Explanation of Group Rewards

Posted on July 6, 2007. Filed under: Attention/ADD/ADHD, Emotional/Behavioral Disorders, Uncategorized |

I answered a question on Yahoo! Answers about positive reinforcement in a kindergarten classroom. Training behavior at home can be a little easier in some ways at home, but in other ways more difficult. We do know that children in whatever setting respond most to praise and encouragement, then to positive reinforcement, and punishment in whatever form (time-outs or spanking) are best served when they are in direct relation to willful disobedience and administered in a pre-determined method rather than during the heat of emotion—especially anger.

I will try to update my post regarding using rewards at a later time; however, this post is regarding the use of group rewards either as a whole family or as a classroom with students. My original statement about group rewards was that group incentives are typically not very effective with kindergarten children for 2 main reasons: 1) they don’t understand why they are left out when others get the reward, and 2) they typically don’t have the logic and planning skills necessary to pull their weight in achieving a group oriented goal.

Children at ages 4 to 6 are still quite ego-centric and are just learning to be cooperative in their play. To expect them to work cooperatively to achieve a larger group task is beyond where most  4 to 6 year-olds are in their social development.

Now the explanation of group rewards and how best to utilize this method at the kindergarten level:

Group rewards are when you do something like a popcorn party for the whole class on Friday. But in order to be in the popcorn party, everyone needs to contribute by having a marble put in the jar/so many tickets that have been handed out during the week/so many stars on the incentive chart, etc.  for whatever the expectation was, such as turning in work on time/writing your name on your paper/raising your hand and waiting to be called on, etc. Then if someone doesn’t contribute to the “plan,” either the whole group loses the group reward or that person(s) is banned from participating.

Book-It from Pizza Hut does a great job of the individualized rewards, but when they first came out with the Book-It program in the 1980s, there was an end of the 6 months group reward, so that all the students who had reached their reading goals for all 6 months would go as a class to Pizza Hut for a group pizza party. There were always 1 or 2 kids out of a class that didn’t make it and had to stay back at school. NOT a great motivator to read more for those kids who already lacked motivation to read independently!! Pizza Hut has removed that component–perhaps for the motivation factor or perhaps for the cost factor, but either way, it’s good that it’s gone.

In a kindergarten setting, group rewards are best as spontaneous, unannounced ahead of time, and include everyone. An example may be–if you want to reward good clean-up time at each transition, watch for a few days to see if everyone is participating. Don’t announce it as an incentive or “payment” plan, but on the day of the reward, say something like: “Class, I just happened to notice that EVERYONE did such a super job on clean up this week!! Everything in the stations were put where they belong and you did it so quickly!! Because I’m so proud of ALL of YOU, I’ve decided that before you go home today (last 1/2 hour/45 min./hour), we will all…(state the reward). extra recess, extra computer lab time, popsicles, nature walk in the neighborhood, extra music time with favorites only, visit from the principal, etc. I have found that whenever the reward is time spent with you, parents, or someone else important, or if the reward is strange and goofy, kids tend to remember and treasure the meaning of the reward as well. Like the girl with the olives–weird reward, but her favorite.:o)

One other comment about any type of reward, including group rewards. Food is a powerful motivator, but it is also one that is difficult to draw away from using and replace it with a different plan. Using food as a reward also can sabotage the teaching of healthy eating habits, including snacks. It also becomes similar to Skinner’s Operant Conditioning and reduces a resourceful child with cognitive skills to the level of an animal in obedience training. We want our children to obey knowing that we are keeping them safe, healthy, and happy—not just because we give commands and want them to blindly respond for a reward. Whenever possible, avoid food rewards such as candy, pop, junk foods, etc. If using food for a reward, tie it to an event that includes interaction—the event with the family or class then becomes the reward and food is included in the event.

Just remember that you only need to reward for the things that you are trying to train. Enjoy your students–they know if you enjoy being with them–and by nature, most kindergartners want to please YOU. Therefore, time spent with YOU is the most powerful reward.

