Instead of going head-to-head with your kindergarten students in a behavior power struggle, take a gentler approach to encouraging them to make good choices. Rewarding positive behavior is one of the best ways of reinforcing that behavior while discouraging negative behaviors. There are several approaches you can take to let those children know that you noticed and appreciated their choices.
Not all rewards have to be a physical object. Praise, kind words, pats on the back and high-fives are all great non-physical rewards. When you offer this kind of positive reinforcement, the kindergartener student will be more likely to repeat the behavior that lead to this positive parental feedback. Just make sure you are genuine and praise the behavior, not just the child. For example, “I like that you helped clean up the toys. What a super helper you are today” works better to reinforce the behavior than “Good girl.” If you use the latter, it could make the child feel like she is only a good girl when she does that behavior and a bad girl if she doesn’t. Well-executed verbal rewards also help boost the child’s self-esteem and confidence.
You can create different charts as a way of rewarding and tracking a kindergartener’s progress. For one, never underestimate the power of the sticker. Create a sticker chart for your kindergartener class, define the behaviors that will earn a sticker and hang it in a convenient place that they can reach. At the end of the day, reward each student with a sticker if she earned it and let her place it on the sticker chart. After she has earned a certain amount of stickers, say five stickers, you could reward her with a special prize or treat. You could also make a color-coded behavior chart. Start each day with the children on green. If a student stays on green all day, reward her with a smiley stamp on the hand. If she starts misbehaving, give her three warnings and then change her color to yellow. If she improves her behavior, you can choose to switch her back to green. However, if she keeps misbehaving, she can get her changed to a red card. If the day ends on a red or yellow card, you could send a note to the parent telling that the student had a bad day and that maybe they would like to talk about it.
A small treasure box full of little trinkets can be quite motivating for your class of little ones. Collect a bunch of toy cars, army men, yo-yos, stickers or plastic rings from the dollar store and place them in the treasure box. If a child has had a great day, or week, or is in need of a special reward, let her choose something from the box. To make the box extra special, decorate the outside of it with markers, glitter glue or stickers.
You could tie in a lesson about earning and saving money while you offer the class some rewards. Create some paper money with pictures and dollar amounts on them. Make copies and cut them out. If a student has had a positive behavior day or has been caught showing extra-special behaviors, like helping a child up that fell down, reward her with a behavior buck for each day or event. Have a list of prizes that she can save up for, such as one behavior buck for a licorice, three bucks for small jar of bubbles, five bucks for a box of crayons or when everyone in the class gets ten in a row, throw them a pizza party. Once a student has decided on the prize and earned the correct amount, collect the money and hand over her hard-earned prize.
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