What is Positive reinforcement ?

Positive reinforcement

There is no substitute for positive reinforcement in the classroom. It is the best behaviour management strategy and the one that builds self-esteem and respect. Catch students doing what you want them to do. Recognize and praises specific instances. Examples:

  • I like the way Cathy remembers to raise her hand and waits to be called on. Thank you Cathy.
  • Adam, I appreciate how quietly you line up.
  • Joey, you did such a good job paying attention and staying with the group.
  • It makes me so happy when we are all settled down, and ready to listen

Some examples of positive reinforcement in the classroom:

  • Legitimate praise and acknowledgment are the best reinforcers
  • Reward students with privileges (e.g, classroom jobs and responsibilities)
  • It’s generally a good idea not to use the “big guns” (major incentive and rewards) unless they are needed in the classroom. Start with easy, small rewards and incentives
  • Many students are motivated to work for tangible rewards (stickers, prizes, food)
  • Other suggested reinforcers include:
  • Choosing a game to play with a friend
  • Earning free time
  • Earning breakfast or lunch with the teacher
  • Reading or looking at special interest magazine
  • Using the computer alone or with a friend
  • Listening to music with tape recorder and earphones
  • Working with clay, special pens/paper, whiteboards
  • Removing lowest test grade
  • Leading a game, perhaps as captain of team
  • Skipping an assignment of student’s choice
  • Bringing to class/demonstrating something of the student’s choice
  • Reducing detention time
  • Chewing gum privileges at specified times

Classroom incentives

What is Positive reinforcement ?
What is Positive reinforcement ?

Classroom incentives are great motivators, here are two that work particularly well for many teachers:

  • Students earn tickets or play money to be used towards a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly auction of raffle. Students can use their accumulated tickets/money to buy assorted toys, items, or privileges from their teacher.
  • Marbles or chips are placed in a jar by the teacher when students are caught doing something well or behaving appropriately. When the jar is filled, the class earns a special party. (e.g, popcorn, pizza, ice cream), activity, or field trip of some kind.

Assertive discipline 

Have clear consequences for following and not following the rules. Use warnings with incremental consequences when students do not follow the rules. Give positive attention when students are behaving appropriately. Various classroom management system include the following:

Color-coded cards

This is a graphic system for monitoring behaviour which is used in many classroom. There are many variations of this system. It usually involves a pocket chart with an individual envelope or compartment for each student (identified by name or number). All students start the day with one color (e.g pink card) in their envelope. When there is an infraction of the rules-after warning-the color is change (e.g to yellow) resulting in a consequence such as five minute of time-out. With the next infraction, the card is changed to the next colour (e.g blue) resulting in stronger consequences. After another infraction, the red card appears, resulting in a more severe consequence.

With this system, students start each day with a clean slate, for greatest effectiveness, allow your class to devise the consequences associated with each change of color. Teachers who do not want to post the cards for everyone to see may choose to pass out a pink card at the beginning of each day. As a student’s colour need to be changed, the teacher may go to the student’s desk and change the card with the student quietly and privately.

Some teachers use a variation of this system, they link each of their classroom rules to a certain colour. When a student breaks a specific rule, the teacher places a color card corresponding to the rule broken into the child’s pocket. In this way, students are clearly aware of what it is that they did inappropriately. The progressive consequences follow the change of card.

Numbered card 

Some teachers have students with behavioral monitoring needs go home each day with a number card.

5          –  very well behaved, great day!

4          –  good day.

3          –  so so day

2          –   we had some trouble today

1          –   we had a very difficult day

Home/school communication

Many teachers send home some type of notification to parents as to how their child behave that day or week. Often teachers using the colored card system send home the final color card at the end of the day with each student (or only with those students in need of close home/school monitoring).

Many teachers send home some type of form or slip indicating how well the student behaved during the week. These notices are usually sent home every Friday or on Monday s for the previous week. It is the student’s responsibility to return the forms to school with their parent’s signature.

Response costs

Some teachers use a system of payment/fines (response cost) with students. Example: using plastic colored links (found in catalogs selling math materials), the teacher awards monetary value to the four colors of the links: yellow-penny, red-nickel, green-dime, blue-quarter. The teacher pays students for good behaviour (a) the whole class earns points and the teacher awards all students a certain value for their links; (b) individually, for on-task behaviour; (c) groups, for cooperative work assignments/projects. The possibilities are limitless. Students are fined for offenses such as: no homework, getting out of seat and off-task behaviour. Every week or every other week students get to buy small treats or privileges with their money (value of links)

How to avoid behaviour problem

Behavioral problems often occur when the students are indirect. Planning well and beginning instruction promptly are generally good deterrents to behaviour problems.

Try to greet students at the door as they arrive in class, offer directions as needed before they enter the room, a smile and hello is a nice way to start the day. Handing the students a brief assignment to work on as they enter the room is also a deterrent to behavioural problem.

The same applied for claiming students after recess, lunch, gym, art, or music. Be there on time, these transitional times are frequently the worst times for ADHD students.

Time outs and time away

Time outs or time aways for ADHD students are necessary in most cases. These children often can’t handle all of the stimulation in a classroom and become worked up and sometimes out of control. Time away from the group is often needed to calm them down and help them regain self-control.

Use time outs and time aways as needed:

  • In the classroom, away from distractions
  • Buddy or partner up with another teacher (preferably cross-grade) for time outs. Student is brought to the receiving classroom with an independent assignment to work on for a specified amount of time. This is usually a very effective system.
  • In the counselling center.

