discussions with my five-year olds. Do my 10-year olds understand the same?
I need to check. Otherwise, I have some changes to make.