Building Good Behavior In A Classroom Through Positive Reinforcement
There are many methods in practice throughout the classrooms of the world to help teachers control classroom behavior for children. It is my experience that the best method of all is by building good behavior in a classroom through positive reinforcement. Children respond more quickly and more consistently to words of encouragement. If that positive encouragement is repeated over and over, then it becomes a reinforcement. This continued reinforcement becomes a building block for good behavior.
Building Blocks Of Praise
Positive reinforcement of good behavior means telling a child what they did right. Everyone likes to hear what they have done right. Hearing it over and over reinforces that behavior thereby creating a positive environment for all. When a child is criticized, they begin to shut out the words that are spoken. For example, if they are told, "You are going to break your neck if you don't stop all that running around." All a child will hear is "You....running around!!" What will they do? Run around, EVERY time. This means we must provide the child with a positive statement to follow. An example is, "We use walking feet." Now what they hear is "walking feet." Perfect start for good behavior.
A child can be taught good behavior, however, that involves intentional teaching on the teacher's part. If a teacher wants a child to walk rather than run, then the teacher must teach the child how to walk. Children typically have one speed - full throttle! By teaching the child how to walk in the classroom, the teacher can be reassured that the child has the ability to follow that directive. Tell the child what it means to walk, then show the child how to walk by walking across the room yourself. Have the child demonstrate how to walk and praise them for good efforts. Rejoice for correct walking! Then become attentive and every time the "runner" walks, anywhere, praise them! Praise their classmates for walking! Thank them for walking! Thank the teacher down the hall for walking and tell them what a good job they are doing at walking! All children within hearing distance will be walking - looking for your praise! Children blossom under praise and will seek it out! You are using the building block of praise to begin building good behavior in your classroom. Mind you...you must continue to praise or the behavior will stop.
Block By Block Good Behavior Is Built
In the same manner as before, you can begin to model and teach examples of other good behavior. My advice is that you work on one behavior at a time while continuing to reinforce the previous good behavior. For example, we have mastered the walking...hooray! Now let's work on eliminating hitting. Remember, we must give them a positive statement to use, so we will tell them that soft touches make friends. We then model how we treat others and show the children what touches are okay such as a pat on the back, touching a shoulder to get someone's attention or tapping a friends hand. We then provide an opportunity for the child to practice and begin our praise for good efforts and rejoicing mastery of soft touches. If a child runs to help, reinforce good behavior by stating something like, "It is so kind of you to help me show soft touches, but what kind of feet were you using? Can you show me your walking feet? I love walking feet!!" We all forget from time to time, no big deal. Just remind them what to do, ask them to model and praise good efforts while rejoicing mastery!!
Reinforcing Means Repetition
Now you have students who are using their good behavior and are really getting good at it. This is no time for you to stop your praise! You must continue your reinforcement or it will all go away! They are children after all, not machines. They get tired, sick, and just plain frustrated some days and the good behavior will all go out the window if you begin your negative criticism. Keep your statements of expected behaviors positively worded, praise all good efforts and always rejoice in mastery! This also means praising and reinforcing those children who were naturally good for you from day one! They deserve your praise! Give it up! This will be a constant reminder that there is value in good behavior and they will continue to show it. Your class will be more pleasant and so will you! Learning will abound! What a great place to work every day! Just think - it all began with teaching!
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Photo and Text Copyright 2011 Deborah M. Carey