Monthly Archives: July 2015

PBIS Classroom Gamification Motivates Students

July 22, 2015

Classroom gamification is an increasingly popular system for stimulating and motivating students to learn. Games help children and adults alike more deeply engage with learning and with one another–and have more fun in the process. In fact, according to a recent survey of eLearning software users, 79 percent said they would be more productive if their work or learning environment was more game-like. And a whopping 89 percent said that a point system would help them be more engaged.

Gamification is an ideal tool for the PBIS system schoolwide and in the classroom. Gamification works wonderfully with PBIS practices because it taps into principles that are already in use, such as reinforcing positive behavior through rewards and a token economy. Game elements, strategies, and mechanics can enhance classroom lessons and activities, making them fun for students, while still being effective in reinforcing expected behaviors and academic performance.

PBIS classroom gamification motivates students.

What is Gamification?

The term “gamification” only entered the mainstream lexicon in recent years, but its theories have been influencing everything from computer programming to scientific visualization to education for decades. Gamification is the application of game thinking and game mechanics to other contexts—such as classrooms—to engage people and increase participation. In other words, it is the use of game strategies like rewards, competition, achievement levels, and virtual currency to keep people interested and motivated.

Another way gamification is used is to make existing tasks feel more like games by adding elements like meaningful choice, task-based challenges, and narrative. The goal is to captivate and inspire students to continue “playing” and to influence desired attitudes and behaviors.

What is a Gamified Classroom?

A gamified classroom is a classroom where gamification is used for the benefit of the students, in order to encourage certain desired behaviors and positive academic performance. It is when a teacher or other school leader arranges a series of game elements into a system that supports learning in the classroom.

An educator can use various strategies to gamify the classroom, including the introducing points, badges or leaderboards. Some gamified classrooms have students work together to earn points and rewards as a class, serving as an excellent motivation to collaborate toward shared achievements.

There are many game elements that may be used in a PBIS or traditional classroom to motivate learning:

  • Progression, such as points, badges and leaderboards, especially when supported by software or technology
  • Narrative or a captivating story that structures or is woven into the rules and activities of your “game”
  • Bonuses and discoveries, when students receive unexpected rewards or uncover exciting new information as they navigate the system
  • Increasing challenges, ultimately preparing learners to work on problems that require them to draw on multiple skills and past knowledge

When a classroom incorporates the use of these or other elements, that environment can be considered gamified. The goal is to place students in the role of “player”, allowing them the opportunity to actively make choices and experience rewards. Over time, this can powerfully enhance intrinsic motivation.

Classroom Gamification and PBIS Rewards Systems

Through classroom gamification, students are stimulated by points and rewards earned for expected or exceptional behaviors and academic achievements. The badges, points, and various tokens the students acquire during the year serve as a very effective visual and tangible representation of their progress and success. Points are typically awarded for exceeding expectations of discipline and behavior, for tackling difficult challenges, or for exhibiting special skills, such as assisting fellow students.

Gamification works in tandem with a token economy or with other PBIS rewards systems; indeed, these systems may already be said to be gamified. By providing a fun and engaging incentive, students are significantly more likely to adopt the PBIS system and to buy-in. It is all about finding a way to appeal to students and discover what would motivate them to increase their participation, to become more involved and make an effort in class through fun and games.

Gamification ensures an overwhelming focus on the positive, just as PBIS aims to do. Positive reinforcements take precedent over punishments and negative reinforcement, helping to maintain a positive classroom environment, to promote positive interactions between students and teachers, and to minimize negative interactions and disciplinary interventions.

The Benefits of a Gamified Classroom

There are many benefits to adopting a gamified classroom. In addition to encouraging and rewarding positive behaviors, class participation and academic performance, here are just some of the ways game thinking can enhance learning:

    • Difficult or traditionally rigid classes like science and math can be taught more easily through gamification.
    • Students can practice team work skills, like learning how to organize themselves, divide the work, and to work together towards a mutual goal.
    • Gamification captures students’ attention, and retains it for longer periods of time.
    • Using fun and exciting positive incentives ensures quick student acceptance and buy-in.

Classroom Gamification Deepens Engagement

A gamified classroom will motivate students to become engaged and work towards completing increasingly challenging tasks. Over time, if approached the right way, this builds intrinsic motivation as students experience the direct results of their own choices and actions. This is an excellent way to ensure student engagement in classes where some students do not show much interest or desire to become involved.

