Sunday, June 8, 2014

Using Token Boards in the Classroom

Do you use token boards in your classroom? Token boards are a fabulous, easy, and very powerful way to manage student behaviors in any classroom. With a token system, students are given some type of token each time they exhibit the appropriate behavior being targeted and then receive a reward after earning the predetermined number of tokens. 

There are many different types of token boards all over the web, but keep it simple. A token system doesn't need to be anything elaborate and does not need to cause more work for the teacher. I also recommend using small token boards like the ones in my bundle shown above. If they are small, they can remain on the student's desk. This provides a constant reminder for the student as well as keeps it from getting lost or misplaced around the room. When you get in to using larger or more bulky token boards, they can really become a nuisance. A strip of Velcro can be added on the back to store tokens not yet earned.  

There are only 3 basic things you will need to begin using a token system in your classroom. 

(1) Small countable objects. 
This can be anything from stickers, pennies, or the tokens provided in my "Token Board Bundle." The possibilities are endless, but I find that my students get excited when their tokens are fun and something that they love such as Barbie or SpongeBob. These seem to be more meaningful for them!

(2) A powerful reinforcer that is meaningful for the child. 
What does the child really like? What are they interested in? If the child is capable, let them tell you what they'd like to earn. In my classroom, students are working for things like computer, ipad, M&M's, treasure box, recess, etc. For children that cannot tell you what they love....observe them. Find what they seem to go for first during play time or what snack they seem to be the most excited about. You know your students best! Again, the possibilities are endless. I once had a student that was obsessed with drawing ceiling fans. So I used that as his reinforcer. He was only allowed to draw ceiling fans after he earned all of his tokens. Once you find that powerful reinforcer, put it away and only allow the student access to it when they have earned all of their tokens. By only allowing them access to their reinforcer contingent upon the token system, you show the power of the token system, keep their interest in the reinforcer item, and increase compliance.  

And last.....

(3) A clearly defined behavior. 
Decide what the behavior is that you want to shape. Don't try to shape too many behaviors at once. Choose one behavior! You may have a student that blurts out, doesn't stay in his seat, and also throws things. Choose one behavior at a time to target and define what the appropriate behavior will look like.

For example, if the behavior you are shaping is sitting calmly....what does sitting calmly look like? Your definition might be different than mine. Is it feet on the floor and body straight? Is it feet on the floor and hands in lap? Clearly define the desired behavior and model it for your student. This may look different for each student and may need to be broken down and taught in small steps. For example, when previously teaching calm sitting to one of my Autistic students we began with only calm hands on the table. It didn't matter at that point what the legs, feet, and body were doing as long as her hands were calm and flat on the table. Once that was mastered, we then added the expectation of feet, then body, and lastly calm sitting was defined as hands on table, feet on floor, body straight, head straight forward and eyes looking at the speaker. See how we shaped the behavior step-by-step by adding and clearly defining a new expectation as each step was mastered?

When you first begin using the token system with your student, start small. Let the student see how powerful it is by providing their reinforcement after just 1-2 tokens and then gradually increase the number of tokens needed. Be sure to provide their reinforcement immediately!!! This is important so they understand the relationship between the two.....tokens equal reward.  

So why the tokens rather than providing a reinforcer each time they exhibit the desired behavior?? Token systems allow teachers to provide a less obtrusive form of reinforcement and also delay access to the more powerful reinforcer. Here's an example of what I mean by that. Let's say a student is working on calm hands on the table and she has chosen 10 minutes of recess as her reward. Everytime you look her way she exhibits calm hands. Without the token system you may be sending her out for recess every 10-15 minutes. With the token system and by setting a predetermined number of tokens to be earned you can control and even prolong that "large" reinforcer award to make it manageable. The child is still getting positive feedback each time they demonstrate the appropriate behavior through the token and your verbal praise. 

Token systems effectively decrease behaviors because essentially the child is getting a pay-off for good behavior and then gets to cash in their pay-offs for a reward. Would you stay after school every day for after-school tutoring if you weren't getting a pay off? Even as adults we are always looking for the pay-off whether it be in the form of cash or in the form of compliment from our principal on a job well done.   

The biggest advice I have is be consistent. Clearly define what the expected behavior looks like and frequently catch the child complying. Especially in the beginning you will need to present the tokens very frequently. Here's what I mean by that. I have a student that uses a token board to teach him to stay in his seat. He was not able to stay put in his seat for more than 2 minutes. To begin, the student only had to earn two tokens. One token was given each time the student stayed in his seat for one minute. A timer is used for this. So each time the timer goes off, he earns a token. If he gets up before the timer goes off it is reset. I gradually up'd his predetermined amount of tokens and gradually increased the number of minutes set on the timer. Now he is up to earning a token for every 5 minutes and is staying in his seat for 25 minutes at a time. 

Here is a sample of the most common style token board I use in my classroom. It is also the style that is included in my bundle. I like this template as it is small and simple.  

Here is an example of two different token boards that I use with one of my non-verbal students that is not able to tell me what she wants. These are also set up for 5 tokens. The other blank squares are for adding more reinforcement choices as we identify them through our observations. Since this child carries her token board around to other stations, I placed a strip of Velcro on the back of the board to store the tokens she has not earned yet. 

Token boards are so effective in my classroom that I also use a group token system in my classroom. Since I'm out for summer break I can't get a real picture of this, but this is what it looks like. Mine has a student photo for each child, but you could also use only names. I also have two taped together to accommodate my 13 students. Only 4 students in my room are on an individual token system, but everyone in my class is a part of the group token system. I award students tokens on the group token board for many reasons, but some things include coming right in and following directions, lining up perfectly, showing a kind gesture to a classmate, remembering to bring a paper back, and so on. 

This is what it looks like as tokens are earned. For the group board I use all of the same design on my tokens and keep a container full of them by the token board. This token board hangs on the wall in my classroom. 

If you want to get started using token boards in your classroom, my bundle may be a great place to start. You can check it out {here}. The token boards in the bundle are also available individually if you have just one student in mind. They are not listed in my store, so you'd need to let me know. I'm also happy to custom make token boards.    

Token boards may seem too simple to be effective! Truth is....they are simple and they are effective. Just remember....define the (one) behavior, have powerful reinforcers available, and be consistent. 

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