1) Stickers (as mentioned above)
2) Genius Bell: Have a bell that you can ding (or ring). The rule is that nobody can ding it without permission and it only gets “dinged" for exceptionally well thought out or insightful answers. If you are stingy about ringing it, students will start trying to earn it. The beauty with the bell is that once you buy it, you don’t have to invest anymore. Students will get into it too and they will let you know “She deserves a bell for that answer".
3) “That was Easy" Button: You should be able to get one of these at staples or online fairly cheap. When you push it, it says “that was easy". I used to have one in Spanish and one in English. When a student did something good, I allowed them to come and choose which one to push.
4) Hand written Card or Note: If you want to seal the deal with a problematic student, take some time at night to write a personal note or card thanking them for something they did in class or congratulating an achievement. You’d be surprised how much they will do for you after receiving something so personalized.
5) Hand Written Letter: Mail a handwritten letter to a student’s home or to their parents expressing how great they are doing.
6) Stamps: Have a custom stamp made at an office supply store that says something original and that resonates with the students like “U R AWESOME!" (and no, this will not make them think that “you" is spelled “U" and “are" is spelled “R").
7) Weekly Coupons: Have a limited number of coupons available for earning each week. Tell your students what they are up front (i.e. free homework pass, extra bathroom pass, extra credit, choice seating, head down day, etc.). Be as creative as possible and allow the kids to compete for them each week. You could also have a point system of some sort and have them up for auction at the end of every week. Whoever has the most points may purchase the coupons (until the supply runs out).
8) Create a Point System: If students can earn and bank points for different things, they will participate more. Even if they don’t use them much they will still try to accumulate them, just in case they need them someday. The key is to come up with a system that is as non-transferable as much as possible. Joey should not be able to give Sarah 20 points so she can get something, she must earn them herself.
9) Facebook Praise: This one would need for you to ask the student first, but if they are a student that likes public praise (I hate it myself), you could praise them for something publicly on Facebook and it has the potential to reach everybody they know (If you don’t know what Facebook is, maybe you should choose a different career). J
10) Deal Maker: This one may only be used very sparingly. The best dollar I ever spent was paying a kid to sit down and keep his mouth shut the entire period. I was having one of those days and I made a deal with one of my most challenging students. I offered to buy good behavior from him and it worked beautifully. You can make deals with all sorts of things, it doesn’t have to be money. It can be jobs such as class pencil sharpener, line leader, or paper passer-outer.
The key to all of this is to be creative and when you do need to purchase stuff try to find things that you can use over and over as rewards or that you can get cheap. I always pick up poker chips at garage sales because I know they can be used for all kinds of incentives and students tend not to lose them because they are much cooler than a class dollar printed on color paper.