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.......

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Comments 2

MeyersChemistry's picture
MeyersChemistry | 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?