Using Positive and Negative Reinforcement in the Classroom
When and how I will give positive reinforcement to students who are following the rules and procedures?
I like to give as much meaningful positive reinforcement as possible since I think that this can effect how students perceive their own abilities and understanding. As a result, I don’t usually use token economies with positive behavioral reinforcement because personally I prefer to be able to quickly and effectively praise for behavior. However, I plan on using a token based economy for group understanding and work. I’ll explain below.
For behavioral expectation positive reinforcement, I plan to quickly praise effort observed. When the students are all following behavioral expectations, I usually try to praise with something like “What a nice line.” And “I like how you’re working so hard insert name ”. By constantly remarking on small behavioral procedural expectations, I’m both praising the student for effort, and I’m reminding the other students of behavioral expectations.
In addition when a task involves independent work, I usually walk around and quickly praise a student softly for simply being on task and trying their hardest. This quick soft praise isn’t disruptive to others, but it provides the student with appropriate reinforcement and it often makes them work harder.
I also really want to incorporate a couple of chants and cheers into my classes, so everyone can participate in positive reinforcement. I saw a teacher do a rollercoaster cheer, and it was so cute! The students were smiling as they cheered on another classmate for being kind enough to change topics, so another student could do the topic instead. I want my students to also give positive reinforcement to each other. Because I think positive reinforcement from peers in certain situations is actually more effective- particularly in group work.
For academic reinforcement, I will use similar strategies detailed in the above section, but I also want to use a bit of a token economy. I’m trying to build a civilization game into my classroom environment. So, I want certain group academic achievements and independent academic achievements to be rewarded with extra resource cubes for these students civilizations.
However, I will have to carefully monitor how I give academic reinforcement. I want the option of changing the giving of extra resources based on both assessment scores as well as improvement, effort, and creativity when completing an assignment. This should motivate all students to try their best not just the academic performers.
One of the other teachers who works at my school mentioned, that he would like to increase conversation with the parents by sending emails for exceptional behavior. If allowed, I would like to do this. Of course, this would have to be heavily monitored in the event that parents feel that one student is receiving too much favor from the teacher.
When and how I will respond when students are breaking the rules or not following procedures?
Obviously, sometimes student engage in negative behavior in the classroom. The first thing I like to do is quickly address the breaking of the rule or procedures. I would usually start by positive complimenting another student for following the procedure such as “Wow, great sitting. I like how (insert name) has his eyes to the board, and his hands on his lap”. Then if the student breaking the rules or procedures doesn’t adjust the behavior, I would remind the class briefly of my expectations with a vague “Alright before we begin, we should check to see if our hands are on laps and hour eyes are on the board”. This gives the student another chance to correct the behavior. I would also use this time to drift into closer proximity with the student.
But what if the student still doesn’t correct the behavior?
At that point, I would lock eyes with the student. Continued breaking of the rules or procedure would lead to me directly calling the student to attention by using his/her name and asking, “Did you forget to put your hands on your lap (insert name)?”. I don’t use this technique in every situation. If the student has already been reminded once today, I would usually issue a command. But I prefer to ask a question because it’s less confrontational and negative than issuing a command. If the student complies with my instruction, I would usually praise them at this point. If they continue to actively ignore me, I would then be forced to give them a countdown. If they don’t comply within the countdown, I usually have them move and sit away from the class. Most students don’t like this. If they do comply, I positively praise them. It’s really important to positively praise a student after they’ve been in trouble.
I quickly explain why the student is being moved away from the class, and what I expect them to do to be allowed to participate the class. Because I try to make my class exciting, most students quickly try to rejoin the class. It also allows me to ignore a students negative behavior and focus on the more positive behavioral of their classmates. This in effect leads me to give more attention to positive rather than negative behavior often curbing my more attention-driven students.
Now if the student becomes violent at any point or extremely aggressive verbally “I hate you and your an idiot”, to another student. As a teacher if a student said this verbally to me, I usually wouldn’t remove them from the class and instead respond by explaining why he/she shouldn’t say that. But saying this to another student can is immediate grounds for being talked to outside. Either I or an administrator would do this without showing anger. We have strict rules about violence verbal or physical in the classroom. And I want the students to understand that I consider that sort of behavior unacceptable under any circumstance. I reserve removal from the classroom for this because I want students to understand that certain behaviors are more unacceptable than others. And I want the students these students are targeting with the violent behavior to feel safe.
Students that I have previously had to pull back to attention, I usually try to talk to briefly after class. I mention the behavior, why the behavior was unacceptable, and then ask the student what is going on. After listening to their response, I would usually clarify a goal for tomorrow, and then I would give them a high five and tell them, “Let’s try again, tomorrow.” The way students leave and enter my class matters to me. I want them to have a positive attitude when leaving my classroom since I believe it affects their attitude the next day about school.
We communicate via emails and phone calls with parents about violent situations the day of. Usually, I would not talk readily with the parent about a student’s negative behavior unless it was a pattern that I had noticed for over a month. And it would have to be fairly disruptive behavior. I personally think, it’s much better to work with the student directly, and that parents should be kept in the back pocket for really extreme situations such as violence and hate speech.
In addition if I notice a student regularly engages in rule and procedure breaking behavior, I try to identify antecedents that might be cause the behavior in my lesson. For instance, my students might feel the class isn’t moving fast enough because I’m fumbling for materials. How do I solve that? I make sure my materials are in a basket or somewhere readily available to me. Sometimes, I create situations that really tempt students to misbehave, so I try to address anything I can control immediately. By combining this with consistent discipline, I find that my students learn to abide by the rules and procedures.
Process chart summary
Here’s a quick flow chart on my steps for decision making when students break rules or procedures. You can check it out on the Lucid Chart Site.