How To Bring Positive Reinforcement Into Your Elementary Classroom

The power of positive reinforcement can help you create a nurturing and supportive classroom environment to help all your young learners thrive.

In this blog post we’ll explore the benefits of positive reinforcement in an elementary classroom, the different types of positive reinforcement you can use, how to start implementing this type of teaching strategy, and more! Let’s get started.

Why is positive reinforcement important in the classroom?

Positive reinforcement is when you recognize and reward students for exhibiting desirable behaviors and achievements in the classroom. It's all about focusing on what students are doing well and encouraging them to continue those positive actions. By using positive reinforcement, you can foster a safe and motivating atmosphere where students feel valued and encouraged to learn.

It also plays an important role in academic success! A 2018 study of 4th and 5th graders found that positive reinforcement affects academic performance.

Next, let’s dive into the different types of positive reinforcement and how they can be effective in your classroom.

What are the different types of positive reinforcement?

Verbal praise

This involves acknowledging and praising a student's behavior, effort, or achievement through spoken words. For example, saying, "Great job, Sarah! Your hard work on that project really shines through," provides specific recognition for the student's effort.

Tangible rewards

These are physical rewards given to students as a recognition of their positive behavior or accomplishments. Stickers, certificates, small prizes, or even special privileges like choosing a game for recess can serve as great free classroom rewards.

Social recognition

Recognizing a student's achievements in front of their peers can be highly motivating. Sharing positive news during morning meetings or giving a shout-out for exceptional work can boost the student's confidence and foster a positive classroom atmosphere.

Special privileges

Offering students special privileges for their positive behavior can be motivating. This could include being the line leader for the day, choosing a class activity, or having a "teacher's helper" role.

Classroom celebrations

Organizing small celebrations or parties to honor students' accomplishments, such as reaching reading goals or demonstrating kindness, can create a joyful and positive learning environment.

You can use different types of positive reinforcement strategies depending on your classroom and the behavior that you students exemplify. Consider varying rewards from time to time to keep students motivated and excited about getting a reward.

How to implement a positive reinforcement strategy in your classroom

Here's a step-by-step guide to help you effectively integrate positive reinforcement strategy in your classroom:

Identify desired behavior

Start by defining the specific behaviors you want to reinforce. These could include active participation in discussions, completing assignments on time, showing kindness to peers, or following instructions the first time.

Pick reinforcement methods

Choose the types of positive reinforcement that align with your classroom dynamics and students' preferences. You can mix and match different strategies to keep things engaging.

Create a reward system

Establish a system for earning rewards to help gamify your classroom. This could involve earning points, stickers, or tokens for demonstrating the desired behaviors.

Provide timely feedback

Recognize and praise students as soon as they exhibit the desired behaviors. Timely feedback helps reinforce the connection between the behavior and the reward.

Maintain consistency

Consistency is key to the success of any reinforcement strategy! Ensure that you consistently apply the system and reward the expected behaviors.

Monitor progress and adjust

Regularly assess the effectiveness of your positive reinforcement strategy. If certain behaviors aren't improving, consider adjusting the system or exploring new strategies.

Common challenges when using positive reinforcement

It’s important to be mindful of certain challenges and misconceptions when using positive reinforcement. One common one is that rewards should be extravagant or costly. In reality, simple and meaningful rewards can often be more effective for elementary students.

It's also essential to avoid using positive reinforcement as a means of manipulation or bribery. You want students to internalize the values and motivations for their actions, not just do things for the rewards.

How integrating technology can enhance positive reinforcement in the classroom

Integrating technology into the classroom can further enhance positive reinforcement. You can use digital tools to create interactive reward systems, digital badges, or gamified approaches to recognize and celebrate students' achievements. 

For example you could consider using a programming game like Kodable as a reward. With Kodable on tablets or chromebooks in your technology center, you can let students choose to play as a reward when they reach a center number of points or do a particularly great job in another area in the classroom.

Never heard of Kodable before? We’re a self-paced learning game used by over 50% of elementary schools in the US. Create your free account today to bring this engaging game into your classroom today.


Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool that promotes a positive classroom climate, encourages students' growth, and strengthens their intrinsic motivation. By incorporating this approach into your teaching practices, you can create a vibrant and supportive learning environment where every student can thrive! Let's continue to celebrate your students' successes and foster a love of learning in them. Happy teaching!