A “Quick” Look At Positive Reinforcement

I have yet another confession for you….I am a former speeder.  Yes, you heard it right, I have a lead foot! In all honesty, I can’t even tell you how many speeding tickets (and warnings, yes, I am very good at getting out of tickets) I’ve had. I can tell you one time, I got pulled over by the same cop, on the same road just 1 day apart!! 3 years ago I had to renew my license and was shocked (denial really) that I had to take a written exam due to how many tickets I had received in a year. I’m not telling you this to brag, clearly this is not something I am proud of, but rather to celebrate with you….I am going on 4 years without being pulled over for speeding!  

Now, just because I haven’t been pulled over or ticketed doesn’t mean I don’t still have a tendency to go a little fast from time to time, but I am definitely more mindful to slow down. 

“Sign frowns on speeding drivers — with an emoji – ABC News.” 7 Feb. 2018, https://abcnews.go.com/US/sign-frowns-speeding-drivers-emoji/story?id=52910831. Accessed 1 Oct. 2021.

Every day, twice a day, I drive by a flashing speed limit sign.  However, this sign is not your traditional speed limit warning sign, yes, it flashes your speed if you are over the limit like all the rest of them do, but instead of just posting your speed in a non-flashing manner when you are going the limit (or under the limit), this sign projects a smiley face emoji! 

Research has shown that students are more likely to continue a rewarded behavior than they are likely to stop a punished behavior1.  But did you know there is an art to providing positive reinforcement?  Check out some “quick” tips below to ensure your positive reinforcements are effective and meaningful!

“Quick” tips when implementing positive reinforcement in your classroom:

  1. The positive reinforcement must be timely – Seeing the smiley emoji would not reinforce that I was abiding to the law if I saw it as I was pulling into my driveway.  We need to catch students doing good in the moment and praise them for their specific behavior.
  1. Consistency is key – Had I only seen the smiley face speeding sign once, I would not be as mindful as I am seeing it twice a day, every day. If students are not continuously praised for their behaviors, choices, effort, etc. the likelihood that they will continue the behavior independently, without prompting isn’t as likely. 
  1. Change it up – As educators we need to have many tools in our tool bag for what praise looks like. High five’s, verbal praise, thumbs up, written reinforcements, and yes, even prizes from time help reinforce the positive choices our students make, but using the same reinforcement over and over becomes background noise.  If every speed limit sign had the smiley face emoji I would start to ignore the signs and thus they would be less meaningful over time.
  1. Be specific – “Nice driving” vs. “Way to drive the speed limit”!  The difference is clear, however, you would be shocked how many “Good jobs” and “Nice works” you hear given to students rather than specific praise related to the behavior/learning/choice, etc..
  1. Remember all students – The last thing you want is for praise to cause conflict in the classroom! Be sure you praise ALL students so that everyone feels seen and valued but also so that you don’t create any resentment with peers. Everyone who drives by the speed limit sign receives either positive or negative reinforcement based on their speed, I don’t feel picked on or feel that just my driving is being scrutinized, we are all in this together!

But wait….there’s more…..

These 5 tips aren’t the only resources for you this week!  Below you will find some tangible “gifts for you” for continually coming back to “The Progress Report”.  I know I don’t say it enough, but thank you for following the Kane ROE and for the work you do, daily with your students!

Here are two resources that were used in our September 2020 box of INSPIRE which focused on building relationships.  I hope you are able to “slow down” to find meaningful ways to use them in your classroom.  Enjoy!

 “5 Activities For Using Positive Reinforcement in the Classroom.” 13 Apr. 2021, https://insightstobehavior.com/blog/5-activities-positive-reinforcement-classroom/. Accessed 1 Oct. 2021.

“Praise Quotes.” http://www.notable-quotes.com/p/praise_quotes.html. Accessed 1 Oct. 2021.

Katie Algrim – Director of Innovative Professional Learning
(t): 630-444-3044
(c): 630-675-4447
(e): kalgrim@kaneroe.org

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