In formulating behavior supports, it's pretty common for teachers to use a task-reward process. A lot of research lately is drawing teachers away from an overuse of token economies. I try to couple reinforcement with phrases that call for students to make good choices to benefit themselves-- so they can improve themselves, not just earn something. I also try to use natural positive consequences as reinforcers, like extra free time. It's a great way to teach time management.
That being said, we do have some students with intense behaviors that need a little reinforcement to shape behavior initially. It's a way to give them a taste of success in an attainable way-- as long as the task is something they can accomplish. For example, we don't want to ask students to complete a long division problem and offer reinforcers, when they simply do not have the math skills needed to complete the problem.
Eventually, we want to lessen the token reinforcement and move students toward intrinsic motivation (i.e., "I was motivated within myself, not just to earn something.") I do this by asking the students things like, "How do you feel right now?" after they make a great choice, and I explicitly teach them that doing good things will make them feel good. I make them aware of when this is happening. I draw their attention to the fact that their time management allowed them to have extra time at the end of the period to do something they wanted to do. I also point out that they did a great job helping themselves to learn a new skill.
I made a behavior chart to help my students self-monitor their own frustration levels. I let them choose the reinforcers, and they rank their daily tasks or classes by frustration levels. This puts them in control. A common function of student behavior is control-seeking, so why not give them ownership and control in a positive, functional way? I have set limits with some students in the number of tasks they can mark as "red tasks" each day.
Download the chart here for free!
What types of things do you do in your classroom to help students to complete frustrating tasks? Share in the comments below!
A Peach for the Teach