Positive Reinforcement for Online Classrooms: Increase Connection, Improve Behavior, and Have Fun!
Whether teaching in person or online, it is important to build relationships and positive regard in your classroom. One fun and effective way to do this is to have a plan for providing frequent positive feedback to students. In this new virtual learning environment, make sure you reinforce students as they follow guidelines for success and demonstrate good behavior.
Research has shown that the more you pay attention to behaviors, good or bad, the more of those behaviors you will get.
To see more of the behaviors you want, be sure to give praise and acknowledgment to students. Here are some tips to get started:
No Cost Rewards are based on strengthening relationships, providing fun activities, and increasing privileges. Because they are free, they are much more sustainable than tangible rewards that drain your school resources or take enormous amounts of time asking local businesses to donate. Privileges and activities deliver more what kids are after: adult and peer attention.
When you give positive praise to students, use your PBIS language (Be Safe, Be Respectful, Be Responsible) and clearly link those shared values to the student’s behavior. For example, “Thank you for showing responsibility by coming prepared to class/being on time,” or, “That was very respectful of you to help your classmate with that, I am proud of you and you should be proud of yourself.”
Don’t be stingy with recognition; research shows that teachers should strive for more positive interactions than negative corrections (usually a ratio of 4:1 is recommended). Don't just save it for special occasions. In fact, if improving overall culture and connection in your class it is best to reward routine positive behavior because that is the basis for a fantastic classroom atmosphere. Look to reward students for following expectations, attending class regularly and on time, helping others, staying focused in class, handing in homework on time, and more.
Believe it or not, this is one area in which you can be inconsistent. When you give points or reinforcements at random its called ‘intermittent reinforcement.’ Because there is an element of chance to getting a reward, it creates a stronger response in students and the positive behaviors are more likely to be sustained than if you were more consistent like a slot machine reliably doling out rewards. Remember, you are not paying them for services rendered. Your positive rewards are a symbol to students that you are happy with them, you are noticing their positive behaviors, and that you genuinely like them.
Public recognition can be very motivating for students, particularly younger students and adults (sometimes less so for teenagers). Know your students to gauge what will work for them.
We forget that kids are hard-wired and highly motivated for “fun.” We need to be silly sometimes, laugh at ourselves, and value the “fun-factor” more. Positive Reinforcement by definition must be something that students actually value and want. A menu like the one below allows the students to choose what they find to be meaningful and fun.
Here are some ideas to grow the fun in your classroom:
Student gets to “wear” Snap Camera lens of choice for class that week
Student chooses ‘intro music’ to class for the day
Choose question for community building circle
Choose a class game (scavenger hunt)
Show favorite TikTok video to class
Student shares talent with class (play guitar, show origami, etc)
Teach entire class something they are interested in
Learn how to do something special on the computer- like graphics, animation, video editing
Learn how to draw something that looks hard, but with help is easy
Student reads favorite book aloud to class
Take attendance for a day
Choose the teacher’s cursor for the day (teddy bear, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, etc.) by adding this Chrome Extension
13. Teach class a favorite game
14. Write a job recommendation for the student
15. Chance to join their favorite elementary school teacher to help teach a lesson about a topic of interest
16. Shoot a video about the school’s expectations
17. Help from an adult of choice on a class they are struggling with (Free tutoring)
18. Homework free night
19. Learning how to do something of interest on the computer (animation, graphics)
20. Learning how to play chess
21. Part of a brainstorming team with school staff
22. Give students a digital sticker or meme on their submitted google files
Snap Camera - whole class comes “dressed up” in Lens of choice (fairy, potato, opposite sex, blue eyes, or on a tropical island)
Class game, Fun Friday
Pet show and tell (“Pet Parade”)
Crazy hair day with your class
Digital “thank you note/card”
Positive Praises at the beginning/end of class
Teacher will move ‘work area’ to strange location in house/yard, of student’s choice
Teacher vs. students trivia game
Video game tournament
Listen to music during class, of student’s choice
Make teacher reenact favorite Tik Tok Video (within reason)
Teacher will drop into favorite video game students are into (e.g. Minecraft)
“Special Guest” will come to class (principal, teachers baby, dog, partner)
Teacher will shave head/ dye hair
Teacher will play guitar, sing or share other ‘talent’ with class
Teacher reads aloud to class a favorite book
Teacher will show an embarrassing photo of themselves (Senior Portrait, prom)
Pick which problem the teacher will make a freebie answer on homework
Rewards for Teachers & Staff:
Who said only kids need recognition? Watch attendance to your faculty meetings grow and participation increase when you begin to reward teacher behavior as well!
Deliver coffee to their house and leave on the front porch
Have pizza delivered to their house for dinner
Pick a topic for a faculty meeting
Have “staff member of the week” and feature them at the beginning of faculty meeting
During daily email to staff, highlight something that an adult in the building did and tell why
Leave flowers on their front porch from someone’s garden
Email sent to staff member detailing something admired or appreciated
Surprise staff member by letting two or three students wash their car- be careful on this one though- There are also services that come on sight and wash cars for a fee- possibly parent organization could sponsor
Most parents would be happy to work collaboratively with their child’s teacher to improve behavior. Establish a communication method and a goal (100% attendance, homework turned in, participation in class) and work with the parent to reward the student at home for school behavior.
Take-Out – every Friday pick up take out food from child’s preferred restaurant if they have demonstrated good behavior/perfect attendance/80% points on CICO from teacher
Tie allowance to school behavior & participation
Do an art project together
Netflix party with friends (netflixparty.com)
Earn a pet by showing exceptional responsibility at school and home
More screen time for Television, Video games, and friends
Video call with a favorite family member (aunt, uncle)
Going for a walk with a parent
Choose what is for dinner that night
Game night (child’s choice)
Pizza Movie night at home (child’s choice)
Picnic in the backyard
Rotate your child’s toys so that they can choose which toys they want out for a period of time
Making cookies together
Camping in the backyard
Listening to the music of choice in the car
Free pass from chores
Play music of their choice in the house
An online classroom can be a place that provides much needed human connection and belonging for students. What ideas do you have to amp up the “fun-factor,” improve participation, and increase the positivity in your class?