Saturday, 6 June 2015

Reward Systems

Positive reinforcement is extremely important for kindergarteners and preschoolers and it can improve their behaviour in a fun and easy way. Don’t expect to get the same results from all the kids, because the roots of the problems are not the same, their personalities are different. Before blaming a child for what she did, make sure you know the reasons behind her act - it might be that she has had troubles in the family, that something else caused an undesired behaviour. Kids at this age don't know how to express themselves well: that's why they need an adult to help them do that.

For example, I've had kids who bite others, but their reasons were very different: some want the adult's attention, some want to get a toy that another child had, some are very tired, or just feel overwhelmed by a situation. A teacher should try to find out the reason of the behaviour and try to fix it.

I've used different systems along the years, and sometimes I test one system, see that it doesn't work well with a certain group, then change it. I'm also trying to give rewards for certain things that imply a lot of hard work or improvement for a child, rather than rewarding her for things she should do. For example, I don't usually give stickers just for playing nicely, because that's something a child should already do, without expecting something in return. However, if a child has diapers and we want to make the transition to underpants, I will use positive reinforcement when she asks to go to the potty before peeing in the diaper.

On the other hand, I try not to use the system as a public shaming system. I don't want kids to be frustrated for having their name on the cloud/on red every day. That's not the purpose of positive reinforcement, but the opposite.

Here are a couple of systems that have been successful with my groups.

1. Stay on Green

Supplies: cork board, name tags, happy faces – green circles, neutral faces – yellow circles, upset faces – red circles (one of each colour for every child)

How it works: The teacher observes the behaviour of the child during the day. When a child does something wrong (this has to be made clear to the child), he will get a warning. As soon as he was warned, the green face (smiley face) next to his name becomes yellow. Afterwards, the child will try to behave better, so that he can change his face to a happy one again. If he continues with the bad behaviour, he will receive a red face (upset face). At the end of the day, the children’s good behaviour will be rewarded with a sticker on their sticker chart.

The advantages of this reward system are:
The child knows what he has done wrong
The child will be able to improve his bahaviour
The child is rewarded for good behaviour


2. Sun/Cloud System

Supplies: a sun and a cloud (cut out and laminated, painted on a wall, or drawn on a board), name tags (for younger kids I recommend using an image next to the name, because they are unable to recognize their written names)

How it works: At the end of the day, the teachers explains what she/he liked/disliked about the child’s behaviour that day and rewards those who behaved nicely towards the others by putting their name on the sun. The ones who didn’t obey the class rules will have their name on the cloud (but only if they were warned and didn't stop misbehaving; try to give a child time to correct her behaviour and make sure she knows how to). At the end of the week, those who have had their name on the sun every day will get a certificate for good behaviour.



3. Colourful Beads and Sticker Charts

Supplies: a cup for each child and beads OR sticker charts (you can make them out of coloured paper), stickers

How it works: Those children who did something nice (shared toys, even though they didn't have enough time to play with them, used English, even though it was an extra effort, sang nicely at circle time and forgot about their shyness, etc.) receive beads as rewards. At the end of the year, they can make a bracelet out of the beads they gathered. The same goes for stickers.

I want to emphasize how important it is to choose the right behaviour to reinforce - with very young children, who just started kindergarten, it is important to use rewards for small things they do too, because that's how they get used to the routines and the rules. However, after they have adjusted to these, try to use the rewards only for more important things. Otherwise they will become so focused on the reward, that they won't do nice things just to help the others, to make the teacher happy, to feel good. They will get used to always getting something in return.


4. Happy face/Sad face System

Supplies: cork board, names, happy faces and sad faces for everyone (they can be printed out, laminated and pinned to the board. This way you can reuse them.)

How it works: The system works the same as the colourful bead system. You can use one system for using English (if you teach English as a second language) and one for good behaviour.

I would love to hear what reward systems have worked with your groups/classes!

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