Here are some tips for time outs and time aways

  • Try directing the student to time out calmly and positively, example: Michael, I would like for you to sit with your hands and feet to yourself. If you can’t handle that, go back to the table, you can join us when you are ready to sit without touching others.
  • Some teachers use a think-about-it chair for a specified amount of time, for example, 3 to 5 minutes to think about their inappropriate behaviour.
  • Other teachers have students sit away from the class until they feel ready to join the class again. A typical rule of thumb is one minute of time out per year of age. So, a six-year-old may have about six minutes time out or away from the group.
  • As a next step, other teacher send the students to sit outside the room, when the student feels that he/she can behave properly, he/she comes voluntarily inside the door, and waits there quietly until the teacher acknowledges him/her. The teacher might say something like: I am glad you’re ready to follow our rules. Please join us.
  • If the student continues to be disruptive, the next step is often to be sent to the counselling center or another classroom for time away, and then the office.
  • Teachers with access to telephones have good results since they can call home or the parent’s work place together with the student.

Note: Primary teachers should read section 21, what about kindergarten? This section contains many behaviour management suggestions successful with young students.

Caution: teachers need to be careful not to overuse time outs and to be sure that the child is aware of the behaviour that caused him/her to receive the time out.

Behavioural contracts

Write a contract specifying what behaviour is expected and what the reinforcement will be when the behaviour/task is completed. Behavior modification methods are often effective with students and should always be tried. Be aware that effectiveness for ADHD students may be short-lived and your rewards/systems will need to be revamped frequently. Don’t be discourage, give it a try, involve your school counselor for assistance. Of course, you will need parental involvement and support.

Proximity control

Stay close to students with attentional or behavioral problems, circulate in the classroom, a hand n the shoulder or a direct look with quiet reminder is effective. Students with ADD/ADHD should be seated close to teachers and next to or between well-focused students. Avoid seating them along the periphery. Often second row is better than first row for teacher-pupil eye contact. Avoid seating near learning centers, the door, windows, or others distractors.

The personal connection

Take students aside to talk about their behaviour, talk calmly. Give warnings and explain what the consequences of their breaking rules will be, then follow through.

Talk it out, when there is a problem, talk to the student about it in private conference, try (a) passive listening, hear the student out without interrupting; (b) acknowledgement responses, give verbal listening, respond, ask reflective questions, such as come sit with me… maybe we can find a solution, I am not sure I understand what you mean. Can you tell me more?

Try to state the problem in terms of the specific behaviour and avoid messages to the student that he/she is bad, restate the guidelines, limits, and consequences in a quiet, calm manner.

Parent contacts are crucial: elicit parental support through conferences, phone calls and regular, frequent reporting of behaviour and work completion. Remember; with all parental contacts communicate that you care about the student. Always include positives and recognition of what student is doing right along with your concerns.

Appropriate behaviour modelling

Use cross-age tutors or peers to model specific types of behaviour that the student is having difficulty with. Take photos of students engaged in positive behaviour (which can be photographed during role play) and display them in the classroom. Rather than hanging them in the room, you may show them when needed to remind about your expectations. It is very effective to have a photo of the student seated properly and appearing to be on-task. Tape the photo directly to the students desk.

Reinforcement Theory

There are four primary approaches to reinforcement theory: positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment, and negative punishment.

Behaviorist B.F. Skinner derived the reinforcement theory, one of the oldest theories of motivation, as a way to explain behavior and why we do what we do. The theory may also be known as Behaviorism, or Operant Conditioning, which is still commonly taught in psychology today. The theory states that “an individual’s behavior is a function of its consequences” (Management Study Guide, 2013). Behaviorism evolved out of frustration with the introspective techniques of humanism and psychoanalysis, as some researchers were dissatisfied with the lack of directly observable phenomena that could be measured and experimented with.

Positive and Negative Reinforcement

Reinforcement theory provides two methods of increasing desirable behaviors.  One is positive reinforcement and the other is negative reinforcement.

To avoid any confusion we can think of positive as a plus sign (+) and negative as minus sign (-).  In other words:

Positive Reinforcement:  Give (+) what individuals like when they have performed the desired behavior (Griggs, 2009).

Negative Reinforcement:  Remove (-) what individuals do not like when they have performed the desired behavior (Griggs, 2009).

What is Positive reinforcement ?

In the case of negative reinforcement, it is important to remember that negative does not mean “bad”, just the removal of an unpleasant stimulus. Positive and negative have similar connotations in the application of punishment.

Reinforcement Quotes

1.The way positive reinforcement is carried out is more important than the amount.
2.I think what television and video games do is reminiscent of drug addiction. There’s a measure of reinforcement and a behavioural loop.

3.Properly used, positive reinforcement is extremely powerful
4.Well, you know, a lot of people look at the negative things, the things that they did wrong and – which I do. But I like to stress on the things I did right, because there are certain things that I like to look at from a positive standpoint that are just positive reinforcement.

5.I think there’s a danger in how we can get addicted to the things that reaffirm to us who we are. For example, Facebook; people who make these Facebook posts about what’s happening to them, just so people will chime in and give them positive reinforcement.

  1. I found this deer toy that poops out candy. And so if I say, ‘Cree, you have to go to bed right now. You will get a candy.’ We’ve named the pooping deer ‘Gus.’… He gets a jelly bean. And it works. Positive reinforcement is the way to go. I’m learning things like that which help me be a better parent.
  2. I want to own a network. I want to own a network where you can turn it on with your family all day long and get positive reinforcement.
  3. One of our six key strategic priorities was the reinforcement of all professional staffing and solutions business.
  4. I always knew I was a writer. And I always thought to myself, ‘Well, why not me?’ Someone has to be on the best-seller list, ‘Why not me?’ Someone has to write for the ‘New Yorker,’ ‘Why not me?’ And I didn’t really get much positive reinforcement as a kid, so I thought, ‘Well let me show you what I can do.’
  5. Lotteries are just one way to provide positive reinforcement. Their power comes from the fact that the chance of winning the prize is overvalued.