Classroom gamification can be the perfect solution for a lack of student participation, interaction, or interest. By adding game elements and clear rewards to your classroom, students benefit from a little much-needed external motivation that can help them fall in love with learning and build their own motivation for the subject. This not only deepens student engagement in the classroom, but also contributes to a positive environment schoolwide.

To learn more about motivating your students through classroom gamification, contact Team(You) today.


Creating an Effective PBIS Classroom Management Plan

July 15, 2015

A PBIS system of positive behavior reinforcements can help teachers become more effective at classroom management. A PBIS classroom management plan encourages teachers to recognize and reward positive behavior in students, as opposed to punishing them for negative or undesired behavior. These positive reinforcements stimulate students to repeat desired behaviors. But how, specifically, does PBIS impact classroom management and student behavior?

Napa Valley Unified School District has implemented PBIS for over six years. In that time, they have recorded office referrals, suspensions, expulsions, attendance, and more, and found an increasingly positive school climate each year. In fact, their results from the California Healthy Kids Survey—given to all California 5th graders once a year—reveal that “students in NVUSD feel safer, more connected and report having more caring relationships with teachers and staff than most other California students.”

You can see similar results with a PBIS classroom management plan. Here are 4 ways to get started…

Effective Classroom Management

4 Ways a PBIS Classroom Management Plan Increases Positive Behavior

  1. Preventive Discipline

The ultimate goal of a PBIS classroom management plan is to foster intrinsic motivation in students and create a school environment that is positive, safe, and achievement-oriented. Preventive school discipline is an essential part of a student’s overall success, not only because it ensures an increase in positive, desired behavior, but also because it acts as valuable help for an educator in charge of class management. Instead of waiting for a student to act out and then enforcing a punishment,  the school can create a strategy to prevent the behavior from happening in the first place. Possible strategies include a peer mentoring program or allowing the student some break time to calm down. Some strategies even involve parents, so that the positive culture can continue outside of school.

  1. Consistent Positive Culture

A positive school-wide culture is the overall aim of a PBIS classroom management plan. School-wide implementation requires that everyone works together towards the same goal. This means teachers, students, administrators and even parents contribute to the overall improvement of student behavior both within the school environment and outside of it. For a positive culture to be established, the same message must be reinforced everywhere. The same standards of behavior must be applied in the classroom, on the playground, on the bus, and also at home. It is essential that the positive reinforcement is consistent on the part of everyone involved in students’ lives.

The success of a classroom management plan also relies on careful and consistent tracking of students’ behavior through PBIS software. Each and every student is monitored and their progress is documented, recognized, and rewarded on a daily and weekly basis, in order to maintain motivation and encourage consistency in positive behavior.

  1. Token Economy Rewards System

In a PBIS classroom management plan, positive behavior can be reinforced in many ways, including a system of rewards to recognize appropriate behavior and good academic performance. Token economies are often used as a reward system within PBIS to reinforce desired behaviors. Essentially, a token economy is a system in which students are awarded points, tokens, golden stars, or other small rewards when they are acting appropriately or deserving of them. As students accumulate tokens, they can then trade them in for a larger, more significant reward, usually tangible, that the students desire and are willing and motivated to work for over a longer period of time. This system benefits students in many ways: it boosts self-esteem, serves as encouragement, builds internal and external motivation for the achievement of certain goals, and inspires appropriate, expected behavior and superior academic performance.

  1. Positive Reinforcement

Responding to undesired behavior within a PBIS classroom management plan typically does not include reacting negatively towards the student or applying punishment. Negative reinforcement is not an ideal option, because it gives attention to misbehaving students and furthers disruptive behavior. Instead, when dealing with disruptive behavior in the classroom, an educator must remove factors that contribute to or that trigger inappropriate behavior. In addition, teachers must counter problematic behavior with continuous positive reinforcement. Giving attention and recognition to good behavior—and being consistent when it comes to positive reinforcements—encourages students to make positive choices and form good habits.

PBIS Classroom Management Plan

School-Wide PBIS Facilitates Effective Classroom Management

For an educator to be able to successfully implement a PBIS classroom management plan, he/she should be supported by a school-wide PBIS discipline system. One of the core tenets of PBIS as set out by the US Department of Education is prevention, which is achieved through the implementation of clear, public rules. When students have regular exposure to information on behavior expectations, this behavior is already encouraged on a school level, setting the foundation for positive behavior and academic performance.

In a school-wide  system, educators, administrators and even parents are all working together and supporting each other. PBIS is extremely helpful in simplifying classroom management and in allowing educators to teach and stimulate learning. Students also benefit immensely as a PBIS classroom management plan helps alleviate problematic behavior and even eliminates it.