For those of us who are training our children from a Christian world-view, we want our children to be aware of the hierarchy of authority and to love God because He first loved us. There are so many examples of rewards, punishments, and substitutionary atonement in the Bible. What a great manual for behavior training and how God deals with all of us—which is mainly individual, and not usually group oriented. 

So, in conclusion, group rewards can be very good for bonding, encouraging working together cooperatively as a group, and be a fun way to celebrate accomplishing goals. However, groups rewards should not be used often and need to be planned carefully in order for the children who need the most encouragement to be protected from harmful emotional experiences.

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Task Lists for Work Habit Training

Posted on April 11, 2006. Filed under: Attention/ADD/ADHD |

One of the best ways to increase accountability and work production is to make a list of assignments or tasks for the day. The following are some way to vary list-making to keep it novel and fun:

* One homeschooling mom makes a list of 6-10 assignments/tasks on a piece of notebook paper each day for her children. As they complete each task, the item is circled. The mom keeps all assignment sheets for record keeping.

* Put assignments/chores/subject headings on small pieces of paper (2″x3″ works fine or discarded business cards are good). Have the child set the order by placing the cards in a row on a table or cabinet. As each task is completed, the cards can be thrown away or put into a box for another day.

* Those same type of assignment cards can be placed in a jar, ice cream bucket, or box. Shake it up and have the child draw out a task card. Whatever comes out is what gets done next. The mystery helps build enthusiasm and makes doing assignments more exciting.

* Purchase or design a student planner or day timer for upper elementary through high school students. Have them write their assignments in the notebook, along with extracurricular activities and appointments. These also help students plan ahead for long-term projects.

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Dealing with Impulsivity

Posted on April 11, 2006. Filed under: Attention/ADD/ADHD |

There are several occasions when children are impulsive and the impulsive behaviors should be dealt with according to the situation.

For students who plunge into an assignment before receiving instructions or without reading directions, the following ideas may be helpful:

*  Before giving instructions for a project or handing a paper assignment, prepare the student to listen carefully and to repeat back what is supposed to be done.  Then give the OK to begin.

*  Have the student maintain a record (chart, graph, or checklist) of reading directions prior to starting an assignment.

*  Give directions in a variety of ways, paraphrasing as necessary to be sure the student understands the directions.

*  Rewrite directions at a lower level or deliver verbal directions step-by-step in a more basic way.

*  Set up a cuing system to signal when to begin a task.  Cue at the end of work time also.

*  Provide student with a schedule or list of tasks to be done.

*  Tell the student(s) that directions will be given only once.  It may be helpful to start by giving the direction and repeating once, then working toward once-only directions.

*  Deliver instructions before providing materials.

For other ideas on impulsivity and attention, you may want to check out the ADD Intervention Manual in the special needs section of the catalog.  This is an extremely easy-to-use, recipe list formatted teacher resource that every classroom teacher and homeschool parent of a child with attentional issues should have!! 

Also, check back to this idea section for more tips.  They change often, and more gets added every day!

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Structure Work Time

Posted on April 11, 2006. Filed under: Attention/ADD/ADHD |

Some students have a difficult time sustaining attention or working for a long period of time.  Having students work in 15-30 minute increments, with a 5-10 minute break or at least a transition to a different subject can help students even out work performance and know that the end of work time is within reach.

I know some homeschoolers who set school hours between 9 a.m. and noon, working diligently without a break, and then school is done for the day.  For some students with attentional issues, this may be an excellent approach, allowing highly structured academic time with more free unstructured independent time.

