How do you develop an effective behavior management plan?

Page 6: Positive Consequences

beh2_page06_01Once they’ve developed their rules and procedures, teachers must take action either to recognize or to correct student behavior. Such actions are referred to as consequences. Effective consequences preserve the student’s dignity and increase his or her motivation to behave appropriately. Like rules, they should be age-appropriate. Consequences work best when they are also:

  • Clear and specific
  • Directly related to rules and procedures
  • Arranged in levels of intensity or a hierarchy of alternatives
  • Natural and logical

positive and negative consequences Consequences can be divided into two major types, positive and negative. A positive consequence, often referred to as reinforcement, is a means by which teachers can increase the probability that a behavior will occur in the future. A negative consequence is a means by which the teacher can decrease the probability that a behavior will occur in the future.

Note: Positive consequences will be discussed in greater detail on this page and negative consequences on the following page. Additionally, at the end of the following page, you will have the opportunity to review student behaviors and determine the type of consequence you will deliver.

Positive Consequences

beh2_page06_02Teachers can use positive consequences to recognize students who follow classroom rules and procedures and to reinforce desired behavior. Although the ultimate goal is for students to regulate their own behavior by responding to intrinsic motivators (e.g., feeling proud), at first teachers might need to deliver more concrete reinforcers to encourage appropriate behavior. Teachers can help students learn how to control their own behavior by delivering reinforcers that are:

  • Tangible (e.g., stickers)
  • Social (e.g., praise)
  • Activity related (e.g., extra computer time)

There are three levels of positive consequences. The first, free and frequent, is used every day in the classroom. The second level, intermittent, is more powerful but used less frequently. The third level, strong and long term, consists of recognition that students can work for on a monthly or yearly basis. The table below provides examples of each level of positive consequences.

Free and Frequent

  • Verbal praise
  • Smiles
  • Stickers
  • Rubber stamps
  • Thumbs up


  • Notes home
  • Phone calls
  • Special privileges (e.g., teacher’s helper for the day)
  • Extra computer time
  • Special seat

Strong and Long Term

  • Field trips
  • Special projects
  • Recognition to the principal
  • Student of the week
  • Honor roll

Lauren Acevedo discusses the benefits of intentionally recognizing students who display appropriate behavior (time: 0:42).  


Lauren Acevedo
First-Grade Teacher
Nashville, TN


Teachers often believe that providing positive consequences means buying something for their students. On the contrary, teacher recognition, teacher-created rewards, or special privileges are often a favorite of students and are as effective as purchased items.

Delivering Consequences

The manner in which a teacher delivers a consequence is important. If not administered appropriately, the consequence might not have the intended effect. For consequences to be effective, teachers should:

  • Use the power of proximity
  • Make direct eye contact
  • Link the consequence to the expected behaviors
  • Apply them consistently

For Your Information

Teachers should administer consequences consistently:

  • Across students: Student A and Student B receive the same consequence when they engage in the same behavior.
  • Across time for the same student: Student A receives the same consequence when engaging in the same behavior at different points in time.


pen_and_padThink of ways to reinforce positive behavior in your classroom. Click here to develop your own set of positive consequences.

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