Trying to develop a reward system that motivates 18 very different students has been a tricky process. For the entire 16 years I have been a teacher, I feel like I have never quite perfected a reward system that truly meets the needs of all students. This year, after finishing all of my ABA coursework, I made this a focus.
My first step was using the Forced Choice Inventory (see earlier post for background, information, and credits) to gather information on what the students would choose for rewards. I also worked on building relationships and taking notes on what my students’ interests and motivations were. Together, my class and I created a Rewards Menu so that they knew what they would work for and earn each week. The menu was a combination of edibles, tangibles, privileges, and time.
Then, I introduced a point-earning system to the students. I am using to track points (I am currently begging for the PBIS app). However, I am very careful not to make the points public and I am adamant that it is an earn-only system. I also do not use any student’s personal information when using Class Dojo.
Expectations on how to earn points were clearly explained to the students. We had a lesson on expected behaviors in the classroom and ways that we could earn points. Some of the behaviors students listed were:
- Working hard
- Listening when the teacher is talking
- Staying in our seat to work
- Following directions
I made sure to focus on one item at a time on the list and really teach the students what that looked like. As a class, we voted to focus on “listening when the teacher is talking”. We defined when students can talk, when they should listen, how to raise our hand, and what appropriate volume is for talking. Immediately, students were rewarded with points for following those expectations.
The next day, we focused on staying in our seats. This included when we are allowed to get out of our seat, how long we should stay in our seats, and what sitting actually looks like. I asked the students to show me sitting, and it was crazy to see how many feet were up or to the side. I realized how important it was to communicate and model my expectations for sitting. We practiced and earned points for showing correct sitting positions.
We continued through the list. The hardest one was following directions. Following directions is so broad and similar to compliance. This rule turned out to be a longer discussion than I initially thought. Mainly, we had to talk about when and why we should follow a direction. We also opened the floodgates that sometimes we should not follow a direction. Before learning about ABA, I would never have thought to teach about when not to follow directions!
Once we defined our expected behaviors and worked through our list, the students started earning rewards. This, of course, is the most exciting part of the week! They know that when the clock strikes 3:00 on a Friday afternoon, they can choose to cash in or save. The students busy themselves with either make up work or a Fun Friday activity while students run the Reward Station. Here’s what a set up look like: