Students' Choice Awards: Providing closure for your classroom community

First, can I just say how absolutely overjoyed I am to be here?!?  I'm Pamela from Hedgehog Reader, and I am beyond tickled to be a part of this exciting new collaboration on All About 3rd Grade!

Today I want to share with you something special I love to do with my students in the last days of school:  Students' Choice Awards.

When I first started developing this idea many years ago, I had two priorities:

1.  I was looking for a student-centered way to close out the year.  Each year, we work so hard to build a classroom community together, and I wanted a ritual that honors this.

2.  I wanted each and every student to feel honored.  (I did not want this to be some kind of popularity contest where some students felt great and others felt left out.)

And that is how the Students' Choice Awards annual event was born!

In a nutshell, the Students' Choice Awards is a last-day-of-school celebration in which every student receives recognition for a character trait or other valued behavior.  The balloting occurs earlier in the week because - quite frankly - me counting up the votes and figuring out who won what is the most time-consuming part of this celebration!

I've tried different approaches over the years, but here is my basic timeline.  Feel free to adapt it to suit your own needs!

First, decide on the criteria you will use to determine awards.  If you use Character Counts, then the TRRFC traits would be a wonderful starting point!  My best advice is to select criteria that focuses on character or behavior, not skill or talent; this prevents hurt feelings when somebody else is chosen as "Best Reader" or "Most Athletic."  Whatever the criteria, make sure that there are enough awards for everybody to get one.  At the end of this post, I've included a freebie version of the ballot I am using this year.

Next, I highly recommend establishing ground rules - I've learned this the hard way!  Here are the rules I typically set:
*A* You must nominate every student for one award.
*B* You may nominate each student for ONLY ONE award.
*C* Each award can have at most two nominees - one boy and one girl.
*D* It's OK for an award to have only one boy or only one girl - or not any nominees at all.  Not every award needs to be awarded.

Most of us love receiving words of affirmation, but getting stuff is fun too!  I normally provide each student with an official-looking certificate proclaiming the honor bestowed upon him/her by peers.  Additionally, I've given each student an award medal on ribbon (they are currently available for about $5 per dozen on Amazon, special pencil, or other trinket, and have also considered miniature trophies (party favors).  Another adorable option is to wrap a candy bar in a printed award wrapper;  there are many super cute varieties available on Teachers Pay Teachers.

The event can be whatever works for your classroom, students, timeframe, budget, and desire!  It can be as simple as distributing awards during Community Circle, or as fancy as having students walk down a red carpet and stand in front of a specially decorated backdrop for photographs to commemorate the day!  Whichever format you use, remember that this will likely be a special moment that leaves each student feeling very good, very honored, and very happy to have spent the year learning in your classroom!

As promised, here is the ballot that I am using this year.  You are welcome to use it as is, or to use it as inspiration to create your own!  I put the full color version up on our SmartBoard, and then distribute black and white versions to my students.

Best wishes to you and your students for a very happy end of the school year!


  1. Thank you! I am excited to try this! Can you be specific with which medal on Amazon you use and do you use store bought certificates or do you have a template you can share with us?

    1. Hi Lynn, and thank you for commenting!
      Here is a link to the medal I found yesterday on Amazon:

      And here is another:

      I also saw a pack of 8 for $1 at the Dollar Tree today, along with a pack of 4 teeny trophies also for $1. While there, I picked up Mardi Gras beads in our school colors and will use those as a necklace to put on "medals" I'll be making. I do make my own certificates, and as soon as I can figure out how to make them editable, I will be creating a packet of Students' Choice resources!

  2. I love, love, love this idea!! I have always wanted to do end of the year awards, but really hated the idea of it becoming a popularity contest! This is a fantastic way to avoid that! Thank you for the ballot!

    1. Thank you so much for your nice comments, Rachel! I totally agree about avoiding the popularity contest trap - it really makes the celebration so much fun for everybody! xo

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