Token Economies to Reward Positive Behaviour

In my previous blog, I provided 8 suggestions on how teachers can manage and improve challenging behaviour in the classroom. One other way to improve behaviour and manage issues at school is to reward positive behaviour, rather than focusing on the negative actions of some students.

Cognitive behaviour therapy states that you ignore all bad behaviour and reward good; I am not suggesting you solely do this to manage behaviour in your classroom. There are always times when you should intervene to manage situations, but, the basic principle can be adopted. If a student is working well, go and spend a couple of minutes with them. Many students prefer the reward of attention to anything else. 

Some students misbehave in class because at home that is the only way they receive attention. Some students come from homes where they learn that you only get attention when you are bad, don’t reinforce this outlook with your behaviour, change it!

You can then take this concept further within your class to adopt a token economy system. Many people I speak to about token economies ask me, isn’t this blackmail to get students to behave? I disagree, token economies are positive rewards for positive behaviour. Still not convinced? Then ask yourself this, would you go to work if you did not receive wages at the end of it?

Token economies work well for all student no matter the age. The system I use with my students is a simple raffle ticket version, students gain a raffle ticket for every positive action.  

At the beginning of the year, this could be something as simple as being on time. You can change these targets as the year progresses and the student’s behaviour improves but make sure you have worked with the student to set these new targets. Give the student one ticket to recognise positive behaviour and then write their name on its partner and pop it in a box.

Every week a raffle ticket is drawn at random and a small prize is given. We use a chocolate bar and a drink, but you can use anything. At the end of each term, the raffle tickets are counted and the student with the most wins a £20 gift voucher or a phone top up. At the end of the year, the student with the most tickets wins a much bigger prize, such as a day out with 4 friends. Including friends in the prize means students support each other in good behaviour.

It is important you never remove tickets for bad behaviour, this approach devalues the positive behaviour which was originally rewarded. The system also includes each student because even the person with one ticket has a chance at winning a prize at the end of the week. 

Introducing any new initiative can be tough, but we are educators not just in Math and English, but also in Life skills and by helping students to overcome their behaviour, you will help them greatly later in their lives. 

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