For example, the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) notes in their report to the Texas legislature that in the wake of PBIS implementation, campuses all over the state have reported fewer instances which required school security intervention. According to the report, “student behavior improved overall” and “teachers have found ways to interact with students and decrease inappropriate behavior that do not involve outside force.” In addition, there has been a “reported increase in class attendance in the year PBIS was implemented (2010-2011) compared to the previous ten years.”

Are You Ready to Implement a PBIS Classroom Management Plan?

The implementation of the PBIS system serves as a valuable tool when it comes to class management. It benefits both educators and students, and successfully establishes a strong foundation for positive, appropriate behavior that makes it easier for educators to teach, and for students to learn and do well in their studies. For more information about classroom management using a PBIS approach, contact TeamYou today.


Using a Classroom Token Economy System to Reinforce PBIS

July 10, 2015

PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention and Support) is an approach used within educational environments which works on the principle of encouraging positive behavior through the use of positive reinforcement, as opposed to punishing negative behavior. Focusing on positive reinforcement and de-emphasizing negative punishment stimulates positive, constructive behavior in students. This system is used in schools to encourage learning-friendly changes in behavior, and to improve academic performance in children. An important part of the PBIS system involves rewarding students for their positive efforts. This is often achieved by using a classroom token economy system.

How a Classroom Token Economy System Sustains Three Important PBIS Concepts

Among the most important philosophies within the PBIS approach are prevention, teaching, and reinforcement. A classroom token economy system is effective in sustaining all three of these concepts. Prevention is achieved by clearly posting expectations, so the students are aware of what types of behavior are expected from them. Teaching involves informing students what the desired and expected behavior is and how they can achieve it. Finally, reinforcement takes place through the rewarding of good behavior utilizing tokens and rewards. As long as these three basic principles are respected and supported, the success of the PBIS approach is ensured.

Making Expectations Clear within a Classroom Token Economy System

Students must know what the expectations are, so that they can follow them. A list of those expectations should be posted clearly in the classroom and in other communal places throughout the school, like the cafeteria, the hallways, etc. The students must be taught what they need to do (i.e., what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t) and what will earn them a token or a reward. Only by clearly stating the terms will the system be effective in successfully changing student behavior and motivating them to follow the desired behavior. For the system to work, the foundation must be laid out very clearly and effectively, both in theory and in practice.

Teachers make expectations clear in a classroom token economy system

Using Motivating Material Rewards and Display Boards

Token economies are based on a system of rewards, but the way this type of system can be most effective is if the students are excited and motivated by the rewards they can acquire. Having a relevant reward for the fulfillment of the expected behavior (whether it involves social-emotional aspects or academic achievement) creates motivation for the students, both internal and external. Students will usually begin to experience intrinsic motivation (if they haven’t already), because they will know they have to work towards something they want.

Some students will be more likely to engage in positive behavior or obtain superior academic results if they know their efforts are going to be publicly recognized and put up for all to see. That’s why a reward board or similar public display of students’ results can be effective, serving as a way for everyone to see who the top rewarded students are. Displaying how many stars students have acquired and how many more they need before they receive a bigger reward can instill a sense of pride in those students. Over time, these students will develop internal motivation in order to obtain the exterior reward.

A display board can also create healthy competition among students, which serves to further engage them and motivate them to do better. When every child wants to be the one to earn the most stars and win the big reward, they will all start paying more attention in class and work harder to achieve their goal.

Students Earn Points, Tokens, Gold Stars, etc.

Presenting worthy students with rewards in a fair and consistent manner is an absolute necessity in order for a classroom token economy system to be effective. It is vital for educators to pay attention to student behavior and track it carefully, on a daily basis, with the use of special PBIS software. When a student meets expectations and displays positive behavior, he or she has the opportunity to earn a token, a point, a gold star, or any kind of minor recognition that can add up to a more significant reward later on. Educators must always remain fair, objective, and completely impartial, so that the students gain trust in them and in the reward system.

Students earn recognition in a classroom token economy system

Tokens can be Exchanged for More Significant Rewards in a Classroom Token Economy System  

In a token economy, once a student earns a certain number of points or tokens, he or she can “cash them in” in order to receive a bigger, more important reward — one that is actively desired by students and which can motivate them to work harder. The purpose of this system is to teach students to work towards achieving a long-term goal. Successfully fulfilling short-term goals and receiving immediate, albeit small, gratification is effective, but students must also learn to put in consistent effort towards earning something on a larger scale. This is most easily achieved by setting up a significant prize (such as a class trip or something similar) that can act as an ultimate goal that will motivate students to display positive behavior for the duration of the entire school year.