Some students, however, require more structure throughout all areas of life in order to keep them from being destructive or getting in trouble.  Providing very short paper work sessions and extended hands-on projects, with freedom of movement rather than sitting at a table or desk can make learning more enjoyable and productive.  Scheduling chores, play time, television time, extracurricular lessons, and monitoring friendship relationships may also be necessary–even into high school years in order to help students with more severe attentional and behavior regulation issues.  Continued training in character traits and social skills can be helpful.  I often hear parents lament that they feel their family life must be extremely structured in order to maintain a peaceful lifestyle.  If you are reading this, and this sounds like your family and child, be encouraged that many parents have gone before you and have wonderful, responsible adult children.  If this is not the situation in your family, please take just a moment to pray for others who may be faced with these issues that their children will respond to their training efforts and that they will feel encouraged as loving parents on the tough days. 

Because each student has a unique set of attentional variables, designing a plan for school work, chores and family responsibilities, and personal choices for free time can be a challenge to balance and maintain.  For more ideas on providing structure, the ADHD Intervention Manual has MANY ideas and is one of the easiest to use resources.  If you would like feedback or someone to brainstorm with regarding your own individual situation, call 1-406-771-0069 or e-mail to schedule a consultation appointment with Sue Hegg.

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ADHD Criteria

Posted on April 11, 2006. Filed under: Attention/ADD/ADHD |

The following are the diagnostic criteria for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder form the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV Manual) used by psychologists, psychiatrists, and medical professionals.  Many children have attentional concerns without the label of ADHD, some of whom benefit from a variety of intervention therapies, such as food allergy monitoring, exercise, altered teaching techniques or school placement.

INNATTENTION–6 or more present for at least 6 months:

* fails to pay attention to details or makes careless mistakes

* has difficulty sustaining attention

* doesn't seem to listen when spoken to directly

* doesn't follow through on instructions or fails to finish school work

* has difficulty organizing tasks

* avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks requiring mental effort

* loses necessary things

* easily distracted by external stimuli

* forgetful in daily activities

HYPERACTIVITY/IMPULSIVITY–6 or more present often for at least 6 months:

* fidgets with hands or feet/squirms in seat

* leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected

* Runs about or climbs excessively

* has difficulty playing quietly

* acts as if "driven by a motor"

* talks excessively

* blurts out answsers before question is completed

* has difficulty awaiting turn

* interrupts or intrudes

In order for a diagnosis label, the following must be satisfied:

–Some symptoms present before age 7 years.

–Some impairment from symptoms in 2 or more settings

–Clear evidence of clinically significant impairment in social, academic, or occupational functioning.

–Symptoms are not better accounted for by another mental disorder.

Many children have some of the symptoms of ADHD, but do not fit the actual diagnosis criteria.  Those children do not need to be without help!  Many teacher/parent resources are available from the A.D.D. Warehouse.  Regardless of whether a child has a label or not, resources for ADD can be helpful for students who present only a few of the symptoms.  One of Sue's most recommended resources is the ADD Intervention Manual listed in our catalog under Special Education.  Also, look in the Links area of the menu for other sites dealing specifically with ADD/ADHD.

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Use a Kitchen Timer

Posted on April 11, 2006. Filed under: Attention/ADD/ADHD |

Students get more work done when they use their time wisely, stay on-task, and get their work done.  While some students do not sustain attention on reading, writing, and worksheet tasks, it is inevitable that most students will face assignments that require attention and work production.

There are 2 ways to use a kitchen timer to increase on-task work time:

The first is to set the timer for 10-20 minutes and require the student to get all work given in that amount of time.  For some students this sets parameters for the length of seated work time and is very motivating to know that at the end of that time, they will be free to get up and do more "interesting" tasks.  For other students, this approach fails utterly and consequences for unfinished work, and reward systems to urge the child to comply are often the next step.  For these students, it's best not to use this approach at all.

The second way to use a kitchen timer has been more successful with most of my students and can be used to train the students to self-monitor their work habits.  I have used both pre-designed marking charts, as well as scratch paper with tallies.  Set the kitchen timer for 1-2 minutes at first, varying the length of time.  When the timer dings, make a mark if the student was on-task at that very moment or some symbol if not.  I often use a tally and dash or a + sign or 0.  Gradually lengthen the time between 1 and 10 minutes, always varying the intervals (some short, some long).

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