Describe the five kinds of secondary positive reinforcers and think of an example of how you believe they can be used in classrooms. Identify the grade level for which you are providing the example

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The language that describes the secondary positive reinforcer might vary, but the basic ideas will be constant.  Social positive reinforcers are ways in which positive behavior is acknowledged through rapport and personal regard.  For example, in a high school classroom, pulling a student aside, away from the group, and commending them on a good paper or a steady trajectory of noted improvement would be an example of the social positive reinforcer in action.

The activity positive reinforcer acknowledges student positive choices in behavior with a specific item that can be done as a consequence. For example, if a fifth grade student has demonstrated strong focus in class and finished their homework for the week without a missing assignment, during Friday's in class work time, they are able to play educational games on the classroom computer.  The activity is being linked with the positive behavior.

The material positive reinforcer is some object that directly embodies the path of effective student choice in decision making. The tangible object is of value to the student because they are able to point to it as representative of good behavior and successful choices.  The first grade student who collects stickers from the teacher or stars on their papers is engaging with the material positive reinforcer.

The consumable positive reinforcer is food of some sort.  This appeals to children because it's food and, usually, it has some type of appeal to students that they covet.  One could use healthy food like cauliflower or broccoli for the consumable positive reinforcer, but it is more likely going to be candy of some sort.  For example, a seventh grade teacher is doing a probability lesson with Skittles or M&M Candies.  If students successfullly finish the work in class, they can eat the candies used for the probability project.  The reinforcement of food helps students make positive choices in the completion of work.

Finally, the use of tokens that can be exchanged for an item of value later on is the fifth type of positive reinforcer.  Students acquire an item that can be "cashed in" at a later time for something of value.  In an 8th grade classroom, a teacher rewards students with stickers for successful participation in classroom discussion and discourse throughout the course of a unit.  At the end of the unit, the teacher will administer an exam.  For each sticker that a student has acquired in the course of the unit, students can cash in these stickers for extra credit on the exam or to eliminate a question on the exam without penalty.  In this example, the secondary positive reinforcer is something that can be exchanged greater value.  The accumulation of these elements provide future benefit.