Increasing Expectations and Changing Rewards

A token economy is often introduced slowly in the classroom environment, so that students have time to get used to working within the system. They could first learn the process, and learn to maintain the expected behavior which sometimes earns them tokens. Then, after some time, expectations should change and become increasingly more challenging. This not only furthers positive behavior, it also serves to motivate the students to continue to improve more and more over time as the student’s skills develop. If the expectations are not high enough, or if the students become accustomed to them, the system stops being interesting or challenging and the students get bored. So the challenges presented to the students, as well as the rewards, must change accordingly so that the system remains just as effective as it was in the beginning.

All in all, a classroom token economy system can be amazingly effective for educators who are introducing, encouraging, and reinforcing positive, constructive behaviors in students. You will want to select rewards that effectively motivate the students, so that they will have ongoing help to maintain their positive behavior. Expectations should be clearly introduced and posted, and the rewards must be given fairly and consistently in order for the system to succeed. For more information about PBIS and a classroom token economy system, contact the educational professionals at TeamYou today.

Tier 1 PBIS Rewards System

July 2, 2015

PBIS (Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support) is an approach used by educators to develop interventions that help students achieve as much success as possible within their school environments — success on an academic, social and emotional basis. This proactive, evidence-based approach focuses on encouraging positive behavior in students through use of a PBIS rewards system and positive reinforcement.

As psychologists have demonstrated in experiments conducted over the past 100+ years, animals and humans alike respond to positive reinforcement. This is particularly true in regard to the behavior of children and how they react to feedback they receive from adults. The PBIS rewards system approach focuses on positive reinforcement and avoids punishing children. Another important facet of the PBIS program involves using rewards to motivate children to behave in a positive manner.

The Three Tiers of the PBIS Rewards System

The PBIS approach involves three tiers:

  • Tier 1 – School-wide prevention practices
  • Tier 2 – Interventions targeted at groups
  • Tier 3 – Intensive interventions for individuals

Tier 1, which we’ll be discussing in this article, involves the following:

  • Educating students about what type of behavior is expected from them, and about standard acceptable routines they should be following within the school environment
  • Acknowledging positive behaviors through some type of reward system
  • Responding to non-acceptable behavior by first defining it, then establishing a system for tracking the behavior

Rewards (physical and emotional) play a crucial role in the PBIS program. In this article, we’ll discuss why, when and how rewards should be used in this first-level tier of the PBIS approach.

Why You Should Use Rewards in Tier 1 PBIS Rewards System

You don’t have to study the numerous experiments conducted by psychologists over the past century to realize that rewards are effective incentives for promoting positive behavior. If an adult in the workforce knows that he’ll receive a bonus if a project is done within a certain timeframe, he/she is usually more motivated to get the job done quickly. The same is true for children within the school environment. As Cumberland PBIS states, “PBIS research teams have conducted a series of reviews and analysis of [the reward] literature; their conclusion is that there is no inherent negative property of reward.” In fact, there are several reasons why rewards should be an important part of the Tier 1 PBIS approach.

Students are more willing to work for something they want

Just as adults are motivated to perform well for desirable rewards, the same holds true for children. It may be hard to convince a 10-year-old student to study for her math test so she can get good grades, go to college, and later find a high-paying job — few 10-year-olds are that forward-thinking. But if she knows that getting a high grade on her math test means a longer recess on Friday afternoon, she may be more likely to put in the extra study time. In many situations, a system based on rewards is an ideal way to motivate many of us to do a better job.

Students are more willing to work with PBIS rewards system in place.

Some students need external motivators

It’s a teacher’s dream come true: a student who wants to learn simply for the joy of gaining knowledge. While there are those students that have intrinsic motivation for learning and/or behaving well, this is not the case with every child, for every subject, in every situation. Many students, in fact, are initially more motivated to work toward improved academic achievement or positive behavior if they know that a reward is waiting for them for a job well done.

Rewards provide visual and tangible indicators of progress, success, behavior, performance, etc.

A reward is a perfect way to recognize the merits of a student who has successfully completed a task. There is no better way to indicate progress or special performance than to offer them something immediate and visible, so the accomplishment feels real. Especially for children, it can be difficult to grasp success, so by providing them with something they can see, use, enjoy, and be proud of (such as a public acknowledgment of their accomplishment in the classroom), you encourage them to continue their good work.

