George Lucas Educational Foundation

Positive Reinforcement

Positive Reinforcement

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What ways do you use positive reinforcement in your classroom to prevent behaviors?

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Stacie's picture

If a particular student is acting out I try to find someone around the student who is showing great behavior. I tell them that I love how nicely they are sitting at the carpet, with their hands in their lap. I might do this to a few more kids. Usually that student wants you to notice them so they start to do the behaviors you noticed. This works for me with Kindergarten, I haven't tried it out in other grades though.

Brittany Hansberry's picture

I have seen a number of teachers use positive reinforcement throughout the day in many different ways! However, I have seen the most improvement in student behavior when specific positive feedback is provided for them. For example, just saying good job is not sufficient. The students must know what they did right so they can keep it up! Here are a few examples that I think work well. "You really learned how to..." " That's a resourceful way of..." "You are a real problem solver for..." "You worked so hard on..." "I like the way you..." and there are many many more! One of my personal favorites is "you must be proud of yourself for..." This gives the students the verbal praise but also teaches them how to be proud of themselves for something. It shows what is something they should be proud of. Hope this helps!

Rhonda's picture
First grade teacher from South Carolina

I've started pointing out students who are doing a great job. Like someone said earlier, if there is a child who is not sitting quietly on the carpet, I will point out someone who is doing a good job. I've recently read an article, Caring Behavior Management: The Spirit Makes the Difference by Karen Paciotti, she discusses different strategies that implement positive reinforcement. One way was similar to the chart method mentioned in another post. When a students is caught making a good choice, then they will get a sticker or object. I think I am going to try and implement something similar in my classroom. Hopefully it works well!

Kelly's picture
Second Grade Teacher from Michigan

I have also found in my 2nd Grade classroom that positive reinforcement works best. I use many rewards for those who leave at the end of the day on the color green using the card system. Each day they are on green they earn a sticker to fill a chart. When the chart is filled they get to choose a reward coupon. I usually try to point out the positive things students are doing instead of the negative. I would say"I like they sitting on the rug," and the more I say it the other students begin to join in so that I say their name as well.

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

I think Rick Lavoie's book- The Motivation breakthrough- is great on this. One of my favorite suggestions he's ever made has been the following:
Instead of calling a parent with bad news, call with good news instead. Call the parent of a kid who has been struggling and has had a great day, and call to let them know that he's really making progress, and you are proud of them.

You will have super powers after this.

This has an instant effect of breaking all the past scripts that say a note home from school is always bad news; the parent will be proud and pleased as punch, as will the child; both will be happy that you notice the effort the child is putting in- it makes such a big impact on how people view school, it is worth the effort.

Last year, one of my older son;s teachers wrote a spontaneous note home saying how much he really enjoyed having my son in class and specifically things he was doing that was showing how much he was growing, socially and emotionally. Not only is that letter in my box of special treasures, i would now do just about anything this teacher asked, because they took the time to care.

Martin Richards's picture
Martin Richards
I train educators to use a coaching approach in their teaching practice

I echo this 'warning'

The question to bear in mind is "Whose rules are we using to describe the desirability of the (perceived) behaviour?". Often it's enough to notice what's going on, without needing to label the behaviour as positive, or negative.

Mark Gutierrez's picture

I'm a second semester student teacher, and I've been thinking about using "Class Dojo" as a classroom management behavior tool for my Kindergarten class. It uses positive and negative reinforcement, though I'm only interested in the positive side. Has anyone had any experience with this tool, or with any other tools similar to this one? I wonder if it will help promote self-regulation?

zep's picture
Education Specialist

Mark, please think long and hard before subjecting these very young children to any positive or negative reinforcement; I would strongly recommend you at least perusing Alfie Kohn's book, Punished by Rewards. It warns of the hazards inherent in any reward system, most notably to your goal which is obviously heart-felt and absolutely significant, the goal of self-regulation. I might also add that there is a wealth of knowledge readily available in the form of any of the books written by the most respected authority on promoting self-regulation, A.S. Neill. Best of luck with your student teaching, you're entering a wonderful career, sadly fraught with landmines found by way of commonly accepted "worst practices".

racheldiep's picture

I absolutely love Class Dojo ( for this. It's the 21st century sticker chart, but way cooler because people of every age love it. I use it with my middle schoolers to award everything from helping another person to reading with a lot of expression. You can have a variety of different behaviors, which allows students and parents to view the spectrum of positive things they do. Each student and each parent gets his or her own login, which makes it easy to track their progress. Then, at report cards, I just stick in the Class Dojo report, and it gives them a graph of the student's behavior (both positive and negative). I'm getting a lot of positive feedback on it. You can read more of my thoughts on it here: Check it out. Seriously good stuff!

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