Incentives, Rewards, Postive Praise, Reinforcement Schedule, Tangible Reinforcers

Reinforcers are acknowledgments for learning, as well as following rules and expectations in the classroom and school environment. Reinforcers can be part of applying positive behavioral supports and interventions school-wide, in the classroom or with individuals. In order for reinforcers to be effective, there needs to be consistent and applied use of the determined reinforcer, whether this be praise, a tracking chart, tangible rewards, etc. A student is typically reinforced for the absence of the identified behavior, as well as for learning and applying new skills and appropriate behaviors.

Ready-to-Use Resources

Self-Regulation Tool

Token Board Reinforcement Templates

A set of token boards for reinforcing positive student behaviors. Variations include a single strip version and templates that allow you to add images to show the student’s schedule and the reinforcer they are working toward. To allow for multiple uses, consider laminating the templates and using Velcro to affix icons to the board.

Grade K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 · Behavior & SEL · 3 pages

Implementation Tips

Setting up the Reinforcement Schedule
If a reinforcer is part of an individualized behavior support plan, you need to identify the focused behavior and have an understanding of why the behavior is occurring through collecting observational data and conducting a functional analysis. After the analysis of the data collection, an appropriate reinforcement schedule can be determined in order to increase the expected behavior and know what behaviors to reinforce. A reinforcement schedule is how often the student is provided with reinforcement (e.g. check mark, sticker, etc) for the absence of the problem behavior. The reinforcement schedule is based on data collection of how often the problem behavior occurs in a set time period. For more on information, see the University of Minnesota's fact sheet on [[|Schedules of Reinforcement]].
Setting Clear Expectations
When providing incentives and reinforcers, students need to know specifically when or how they can receive the reinforcer. Being clear with the expectations and being consistent with reinforcers, especially if rewarding the absence of a behavior, will help promote positive and expected behaviors in the classroom.
The Best Reinforcers
Students need to be involved in determining the reinforcers, as some rewards may be valuable to some students and not for others. For example, if a student is behaving in a certain manner in order to get attention, a possible reinforcer for this student may be to get attention in the form of praise (acknowledgement) when the student is following directions. For this student, a tangible reinforcer may not be as rewarding as spending time with the teacher.


Individualized Intervention
A student has a sticker chart for working independently in class. As part of an individualized intervention for the student, the teacher gives the student a sticker every five minutes the student is working independently as defined in the behavior support plan for the student. Once the student has filled the sticker chart (e.g. 15 stars), he is eligible for a prize from the prize bag.
Class Chart
A second-grade class is working on following classroom rules while lining up for recess and lunch. Each time the whole class lines up with fewer than two verbal reminders from the teacher, the students receive a check mark on the following-classroom-expectations chart. When the class reaches 20 check marks, it earns 15 minutes of extra recess time.
School-Wide Initiative
As part of a school-wide positive behavior support and interventions program, students receive "bucks" from teachers and staff for following school-wide expectations (e.g. safety, responsibility, respect). At the end of each week, students can cash in their earned bucks for items at the student store (e.g. pencils, posters, art supplies, etc).
Students with Autism
Using a token board reinforcement system provides students with visual information about “how and when” to earn their reinforcer for desired behavior. For example, the student is given a token board with a desired outcome or reinforcer (e.g., picture of putty, toy car), which the student is made aware they are working for. The task or activity is then broken down into small steps and a "token" (e.g., plastic penny, superman logo on velcro) is placed on the token board each time the step or action is done correctly by the student. When all tokens are received, take a break and have the student spend a few minutes with their reinforcer. This can repeated throughout the day for each activity or task given.

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