Classroom Culture - Positive Reinforcement

incentive tickets

    What are we doing to help kids achieve?

     Recently there were many entries written about "Classroom Culture".  Here is one more idea that I accidently stumbled on...

     My students and I were doing a lab that introduced the basic concepts of how to use a Bunsen Burner. This lab preceded a typical flame test lab. During the bunsen burner lab a particular student burned through a whole pack of matches. Lighting matches were tough for some students. This student was a pro. He made me a bit nervous. I had to reiterate to only use the matches to get the burner lit. No problem for him. I also said that if he sets his partner or himself on fire....he gets points off his lab. Most students knew I was joking...not expecting anyone to set their partner on fire. Him.....not so sure.

     Then came the flame test lab. In my best and most menacing teacher voice I had to tell this student directly that he was not to place his hand in the burner (no kidding) while the burner was on. I had to tell him twice. We were almost at the "third strike" and the bell rang. He seemed upset that I was so restrictive. He wanted to argue about the "fairness" of it all. We were not off to a good start.

      On day three we were doing a POGIL activity. My problem child was helping a struggling student. He was not just doing a great job. He was doing a fantastic job. He was probably helping this student more than I could have. It was kind of the dream situation. This is exactly what a teacher would love to see students do.... help other students who honestly need the help. It was the ideal group situation. I immediatly wanted to give hime a congratulatory "high five".

    I had something possibly better than a "high five". Our school has just implemented a reward system called "soar" tickets. Students get "soar" tickets for doing something good. They write their name on the ticket. A ticket is chosen at the end of the week from all the tickets collected throughout the school. The person whose name is on the ticket wins something. The "something" is usually a gift card to a nice place for food or better cream. I gave him a ticket. "What's this?" I explained about the ticket. I think he was a little shocked. I also tried explaining to him that it is not "him" that has upset me in the past. It was his actions. Setting himself on fire is not a cool thing to do (no pun intended). On the other hand, I wanted to reward him for such a great job supporting his classmate and encourage him to keep up the good work. It really changed the dynamics of our relationship in a positive direction.

     Do you have a great reward system of some sort? Let me know....imagine what would happen if we spent more time providing authentic rewards for a job well done instead of negative reprimands. Might just start an educational revolution. That is the kind of fire I would love to see students and teachers start.......

Join the conversation.

Comments 4

Dan Meyers's picture
Dan Meyers | Wed, 11/01/2017 - 11:28


I am glad this worked out so well for you. In my building, we used to have something like this in the staff mail room. We could nominate a student and at the end of the week or month (I forget), they would receive the nomination and a prize, like a coupon for popcorn. We have popcorn Wednesdays each week. Aside from that, I'm not sure if we have a positive reinforcement in place aside from directly telling the student. Might be time to bring it back.

Chad Husting's picture
Chad Husting | Thu, 11/02/2017 - 10:24

Great idea...who does not like popcorn?

Subi Majeed | Sat, 12/02/2017 - 21:32

I really enjoyed reading this post! :)

I am a believer in promoting positivity in classrooms. Avoiding reprimands can be a challenge because here and there you are bound to have the ‘problem child’. Sometimes finding things about their background or what’s triggering them can help modify your communication with them. Sometimes the 'problem children' will not divulge in detail about why they act up like they do during class.

I am currently a student-teacher but have been teaching overseas for 10 years now. So. I have some experience in positive reinforcements. A school I worked at as a sub recently here in the U.S. had these Thank-you list that was published in the weekly newsletter. It would have students name and the chore they did, either for being kind to helping a teacher. Another school that I worked at overseas instead of giving detention, had middle/high school students go to the elementary school building (overseas the schools are on one campus, separated by building) where they would help the teachers in putting up things for them on the wall or helping students during instruction time.

My current placement school follows giving out special cards (forgot the name) which again can be for anything from being nice, putting in effort or asking an interesting question that challenges not only students but the teacher too. After the students receive this card they go and deposit it in the card box at the admin office. A draw is held where they can get a free cookie, popcorn, $5 off of lunch etc.

You are right. Being positive can’t hurt. We have to remind ourselves that every child under our care needs appreciation for their actions and attitude!

Chad Husting's picture
Chad Husting | Sun, 12/03/2017 - 15:59

Subi - Thanks for the input and your thoughts.  Sometimes it is a challenge to remember to stay positive, work and catching kids doing good and especially to try and dig a bit deeper when there is a problem.  Sounds like you are going to be a great teacher.  Please continue providing your thoughts and ideas.