For teachers, the most difficult part of their job is managing children’s behavior. While they want to spend their time teaching and passing knowledge along to children, they instead seem to spend their days intervening in arguments, calming out of control children and trying to get others to just stay in their seat for a few minutes. For a teacher, this is frustrating. Many teachers who leave the teaching profession do so because of their frustration with their student’s behavior.
While parents, home environment, too much television, violence in the street, violence on television, video games, and much more are often blamed as the source of a child’s disrespect and lack of manners, placing blame is not an answer to behavioral problems. Often a child, when placed in a well-structured and positive environment will behave as they are expected to. Children, being children, will also attempt to push the line of acceptance as far as it will go. New teachers are tested daily until a child learns what is expected of them and what they can get away with.
Children with ADHD, in particular, have a hard time following rules in class. Not because they want to misbehave, often because they are impulsive, do not have the ability to concentrate for as long as their classmates, and forget easily. But they, like most children, want to please the adults in their life. For parents, there are motivational games to play, to help improve behavior at home. Many of these games can be adapted to a classroom, either as a way to improve the behavior of the entire class or one student in particular. These games are designed to incorporate positive reinforcement as the primary mode of interaction. They are designed to help a child see what they are doing right, instead of focusing on what they are doing wrong.
In addition to the games listed on the site for parents, there are a number motivational games specifically for classroom use.
If you are having a problem with children completing their homework each night, this game can help inspire them. The game can be tailored to suit your purposes. Should they get one ticket for each subject they complete homework for? Should they get one ticket for completing all their homework? As with positive reinforcement programs, you can be more liberal at the beginning of the game, giving tickets for each subject, then, as the weeks go by, taper down to one ticket for completing all homework each night, or have your drawing once a month rather than once a week.
Cut up pieces of construction paper into rectangles, large enough for children to write their names on. Each day, if their homework is completed, they get to place on ticket in a jar. At the end of the week, one name will be drawn to win a prize. The students know that the more times they complete their homework, the more chances they have of winning.
This game can be changed to fit any behavior you want to change. Some ideas to adapt this game to are:
- Tickets for students working on class work, quietly at their desks.
- Tickets for students who are prepared for class.
- Tickets for students that have put away their belongings and are ready for the day to begin.
- Tickets for students that are following classroom rules.
As you can see, this game is very adaptable and brings about great changes in the behavior of the students.
Caught Being Good
My younger children’s school adopts this throughout the entire school. Any teacher can hand a student a caught being good ticket. It could be a teacher who sees a child helping someone in the hallway or someone that is just sitting quietly in class. All teachers are prepared, with tickets in their pockets at all times. Each time a student receives a ticket, they put their name on it and put it in a jar in their classroom. Every Friday, all of the jars are collected and there is a drawing of three names to win a prize. The prizes are having lunch with the principal, extra computer time, or actual prizes. The students look forward to the drawing and are encouraged to behave whether they are at recess or in class, as they never know when someone will hand them a “Caught Being Good Ticket.”
We all remember when teacher’s placed our names on the board, or if not ours, then other student’s names for misbehavior. As the day went on, names were added as students talked in class, created a disruption or otherwise caused a problem. Reverse this and begin your day by putting the names of the students that are working on the board. Create pride in the students. Let them be recognized for their good behaviors rather than recognizing those that are not behaving. While we ask students to behave, more often than not, it is those that do not behave that are awarded the teacher’s attention.
Use construction paper to cut out rectangles and place a value on each one. Create a monetary system of behavior rewards. Completing homework might be worth 5 points, being prepared for class might be worth 2 points. Use the behaviors you see as needing improvement in your classroom. Liberally give out tickets to students to help them succeed.
Setting up a store with items might require a little work. You can ask parents to donate items, or ask a parent volunteer to contact some area businesses for prizes. You can also include a “no-homework pass” or “extra computer time” as some of the prizes. Set a value to each prize and at the end of the year, or end of the semester, let the children go shopping with the points they have earned.
Off to the Races
This game works best with a smaller, younger class, but can be adapted to a larger class. Get one play car, airplane, etc for each child and draw a racetrack that will fit on a bookshelf. Draw spaces, as there are on a game board, along your track. Choose one behavior you want to improve for the class as a whole. For each time you see a child behaving in the correct way (or handing in work), they get to move their car up one space on the board. This is not a race against other children, each child continues to move along until they reach the finish line, and then they win a prize. Once they reach the finish line, they start over again.
Tips to Working with a Positive Reinforcement Program
Mix up tangible, materialist prizes with those that are not tangible, such as extra privileges. These can be a “no homework pass” or “extra computer time.” This way, the prize is not always something materialistic and helps children recognize intangible items as good.
Be liberal at the beginning of the program and then start to tighten up the rules. For example, the first week, you might want to reward students for each piece of homework they complete and bring to school. The next week you might want to reward students for completing all of their homework. Weaning them off of rewards for a behavior will help them to succeed and will help you to move on to a new behavior.
Reward children with praise, such as a smile, a pat on the back, a “thumbs up”. Give them the opportunity to feel good about their behaviors, just because it feels good, rather than for a prize.
Make sure your motivational games and ideas include the opportunity for all of your students to succeed.
Always praise the student’s behavior, rather than their character. For example, be specific about your praise; let a child know that you think it is wonderful they completed their homework rather than letting them know they are “good.”
Plan motivational games and ideas on effort, rather than outcome. If you reward for outcome, only certain children may succeed. Make sure all of your students win when they make the effort.
Make sure all students understand the rules of the game or what is expected of them before beginning. Be clear and concise when creating a program.
Reward improvement, not completion. If one student continually forgets to complete their homework, reward with praise each time they do complete homework. If at the beginning of the semester they are completing homework once a week and at the end they are completing homework 3 times a week, praise the improvement, rather than focusing on the days they do not complete their homework.
Give construction criticism in between positive statements. For example, if you want to provide feedback on a writing project, first let the student know something they have completed correctly, then provide where corrections can be made and finish with a compliment on their effort or their work. The student will feel better about what you have said and feel that you appreciate their work rather than criticizing it.
Enjoy your students
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Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.