Why Student Recognition is Important

Students in all grade levels, from kindergarten to 12th grade, are motivated by positive praise. Schools and teachers may choose awards in various forms to recognize students’ excellent achievement, respectful behavior, or inspirational special talent. Recognizing the excellent efforts of students expresses the importance of hard work, while providing students with a positive self-worth and high level of accomplishment. Recognizing students at school is important for character development and sustaining meaningful student engagement.

Ways to Recognize Students at the End of the Year

Citizenship Awards

Students of all ages are faced with life lessons at school. How students treat one another, express their attitude daily or in challenging situations, or the approach used to solve a problem reasonably illustrate the level of citizenship a student displays in school. Awards to acknowledge students’ citizenship qualities can include any or all of the following: kindness, optimistic attitude, thinking of others first, being a good friend, being a good helper or problem solver.

Academic Awards

Typically students in grades six through 12 are placed within an academic track, such as Honors or Advanced Placement. Students’ high performing achievement can be recognized with awards for individual subjects: English, math, science, or social studies. Students at the elementary level can also be recognized for excellent academic achievement with awards such as, “Creative Writer,” “Math Fact Wiz,” “Bookworm,” “Best Navigator” (excellent map skills), “Rocket Scientist,” “Logician,” and “Spell-Checker.”


Awards can be in the form of incentives. Students can earn a special t-shirt for meeting a preset goal for total books read in a school year; once achieved the t-shirt would be awarded to the student. The t-shirt’s slogan could be “Reading Champ” or “I read 100 Books.” Students could wear the t-shirt to school and recognized by all students and teachers in the school. Students could earn free homework passes upon achieving levels of math skills, such as math facts. A “Pen License” and ball point pen can be awarded to students as a recognition for excellent penmanship.

Athletic Awards

Many students excel in athletics. These talents and accomplishments should be recognized. Students with an opportunity to participate on a school-sponsored team can receive most valuable player, most improved player, hardest working player, best sportsmanship, or coach’s award. The criteria for each award would be determined by the team’s coach and shared with the players at the beginning of the season. Elementary students can also be recognized for athletics, specifically for various developmental skills for each grade level. Physical education teachers could award students upon achieving individual milestones or achieving personal bests.

Special Talent Awards

These awards can be earned by students with special interests in music, art, technology, engineering, or drama. You can recognize students with a gift for music, a beautiful voice, most improved or hardest working musician, creative art awards for various medias, talents in coding, innovative thoughts, or keyboarding skills. Drama awards could include improvisation, screenwriting, or student directing skills. Whole groups in special areas could also be recognized for performances.

Traditional Awards

Most schools recognize students’ perfect attendance and grade point average. Students with perfect attendance can receive the award quarterly, twice a year, or at the end of the school year. Some students must rely upon a parent to take them to school each day so some schools may need to evaluate the fairness of an attendance award for the student population. Student grade point average achievement can be recognized with honor roll awards. Schools must also determine fair academic criteria for the school’s student population. A student recognized for exemplary character traits can earn an award named after the school’s mascot. Schools may want to award two mascot awards one to each gender per quarter. Elementary schools can revise a character trait award named after the school’s mascot by incenting classrooms to earn the award monthly for following school rules.


A creative way for teachers of any grade or subject area is to award each student with a positive, uplifting, and possibly sentimental recognition that is unique to each student’s character. The superlatives could include, “Perseverance,” “Johnny on the Spot,” “Friend to all,” or “Tech Savvy.” The teacher’s thoughtfulness for each student’s award delivers a type of confident feeling to each student. Teachers can present each superlative award with an end-of-the-year ceremony for the whole class to enjoy and cheer for one another.

Student Generated

Awards created by students for students. Students know their peers and admire the special gifts they see in one another. When students recognize their peers with an award especially created for one another, the value is unsurmountable. The teacher would instruct how recognizing a person with an award is a positive gesture meant to lift a person up. The class could brainstorm award ideas and then each student would be assigned a classmate to create an award that best fits the classmate’s accomplishments.

Student recognition with awards presented at the end of a quarter, semester, or year in an important act to express value for students’ positive social, academic, and personal growth.