Teacher Tip: Using Positive Reinforcements in the Classroom

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Students hear a lot of negatives during the school day: “No, don’t do that,” “No eating in class,” or “No sleeping.” Students, especially teenagers, are sensitive individuals who do not want to be singled out in the classroom. Teenagers think they are grown; they resent being reprimanded; they want the freedom that adults enjoy. Keep this in mind when administering discipline in the classroom. Teachers who handle teenage misbehavior subtly and positively experience fewer problems.

The goal with positive reinforcement involves motivating students to behave properly because they want to, not because you’re standing over them with a sledge hammer.

Use Humor

Issue students a verbal warning, but do so in a complimentary fashion. For example, if a student insists on propping his/her leg up on the chair in front of him/her, simply approach the student and say, “[Student’s name,] if you can show me where that chair says Lazy Boy, then you are more than welcome to keep your leg there.” Generally, most students are going to understand the message and remove their leg. In addition, the student is likely to chuckle as it is a humorous statement. If you can make students laugh and keep the student on your side, your job as a teacher is that much easier.

Another common problem many teachers experience is a student who wants to prop his head up on his arm and take a little nap during instruction. Again, approach the student and say, “[Student’s name,] I want to see those beautiful blue/green/brown eyes.” Most times, the student will open his eyes and pay attention. Not only did you gain the student’s attention, but you were likely greeted with a wide, beaming smile, having made the student feel good about his/her appearance.

Positive reinforcements motivate and facilitate better relationships between teachers and students.