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March 14, 2014 Incentives That Cultivate Positive Behavior By Rhonda Stewart
Grades 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    My school district has an incentive program for students in kindergarten through eighth grade called “Positive Behavior Support” (PBS). The focus of the program is to diminish negative behaviors by spotlighting and rewarding positive ones. All areas of the school environment and community are included in PBS.

    It begins with the journey to school on the bus and continues throughout the day — from the hallway where the students arrive at school, into the classroom where instruction takes place, and during all the various classes, as well as lunch and dismissal. The goal at all times and in all places is to start and end the day on a positive note.

    The building I teach in is comprised of fifth and sixth grades. Each grade is broken up into four teams: A, B, C, and D. Each team includes teachers from all content areas except for specials or preps (music, art, gym, world language, etc.). Each team is responsible for developing an incentive plan to support the school-wide initiative. There is also a committee that creates a school-wide calendar of incentive days and activities that the students can participate in.


    PBS in a Nutshell

    PBS is very simple. You reward positive behavior. If a staff member observes a desired behavior from a student, the student receives a PBS ticket. It is very similar to “Caught Doing Good.” The students collect tickets for special events and privileges (incentives) that have a determined value (number of tickets) and then are able to shop at our school store using their tickets.

    In the past, we have had school-wide incentives such as eat lunch with a buddy, eat lunch or breakfast with an administrator, and even grade-level relay races and obstacle courses. This year, the decision was made to concentrate more on team-centered activities as a means for students to have more opportunities to participate. The rationale is that a higher level of student participation equals more students who would be motivated to stay on a positive path.


    Pearls of Wisdom Be consistent when handing out tickets. Seize the moment to reinforce positive behavior. Be sure to make your tickets unique to avoid any possibility of counterfeiting.

    Team A

    I am on Grade Six Team A. My Team A colleagues very graciously posed for this blog post. (I may be biased, but they are a great group of people to work with! Thanks guys for being so AWESOME! Shout out to TEAM A!) During our team meetings, we decide on the incentive activities. It is a very straightforward process. We try to rotate the activities for variety as well as student needs.

    Students learn in advance that an incentive is coming and how many tickets are needed to participate. They are allowed to sign up during homeroom period after checking out the Team A incentive poster that is displayed in our hallway. Take a peek at some of our previous incentive level ideas:

    Top Tier Highest number of tickets required to participate at this level



    Middle Tier Mid-level number of tickets required to participate at this level


    As you can tell, we have made adjustments to the tiers. This is definitely a learning process. After each time we hold an incentive, we debrief, looking for ways to improve.

    Free Tier No tickets required


    You would be surprised to know that there are some students who prefer the Free Tier level. It allows for participation without spending any tickets. Some students even prefer "Quiet Study" to get a head start on their homework!

    These are posters from our previous incentive days. We are currently planning for our next incentive in April. Hopefully we are done with snow days and will be able to host some of these events outside. Do you have any incentives that work for your school? Please share — ideas are welcome!


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Susan Cheyney