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Positive Reinforcement Charts for Special Education

By Natasha Lupiani

Find this Common Core aligned resource and more like it in our Special Education Articles!



Many of us probably grew up being scolded for negative behavior, whether we were grounded, had privileges taken away, or were just sent to our rooms. Times have certainly changed since then. With those changes, comes the increased use of positive reinforcement, especially in the academic settings.



Reinforcement Boards - Negative vs Positive Reinforcement

Example

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Since the implementation of various national-level academic initiatives throughout recent history, the focus has been on keeping students in the classroom. This is wonderful in theory, but as an educator you most likely have experienced at least one student whose behaviors negatively impact the rest of the class. Constantly pointing out and correcting the negative behaviors is usually of no help to the class, teacher, and most importantly the student demonstrating those behaviors. Positive reinforcement can often times turn that around and really motivate the student.

Positive reinforcement is the act of rewarding or praising the positive behaviors in an attempt to change, avoid, or completely stop the negative behaviors. Just like any other picture board set up, such as Reminder Boards, a positive reinforcement chart is personalized for each individual.

Example Digital Behavior Chart

Example

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Create a Positive Reinforcement Chart

  1. Determine the desired behavior(s).
  2. Determine the reinforcement.
  3. Determine how many occurrences of positive behaviors need to occur to receive the reinforcement.
  4. Determine the appropriate interval for potentially earning the reinforcement
    • After each activity
    • Daily
    • Weekly
    • After a set amount of occurrences

The Behavior

Before creating a positive reinforcement chart, you need to first decide what the negative behavior is that you would like to end. Once you know that, figure out what the positive counter behavior is. For example:

Those are just some basic examples. This can work for any behavior.

Positive Reinforcement

When choosing the reinforcement, it really helps to know the student. The reinforcement will only be enticing if it is something the student enjoys. It is also important to keep it realistic. As the teacher, you need to make sure the reinforcement can actually be awarded. A positive reinforcement board will not work if the student cannot actually receive the reinforcement for whatever reason.

It can often be helpful to include the student in this process. They will most likely feel more involved and will “buy” into the concept more easily. Another idea is to create a reinforcement choice board. Include a handful of reinforcements that the student can choose from when they earn it.

Reinforcement Boards - Choice Board

Example

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Intervals

Another aspect to keep in mind is the frequency the students will receive their reinforcements. This will sometimes depend on the behavior. If the behavior that you are trying to correct occurs frequently, consider a more frequent reinforcement. If it’s something that happens less frequently, it may make more sense to consider a less frequent reinforcement.

Home Use

The examples used are mainly for school use, but this type of behavior management technique can be used at home as well. Just think of a chore chart. When a child completes their chores, they generally receive some sort of incentive. It can also be used for personal hygiene tracking:

How to Use

Now that you have successfully created a Positive Reinforcement Board, it’s time to utilize it. This part is simple. When the student demonstrates the desired behavior, mark it on the board. This can be with a sticker, star, checkmark, or any other way that works best. After the student successfully demonstrates the desired behavior the predetermined amount of times, they receive their reinforcement.


Positive reinforcement is a great tool that can help replace an undesirable behavior with a more desirable one.



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