Reinforcing Behavior and Academics

Token boards are a great way to increase compliance with non-preferred activities in the classroom and at home. They provide students with a visual means of telling when and how they will receive reinforcement. 

What's a Token Board
A token board is a visual system that shows progress toward a reinforcer with tokens earned for completing behavioral and academic tasks. They act as a visual reminder for the student about how close they are to the reinforcer. It helps to keep them more focused and reinforce positive behavior. The token board is an awesome way of decreasing those verbal reminders we constantly repeat to students, of what is expected. Instead of repeatedly stating your expectations,  point to the token board, saying "When you finish 2 more words you may....".

I first started using token board systems to increase positive behavior while in the halls and special activities such as music, lunch, art, and P.E. It worked so well, I soon extended it into the everyday activities of my classroom.
If I had an unusual behavior I wanted to work on with a particular student such as sitting in a chair, I used a token board first. And many times, it was perfect!

 There are many different types of token boards you can use. There is no one correct type. Use what works best for you and your students. I usually use very simple token boards to eliminate artwork that may be distracting. Some students will work harder if the token board contains pictures they like. You may need to experiment to see what is best. You may need a variety of types of token boards to meet the needs of your students because as we all know, no 2 students are alike. One of the greatest things about token boards is they are so modifiable. They can be super simple or more complex to meet the need of the task/behavior and student.  A token board should include the following parts.
  • A reinforcer/reward section - what is the student working for
  • Tokens section - what tokens  have been earned
  • Quantity of tokens needed- how many do they need to earn?
Here are a few of the token board series I frequently used. The cards have different amounts of token spaces on them so I can use them to increase the work/behavior reinforcers as the students become successful.

How to use Token Boards:

  1.  Select a reinforcer the student is interested in. Perhaps you have a student that loves princesses. Then perhaps having a princess on their tokens will be particularly motivating to them. Dinosaurs, pennies, keys, smiley faces, Sponge Bob Square Pants, Thomas the Tank Engine are just a few of the other tokens I have used. 

    I often had a board in the classroom with the token reinforcers that were available. The students could select which one they wanted to use on their token card. Making sure the token reinforcer and end reward is motivating to the student is key to token boards being successful.
  2. Select the behavior or task you want to be completed. It's important to use one that is attainable and broken down to the simplest step. (e.g. If you want the student to complete a math assignment of 4 tasks or problems, but they can't complete 2 make sure to work on completing 1 first then build up to 4 when 2 and 3 tasks have been mastered.
  3. Each time the student successfully completes the requested task/behavior then hand him a token to be placed on the board. (e.g. If you are working on sitting in a chair. 
  4. Keep the board in view for the student to help with attention.
  5. When the student has earned the designated amount of tokens, give them the agreed upon reinforcer.

Teaching Token Boards:
  1. Two options
    A.  Begin with a token board that is almost complete. If using a 5 penny board, for 1 example, pre-load the board with 4 pennies. When the student performs the desired behavior, place another penny on the board and immediately reinforce the student. Always place the penny on the board in view of the student and pair with verbal reinforcement each time.
As the student becomes more familiar with the token board, preload the board with fewer pennies until you reach the student’s current ability level. The ultimate goal is to start with an empty board.

B. Begin with a token board with minimal spaces for token such as 1 or 2. As you progress, you can change the card to other with increasing amounts of token spaces on it.
When introducing the token board, the teacher may manipulate the board and tokens. As student understanding of the token board increases, allow the student to manipulate the board and tokens.

Token boards can be used in a variety of ways and lend themselves easily to many different situations. How do you use them in your teaching?

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