Now before we go busting out data sheets and getting into the specifics of how to teach a new skill, there is something we must do first – identify reinforcers. This step is critical. If you forget it, you may have a hard time teaching that new skill.
Reinforcement is something that will increase future behaviors. We need to ensure that behaviors we want to see more of are consistently followed with reinforcement. New skills that we teach are behaviors we want to see more of. Just like you aren’t willing to go to work for free, our kids aren’t willing to work for free. And we can’t blame them for that. Their hard work needs to be paid in reinforcement. Reinforcement can be in the form of teacher praise, grades, tokens, candy, treats, etc. Every child is a little different.
Whether we are using Discrete Trial Training, Incidental Teaching, or Fluency Instruction, the reinforcer needs to be there in the end. So firsts things first – identify reinforcers for each student. I like to post them all on a white board so my staff and I can all keep it straight. Utilize a preference assessment, work on pairing yourself as a reinforcer, use tokens, and really take the time to figure out what is a reinforcer for each student.
Once you identify those reinforcers, USE THEM. Every time the child gets a correct answer, engages in a correct response, or displays a new skill – it’s a fiesta in your classroom. The goal is to create the connection: I do this behavior -> something awesome happens. That something awesome is reinforcement!
Praise works as a reinforcer for many children – but not for all! For some children praise is not reinforcing. Do we just accept that and move on? Nope! Praise is important to develop into a type of reinforcement because praise is a naturally occurring reinforcer! It occurs in the real world. So for our kids that praise is not a reinforcer – we need to work on conditioning praise. We can do this be constantly pairing praise with things that are a reinforcer. Every time you give a piece of candy, iPad, or a token – pair it with praise! Eventually you will be able to fade out the item and use only praise!
Want to learn even more about reinforcement?
Check out my FIRST ever training video on TpT. In this training video, learn why reinforcement works, the common misconceptions related to reinforcement, and how to increase positive behaviors with students in your classroom. I am really proud of who this video turned out!
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