Making an academic award chart for your child can be really easy and fun to make. Charts can be created in a variety of ways, depending on your needs, supplies, and the level of creativity you want to put into it. Charts can be made for numerous things – chores, behavior, homework, academic, etc. A basic chart has 2 elements: the goals and the progress tracking. You can set up the chart with a grid with the left or top being the goals, and the other rows/columns for the progress tracking. Progress tracking can be done with a variety of interactive objects, depending on which style of chart you use, as explained below.

Below are some factors to consider before you begin creating an academic chart:

  1. Decide what areas you want the chart to focus on. Will it be on different subjects or just a general chart?
  2. How often will you give rewards and/or consequences? Every day? Every week? Every 3-6 weeks (depending on progress reports & report cards)?
  3. What rewards and consequences will there be for expectations you’ve set for your child, according to the chart?

After you’ve decided on all the factors to set up your chart, you will need to decide what style of chart you want. You will want to make it fun and colorful. Here are some suggestions:

  • A poster board can work for the most basic of charts. You can draw in the actual goals and grid for progress “checks” and use stickers or stamps for the reward tracking across the chart.
  • An over-the-door shoe organizer with plastic pockets can using stock paper as the inserts for the pockets, with either the left or top pockets being for the goals and the columns or rows of pockets for the progress tracking. Actual objects, such as trinkets or prizes they will be rewarded can be used in the pockets, or simply cardstock with a sticker or something attached to it.
  • Magnetic boards decorated with fabric or stock paper would also be an option, using magnets to track progress.
  • A wooden keychain holder with different hooks could also be used. Each hook would represent a goal, and you could use hanging tags to track progress.
  • Another very basic academic “chart” that is more of an interactive method (but also takes up an extensive amount of room) is to use mason jars for the goals – one jar per goal, and use popsicle/craft sticks to track progress in each jar.
  • Using a paint paddle with sections labeled for goals and then clothespins to track progress is also another option.
  • If you’re computer-savvy, you can design your own on the computer and print it out. There are also numerous free charts online that you can find and print instead.

The last thing to decide is what to give for rewards once your child has filled in all the rows for particular goals. Below are some ideas for rewards, kept in a reward box. You could actually just do certain things at one time, rotating items in and out of the box as necessary, keeping it surprising for your child each time:

  • Rubber or plastic insects, snakes, dinosaurs, etc.
  • Items you would find in gumball machines, besides gum: temporary tattoos, big stickers, bouncy balls, etc.
  • Plastic or costume jewelry
  • “Coupons” for extra time on computer, TV, video games, etc.
  • Reward stickers with different things they can do – night out with mom, night out with dad, ice cream treat at local bakery, etc.
  • Small cans of play-dough that you can usually buy around Halloween (designed for trick-or-treaters) and/or cookie cutters.
  • If your child likes to draw, include plastic stencils, doodle pads, new packs of crayons, markers, or colored pencils.
  • If you child likes to collect things, include some of the things he/she likes to collect (colored rocks, coins, stamps, etc.).
  • Small beanie animals

Below are some general guidelines for incorporating and using the chart:

  1. Introduce the chart in a positive way.
  2. Stick with it. It is only useful when it is used in the way in which you intended.
  3. Most of the time, these charts don’t usually include consequences. The rewards alone should be enough – the consequences are when they don’t do well, they don’t get a sticker, etc. on the chart. Sometimes that alone motivates children to do better so that they can get something on their chart the next time.
  4. If you don’t track progress on the chart every day/every week (but instead every progress report, etc.), still refer to it and keep it where it can be seen. Check in with your child, reminding them about the chart so that they are consciously working towards the goals on the chart.
  5. For exceptional achievements, you could do something extra, in addition to marking it on the chart. Just don’t make it a habit to over-rule the chart every time, because the chart will become useless.
  6. Periodically go over the goals you’ve set. Sometimes, you may need to modify the goals and modify the chart, as well. This is where some of the more interactive charts (jars, clothespins, magnetic, shoe organizers) can be more useful when modifications are needed. You can simply change/add/remove the goal(s) without messing up the whole chart.

Some parents are wary of using charts for progress, but goal management is something all children need to learn, and this is one of the best ways to start teaching that, along with modifying certain behaviors. The end rewards are an added bonus, but they will help motivate the child to do better in whichever area(s) for which the chart is intended. Again, just make sure you are using the chart on a regular basis, referring to it during its “downtime”, and adjusting it as necessary. It may also be helpful to keep in mind that it just may not work. Not all children are motivated by charts and rewards, especially when the rewards aren’t instant. However, many parents have found that it does work and is successful in modifying behaviors over the long haul.