B. F. Skinner, psychologist, behaviorist and author once said, “The way positive reinforcement is carried out is more important than the amount.”
Let’s face it-classroom management and working with students to display good behavior in school is one of the most challenging aspects of teaching. Many theories and research-based best practices have come and gone. To add to our challenges, many educators, parents and other professionals often have conflicting opinions about rewards vs. punishment and intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation. As a new(er) teacher, you have to formulate your own thoughts and ideas related to the topic, but let me give you a few things to think about!
First, positive reinforcement in the classroom can be beneficial. It is an opportunity! Most students are not typically motivated by a sticker or “prize.” If you simply hand them a “prize,” it will not increase the likelihood of them continuing to make good choices. HOWEVER, if you take the time to talk with them one to one and provide specific praise while you hand them the “prize,” you will make progress. These moments of genuine recognition help build relationship and connection with the student which is what MANY crave. It also gives you the chance to be specific about their behavioral choices. It’s re-teaching in stealth mode! Download these positive reinforcement behavior tickets to get you started.
Next, it’s important to understand that students will respond differently, so you will need to vary your approach. For most of your learners, simply stating expectations or reviewing rules will result in great behavior conducive to learning. For a small group, reminders and re-teaching may be necessary. There may be a few individuals who need a positive behavior plan even after re-teaching. This plan must be individualized to the strengths, needs and interests of the student. What works for one student, may not work for another! Put on your thinking cap, and be creative!
Finally, consistency is key! If you don’t have a classroom management plan, create one. If you do, polish it up before school starts, and STICK TO IT - this will help you create a positive classroom atmosphere. Students want structure and providing it can alleviate anxiety and impulsive decision making. It also frees up their brain to focus on learning as opposed to trying to figure out classroom systems and routines. Remember to reflect on your plan’s effectiveness part way through the year. If you get stuck, reach out to colleagues for solutions or new ideas!
Skinner also said, “Give me a child and I will shape him into anything.” You can, too. Here is your chance! If you're a new teacher looking for additional strategies to help in your classroom, visit our New Teacher Resources Page!