Positive Reinforcement

positive reinforcement to get your students engaged

Positive Reinforcement has reinvigorated a young learner class that was seriously beginning to act up

To give some context, I am 16 weeks into a 20 week semester in a Thai school. The class is a mixed gender class but about two thirds boys made up of about twenty students. They are fairly well balanced in respect to their English but there is a little variation.

After about four weeks I introduced a whole class life system. Giving the class four lives to start the class and as they misbehaved more and more they lost their lives. As a punishment they got an extra spelling test or had to practice their spelling test at the beginning of the next class. This has worked up until last week. They had had to be punished once or twice, and for a while they seemed to respond to the threat.

This began to fail for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was often the same students that misbehaved and thus often the same students who caused the class to be punished. This in turn was making me focus on the bad aspects of the student’s behaviour and rarely highlighting the positive behavior.

So this week I have initiated some positive reinforcement into the classroom. So far it has worked. I have written about gamification in the classroom before. But it definitely has paid dividends today. The students are motivated. They are responding positively to the positive points. I have to confess to removing some of the points for bad behaviour. In the future I am going to try not to do this. I want to focus only on the positive reinforcement. At our school we are participating in the reading challenge 2015. A UK schools initiative to get more children engaging with books. As a result, we have got a lot of stickers and pictures which are providing an ideal carrot to wave at the students too.

The problem I see is in motivating the students that don’t seem to respond to the points system. I hope that over time they begin to see the benefits of getting on with the task at hand. But for now I am better focusing on positive reinforcement than the negative.

Dan has been teaching English overseas for more than six years. He specialises in teaching young learners and has experience in teaching in the UK, South Korea and Thailand.