Rewards increase motivation, buy-in, and sustained effort

Consistently recognizing students’ accomplishments improves the chances that they will continue to accomplish more and more. If students know that they are earning rewards they want, it’s easier for them to become internally and externally motivated, and to put in the effort time and time again. This creates a habit of hard work and positive achievements that they are ultimately proud of.

When You Should Use Rewards in Tier 1 PBIS Rewards System

The timing of when you present rewards to students has a great deal of impact on how effective the rewards are within the PBIS rewards system. Immediate recognition is a powerful tool, and offering students a way to control what they do with those rewards is also powerful. Rewards should be provided to students who deserve them and who need the reward.

Rewards and incentives should be a regular part of classroom learning

Students who regularly earn recognition for a job well done become accustomed to working towards a goal. The rewards don’t have to be large — in fact, some of the most effective rewards are simply verbal recognition by the teacher — and even the smallest reward can have a tremendous impact on students’ performance.

Use rewards when students need encouragement and self-esteem

Anyone who works with children regularly understands how fragile their confidence can be, and how easily it can be damaged. That’s why students often have difficulty believing in themselves and in fulfilling their potential. In short, nearly all children need encouragement. A small reward or token can make a world of a difference and provide the much-needed confidence that a student may be missing.

Use rewards when students lack intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation for certain learning areas can be illusive even for adults, and it is similarly so with children. This is particularly true if a student’s task doesn’t hold his or her interest. But a consistent rewards-driven approach can help to build intrinsic motivation in students. While children may initially begin to modify behavior to earn a reward, over time their behavior can change as healthier habits take root. In this way, rewards often do, in fact, build intrinsic motivation in school-age children.

Use a PBIS rewards system for students lacking intrinsic motivation.

Use rewards when you want to increase student outcomes

Rewards can be an effective means of motivating an entire classroom full of children to improve their performance. A collective reward can be given to a class for higher grades, but also for behaviors such as teamwork or creative problem-solving, for example.

How to Use Rewards in Tier 1 PBIS Rewards System

Ask students what rewards they will work for

In order to implement a rewards-based system successfully, you want to make sure that the rewards are motivating enough for the students. The easiest way to do this is to ask the students directly what they will work for. Rewards can range from consumables (candy, gum, etc.) to recognition (certificates of achievement, verbal praises, etc.) to special allowances (longer recesses, sitting closer to the teacher, etc.).

A good way to help your students determine which rewards will work best for them is to apply a forced-choice reinforcement menu, like the one available here. This gives the students several options to choose from over others, in order to ultimately determine what kinds of rewards they prefer.

Identify what behaviors students will earn rewards for, and post these clearly

It’s very important to clearly identify the behaviors that will result in students receiving rewards. Not only is this essential for the children — it also helps the teacher to be able to fairly apply the system to all students. Children should know from the very beginning how to distinguish between behaviors or achievements that might earn them a token, a gold star, or some other reward. They should also understand which behaviors would be considered as average or sub-par. These guidelines could be clearly posted on the classroom wall for everyone to see.

Define a clear PBIS rewards system or token economy system

If you choose to use a token system — one in which children are given a token for certain accomplishments, and those tokens can be later traded for rewards — there can be no ambiguity about eligibility or the number of tokens required in order to qualify for a reward (unless that ambiguity is part of a game mechanic that the students understand). The token economy system can be a very effective way of improving students’ behavioral issues.

Track each student’s progress daily with PBIS rewards system classroom software

One of the basic tenets of the PBIS approach is the fact that it’s evidence-based. In other words, educators need to record and track students’ behavior and progress daily. At the end of every day and/or week, students who have achieved outstanding performance might be awarded accordingly with the kinds of rewards that they themselves established early on.

Deliver rewards faithfully and consistently

Consistency is very important when you employ a rewards-based system. Students must be able to trust you and know for sure that the system will reward deserving people in an equitable way. Recognition must be awarded fairly and promptly, otherwise it is no longer effective in motivating students. If they perceive the system as unfair or faulty, they will not only stop working towards the rewards, but they might develop resentment towards the teacher that they view as being unfair or playing favorites.

Incentive rewards can be highly effective in Tier 1 of a PBIS rewards system, but only if educators are careful about how they apply them in the classroom. There is an appropriate time and place for recognizing students’ accomplishments, either big or small. A rewards-based system has many benefits when it is employed appropriately and in a fair, clear, and consistent way. Used in this manner, it can effectively motivate and encourage students to display positive behavior and achieve academic success, both individually and collectively. For more information about using rewards in Tier 1 PBIS, contact our TeamYou professional educators today.