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Providing Acknowledgement

Providing Rewards to Students

When providing high-frequency rewards (e.g., PBIS ticket, signature, etc) to students, it should be paired with natural or social praise. To provide praise along with a high-frequency reward, follow these steps: 

  1. Identify the expectation that the student is doing. 
  2. Provide behavior-specific praise.
  3. Provide high-frequency reward. The reward is provided last by design because it will be faded out over time, thus linking a student's use of the expectations to natural/social praise. 

Keep in mind (

  • Students are eligible to earn rewards throughout the day, contingent on desired behavior
  • Staff maintains a high ratio of positive to negative statements (see Flora, 2000 reference below)
  • Staff also use non-verbal modes to acknowledge students
  • Rewards are not taken away once a student has earned them
  • Rewards are distributed “randomly” and are unpredictable
  • Students do not earn rewards if they ask for one directly

Ideas for Rewards

Elementary-Aged Students

  • Special passes (e.g., sit in teacher's chair for 30 minutes, Hat Day pass, Slippers pass, etc)
  • Job shadow a staff member (e.g., principal, custodian, etc)
  • 10 extra minutes of recess or computer time
  • Use iPod/headphones for X amount of time
  • Earn an activity with a staff member and friends (e.g., croquet, yoga, kickball, etc)
  • Eat lunch with staff member

Secondary-Aged Students

  • Ideal/preferred parking spot for a week
  • First in line pass
  • Tickets for a school event
  • Coupons for discounted/free oil change
  • Homework help pass or homework late pass
  • Use iPod/headphones for X amount of time

Behavior-Specific Praise

Behavior-specific (BSP) praise is a form of praise that provides feedback on a specific behavior or action that a student performs.

BSP should: 

  1. specifically describe a behavior
  2. be specific to a student or students
  3. be provided contingent on a behavior
  4. include a praise statement
  5. be authentic and genuine

Examples and Non-Examples of BSP


"Paul, you walked over here quietly and without interrupting others. Thank you." 

"Jill, thank you for raising your hand and waiting quietly." 

"Great job everyone with taking turns and listening to others during discussion groups." 

"Edgar, excellent use of our new vocabulary word in your writing!" 


"Way to go!" 

"Awesome job!" 

"Thank you for that." 

"Stop. Don't do that." 


Allday, R. A., et al. (2012). Training general educators to increase behavior-specific praise: Effects on students with EBD. Behavioral Disorders, 37(2), 87-

Flora, S. R. (2000). Praise's magic reinforcement ratio: Five to one gets the job done. The Behavior Analyst Today. 

Jenkins, L. N., Floress, M. T., & Reinke, W. (2015). Rates and types of teacher praise: A review and future directions. Psychology in the Schools, 52(5), 463-476.

Rathel, J. M., Drasgow, E., Brown, W. H., & Marshall, K. J. (2014). Increasing induction-level teachers’ positive-to-negative communication ratio and use of behavior-specific praise through e-mailed performance feedback and its effect on students’ task engagement. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 16(4), 219-233.

Sutherland, K. S., Wehby, J. H., & Copeland, S. R. (2000). Effect of varying rates of behavior-specific praise on the on-task behavior of students with EBD. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 8(1), 2–8.

Tennessee Behavior Supports Project (2016). Behavior-specific praise in the classroom. Retrieved from