How to Help Students Make Positive Reinforcement

Telling students what they are doing well is one of the most powerful tools we have to help them consolidate and develop their positive behaviors and skills , and teachers are not the only ones who can provide this kind of support. That is, we should also instruct and guide the students themselves so that they learn to positively reinforce each other, which in addition to fostering camaraderie would also increase the good atmosphere and harmony within the classroom.

And one of the ways that students can encourage each other is through the effective use of “compliments” and positive words. As with most skills, giving compliments and positive words to others should be taught and practiced. Compliments can help people feel good about their work and build their achievements , but they should not be ‘rude’ or misapplied compliments, so it would be interesting to discuss with students what they consider a compliment and what not, and which ones are those moments in which they would consider effective to apply it. Of course, it would be about paying compliments and saying positive words to classmates about their abilities or about their effort in class so that they can motivate themselves … never about their physical appearance, etc.




Put this idea into practice by giving a student a compliment, for example: “Dani, you put all the materials away very well and carefully. This will help us a lot the next time we want to use them ”, and then ask the students what they notice or feel when they hear phrases like this. Once this is done, if you think that your students are ready for the development of this exercise , ask a student to act with their own positive words towards a classmate.



How to put positive reinforcement into action in the classroom

Give students a chance to practice positive reinforcement. This can be difficult to do at first, mainly because of shyness , so if you detect too many problems, postpone the exercise for another time or organize a session in which it is about reading a book and later analyzing the positive reinforcements that they could give (or no) to the protagonists of the book according to their actions. It can also be done as a representation in a play, in which students have to represent the characters in a book and, in some way, make that subsequent positive reinforcement between them.

But it is also important to teach students how to accept a compliment . Some students, especially as they get older, may struggle with discomfort or embarrassment when they receive a compliment or positive reinforcement, but this doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate it or don’t need it. Once students know the basic steps for giving and receiving compliments, it’s time to practice. One way to do this is through a compliment circle that students can prepare for throughout the day.

Set the parameters that the compliment or positive reinforcement should focus on. For example, you can specify that compliments should be about how people follow the classroom rules or about being nice to each other . This will help students avoid vague compliments like “you’re cool.” Some students may need more help thinking about a compliment or reinforcement, so feel free to guide them with approaches like the following:


  • Is there anything you’ve seen someone do so far that could be good to congratulate?
  • What could you see of others in the next few days?
  • If necessary, you can write the following sentence to help them structure their compliments: “______, I saw you _____. That helped our class because _____ “.


Once the students are well adjusted to this dynamic, you can add other variants, such as doing the circle of positive reinforcement every morning to relax or at the end of each class , or even apply it to writing. Have the students write a compliment for someone else in the class and leave it on their desk the next day with a sticky note. Everyone will start class with a smile on their lips!


refuerzo positivo


When students develop the ability to give compliments, they can use language to identify and affirm positive social and academic behaviors , just as teachers do with language reinforcement. This will help students actively participate in building a stronger and more caring classroom community.



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