Motivating the Whole School Using Contingencies and Reinforcements

Want to see an example of Dr. Riffel’s humor and ability to teach about behavior? Watch this short video

Getting whole groups to work together for a group reinforcement- or getting groups to compete with each other

Audience:group of students

This presentation is appropriate for any educator or family member Pre-K through 12.


  • A presentation time of 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. works best.
  • A link will be sent for the booklet required for this training. You will need to print a booklet for each participant
  • Dr. Riffel will link the PowerPoint presentation the day of the training for participants.
  • Classroom style setting for participants (they will be writing and participating in group discussions.)
  • If more than 50 participants, Dr. Riffel will need a lavaliere (lapel) microphone and the ability to link to a sound system for video clips that illustrate specific points. (Dr. Riffel cannot hold a microphone for an extended period of time or stand in one place as she demonstrates with actual materials and through audience interaction.)
  • An extra table up front is required for demonstration materials.


  •  Schools and Classrooms should have at least three levels of contingencies and reinforcements built into their management systems.
  • Group Contingencies and Group Reinforcements – Whole Group working together for a common goal:
    1. Examples:
      1.  i.     25 compliments earned for remembering to raise their hand and wait to be called on in class – when earned the class earns a homework-free night.
      2. ii.     Naked Mr. Potato head – when the class is caught working quietly – a student’s name is drawn from a popsicle stick in an orange juice can. This student will add a piece to Mr. Potato Head.  When he is all put together- the class earns a reinforcement- an extra recess.
    2. The idea is to get all the kids to police each other for the behavior you are targeting.
  • Group vs. Group Contingency and Reinforcement
    1. Examples:
      1.  i.     Golden Plunger Award- The classroom that is left the cleanest earns the Golden Plunger Award- The line leader at the elementary level carries the golden plunger everywhere they go and all the other classes must stop and salute the class as they go by.  Secondary classes get a break on their assignment- they only have to do half of an assignment.
      2. ii.     Class with the best manners in Music each week gets to have a trophy in the room for a week for having the best manners.  They get their name read over the intercom as recognition on Friday afternoon.
    2. The idea is to take anything that is a problem in your school and turn the appropriate behavior into a reinforcement that the students in the school compete for in your school
  • Individual Contingency – Group Reinforcement
    1. Example:
      1. i.     Whole group is working nicely- teacher chooses one student to pick a prize for the whole class.  This can be especially helpful for raising self-esteem in students suffering from low self-esteem.
      2. ii.     Draw a secret student and watch them all day- at the end of the day announce that the student had excellent behavior and give a few examples.  At the end of the day if the student had not exhibited exemplar behavior, do not announce that.  Choose another student to announce.
  • Individual Contingency- Individual Reinforcement
    1. This would be like token economy- students working to earn tickets or tokens for their own reinforcements
  • Gotchas- Tickets given to students who are caught exhibiting excellent behavior
    1. Three different copies of this is given:
      1.  i.     One copy goes home to the parents- this way the parents reinforce the behavior
      2.  ii.     One copy goes to the home room teacher to be saved for points to be used in the school store- the school store is filled with things like renting the teacher’s chair for the day, wearing a hat for the day, taking off your shoes in class, taking care of the class pet, etc.
      3. iii.     The third copy goes to the principal’s special box for a drawing – the principal draws from these and the student might win- getting to rent the principal’s chair for a day, sitting with the principal at lunch, getting to play basketball with the principal after school etc.
    2. Contests for student who earned most gotchas
    3. Contests for classrooms that earned the most gotchas
    4. Contests for grade level that earned the most gotchas
    5. Boys vs. Girls

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