Sweet Incentives in TEFL Teaching

Many teachers like to use Sweets or Candy as Incentives for their students, especially with younger classes. TEFL teachers heading abroad will often fill their bag with candy from back home not only to motivate their class but also offer a little bit of cultural input as well.

But is giving candy a good idea? Is this praising and rewarding your students or is it just bribing them? Does rewarding a child in the same way you reward a dog really work? Does candy really motivate them?

This article looks at candy in TEFL teaching and asks you to think about whether it’s a good idea or not and, if not, what the alternatives might be.

Candy Poll

Professional educationalists are divided on this topic – but where do you stand? First take our poll here and then read the article below and see if you stick with your answer!

Should you reward students with candy?

  • Don’t know.
  • No.
  • Yes.

Comment below with answer.

Candy as a Reward
Assuming you do want to give candy as a reward (and there is a lot of debate as to the worth of rewarding in class), let’s first ask what the implications are of throwing out a few M&Ms to the brightest and best.


  • students will work harder to get candy


  • students can get demanding and spoiled, expecting candy for every task
  • sugar rots teeth
  • too much candy = obesity

Looking at these, candy has several detrimental effects and only one positive; but the interesting point is that the students are not working harder for candy per se. No, they are working harder for a reward.

So to remove those cons, why not just change the reward?

alternatives to candy

Some teachers have come up with good alternatives to candy:

  • points – these can be exchanged for knick knacks later on
  • pencils, stickers, temporary tattoos, books, and so on
  • nuts or sultanas, etc…
  • simple praise: often praise is more highly regarded than material goods
  • recognition: an email to the child’s parent saying how well they did, etc
  • privilege: no homework

Perhaps one of these can work for you? Certainly they’re healthier than candy!

Useful Links

Motivation in Class – how to get your students working

Competition to Motivate – using competition to motivate your students

TEFL Teaching Course – learn how to teach effectively with our online TEFL course

Posted in How To Teach English.

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