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Incentives That Cultivate Positive Behavior

By Rhonda Stewart on March 13, 2014
  • Grades: 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

My school district has an incentive program for students in kindergarten through eighth grade called “Positive Behavior Support” (PBS). The focus of the program is to diminish negative behaviors by spotlighting and rewarding positive ones. All areas of the school environment and community are included in PBS.

It begins with the journey to school on the bus and continues throughout the day — from the hallway where the students arrive at school, into the classroom where instruction takes place, and during all the various classes, as well as lunch and dismissal. The goal at all times and in all places is to start and end the day on a positive note.

The building I teach in is comprised of fifth and sixth grades. Each grade is broken up into four teams: A, B, C, and D. Each team includes teachers from all content areas except for specials or preps (music, art, gym, world language, etc.). Each team is responsible for developing an incentive plan to support the school-wide initiative. There is also a committee that creates a school-wide calendar of incentive days and activities that the students can participate in.


PBS in a Nutshell

PBS is very simple. You reward positive behavior. If a staff member observes a desired behavior from a student, the student receives a PBS ticket. It is very similar to “Caught Doing Good.” The students collect tickets for special events and privileges (incentives) that have a determined value (number of tickets) and then are able to shop at our school store using their tickets.

In the past, we have had school-wide incentives such as eat lunch with a buddy, eat lunch or breakfast with an administrator, and even grade-level relay races and obstacle courses. This year, the decision was made to concentrate more on team-centered activities as a means for students to have more opportunities to participate. The rationale is that a higher level of student participation equals more students who would be motivated to stay on a positive path.


Pearls of Wisdom Be consistent when handing out tickets. Seize the moment to reinforce positive behavior. Be sure to make your tickets unique to avoid any possibility of counterfeiting.

Team A

I am on Grade Six Team A. My Team A colleagues very graciously posed for this blog post. (I may be biased, but they are a great group of people to work with! Thanks guys for being so AWESOME! Shout out to TEAM A!) During our team meetings, we decide on the incentive activities. It is a very straightforward process. We try to rotate the activities for variety as well as student needs.

Students learn in advance that an incentive is coming and how many tickets are needed to participate. They are allowed to sign up during homeroom period after checking out the Team A incentive poster that is displayed in our hallway. Take a peek at some of our previous incentive level ideas:

Top Tier Highest number of tickets required to participate at this level



Middle Tier Mid-level number of tickets required to participate at this level


As you can tell, we have made adjustments to the tiers. This is definitely a learning process. After each time we hold an incentive, we debrief, looking for ways to improve.

Free Tier No tickets required


You would be surprised to know that there are some students who prefer the Free Tier level. It allows for participation without spending any tickets. Some students even prefer "Quiet Study" to get a head start on their homework!

These are posters from our previous incentive days. We are currently planning for our next incentive in April. Hopefully we are done with snow days and will be able to host some of these events outside. Do you have any incentives that work for your school? Please share — ideas are welcome!

Comments (10)

Do you have specific behavior to get the incentive ? How do you categorize thr incentive please let me know i can apply this in my schoool thanks a lot

Great work Rhonda! I love your ideas. Keep making a difference….because it matters.

Your Friend,

I really love this system Mrs. Stewart!! We were actually just talking about this in my classroom management class. I hope that when I start teaching that a system like this or similar to this is being used already or even in the process of being used. Please keep being an inspiration to your teaching peers and future teachers.

I am so proud of you. You were a terrific student in my second grade class and I know that you will be an awesome teacher. If there is anything that I can help you with, please let me know!

Love the picture of the whole team!!

Thanks - it was well received by my teammates:)

Do students who have zero tickets participate in a choice also, or is the free tier for students who don't wish to currently redeem tickets. We are experimenting with a similar idea, and have a study room for students who have not met the work/behavior criteria for the week. We've only been doing this for two weeks and aren't sure if this is the best solution.

Those who have zero tickets are allowed to choose from the Free Tier and there are some who prefer to hold on to their tickets for a greater reward. It's optional, you can spend the tickets if you decide to. The rationale is for everyone to be able to participate. The more desired activities cost more. You might want to try team building activities for those students who seem to have difficulty collecting tickets. Try this website for some ideas http://www.elementarymatters.com/2013/05/team-building-activities.html

Hope this helps,

These are some great ideas. I am going to pass them along to our BEST team and see what we can come up with for our school. Is there a certain day that you do these on? End of the month? Do you have only one day a month or more than that? Thanks for your help and ideas.

Hi Shelley,
The PBS team determines the dates for the incentive. We did try monthly for October - December and found it a bit much. The decision was made to try one day every other month. The snow days did not help as we missed several days of instruction. Our next incentive is planned for April and we usually try to hold the incentive on a Friday. It's a nice way to celebrate the end of the week. Good Luck and if your BEST team has some ideas for incentives- do share!
Glad to be a resource,

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