The board game is a map or path to treasure. There are many treasure chests along the path and you get the treasure when you reach each chest. As the teacher or parent, you organize the reward schedule so that your child can advance between one and three stones along the path each day. A very good day will give him enough tokens to advance three stones and on a mediocre day he will only have acquired enough tokens to advance one stone. It is only on bad days that he advances no stones at all; but he keeps whatever tokens he did earn on that bad day and adds them to the next day’s tokens. This gives him a bit of a “head start” on the day following a “bad day” and keeps him motivated. Remember that this is all about helping your child stay motivated and rewarding the behaviour that you want him to do more of.
This is a simple application of Behavioural Psychology. It was begun by John Watson as early as 1913 and developed further by Clark Hull and Burrhus F Skinner around 1940. Behaviourism has therefore had a long time to be tested and developed into a well-studied and understood approach to shaping behaviour. The most important fundamental of Behaviourism is that behaviour increases in frequency when it is rewarded.
Punishment is often used by people as a means to reduce unwanted behaviour. And to a certain extent it does lower frequency; but, as our full jails can show, it is far from efficient in curtailing unwanted behaviour and does not result in good behaviour. As teachers and parents, we want to get our children to behave in good, positive ways. We don’t want to purely get them to avoid bad ways. We therefore need to choose our own management strategy to encourage and increase our child’s good behaviour. Let’s reward good behaviour. And let’s make it fun to be good.
Draw up a list of key behaviours you want your child to do each day.
Here are some examples for home:
· Get dressed without wasting time
· Come to breakfast as soon as called
· Brush teeth
· Show homework book to parent
· Sit down to start homework without being nagged
· Complete the day’s homework (give this two stars to make it extra rewarding because it takes extra effort).
· Pack all the necessary books for the next day into the school bag (show the parent which books he packed) – this needs extra attention and effort from you, the parent; but it is part of training your child in how to be organised and systematic. That is very important for learning and life in general. So it’s worth your time and effort.
· Go to be on the first time he is asked.
Examples for school:
· Neat work produced during the lesson
· Staying on task and listening to instructions during the lesson.
You will notice that for the school examples, I say: “during the lesson”. That is because each lesson must provide the opportunity to earn tokens. Teachers who only give on star for the whole day set themselves up to be let down as the children are likely to give up as soon as they see how much effort is needed to get a token and how easily the opportunity is lost. This might seem impossible in a large class; but there is a way to simplify it. Try this idea I explain below:
On each child’s desk have a copy of a “timetable”. This is simply the days of the week, divided into hours. Like this:
Now all you have to do is, as you walk around teaching, checking and talking to the children, you put a star in the relevant box for the day, time and if he is on task and his work is neat. Lunch break and recess can either be excluded or stars can be given for polite behaviour and packing away before recess. Let three stars advance him one stone on his board game.
Setting the Rewards:
You know what things your child enjoys and finds rewarding. You probably give him many of these very often without their being part of a reward system. Now let him earn them as a reward each time he lands on a treasure chest. You will see that the chests have different coloured jewels in them and there is a key under the map to show which colour earns which reward. This is so that you can use the same reward more often and your child knows what he is aiming for. Keep the best reward for the last treasure; this is the crown. As with all games, keep it fun, praise him and be excited with him when he reaches a treasure chest. You could make it even more exciting by covering the colours of the jewels with a sticker; your child is only allowed to remove the sticker and see what colour jewel (and hence which prize) he has reached.
Make yours and your child’s lives fun while you help him develop the necessary behaviours to make a success of his life. That’s your greatest treasure!
Click here to find out about a program to teach your child to read using fun and games.