How can Mrs. Garcia implement these activities?

Page 11: Encourage and Maintain Student Interest

Boy with stacks of booksMrs. Garcia understands that the students assigned to her remedial reading class have been struggling with reading for many years. Although she would like for each of her students to one day possess an intrinsic motivation to read, she knows that right now many of them—lacking the required skills and self-confidence—have little motivation to do so. For this reason, she is excited to learn that PALS incorporates a motivational system in which the teacher awards points (i.e., PALS dollars) that students later exchange for tangible items.

Awarding Points

The teacher awards PALS dollars to student pairs who demonstrate On-the-Job Behaviors:

  • Being focused: $1
  • Cooperating: $1
  • Catching mistakes: $1
  • Using helping strategies: $3

Five PALS dollars are also awarded for attending class (i.e., “Being there”). The teacher records the PALS dollars on the pair’s Record of Earnings Card and reinforces the desired behavior further by offering specific praise to the students. A new Record of Earnings Card should be supplied for each session. These serve as representations of the rewards given for on-the-job behaviors, helping to motivate students and maintain their interest in PALS. At the end of each PALS session, the teacher acknowledges the pair that has earned the most PALS dollars so that their classmates can applaud their effort and their names can be added to the Highest-Earning Pair Chart.

Exchanging Points for Tangible Items

Students records their earnings from each session in a check register. Although student pairs earn PALS dollars together, individuals should be sure to record their totals in their individual accounts—an important point because pairs change so often. Periodically (e.g., once per month), the student writes a check to purchase items.


Student listening to music, and a ticket stub.Mrs. Garcia surveys her students to determine the kinds of items that they like and that might serve as motivation. This information in hand, she gets in touch with local businesses as well as a few national chains to see whether they would be willing to donate items. She collects these and then creates a form that her students will use to place their orders. Click here to see the order form Mrs. Garcia’s students will use to purchase items with their PALS dollars.

Although Mrs. Garcia has been able to collect tangible rewards, some teachers might instead allow their students to buy either privileges (e.g., a homework pass) or access to activities (e.g., computer time).

Karin Prentice
Former High-school PALS research coordinator
Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN

Karin Prentice discusses the reaction of students who have used PALS and their response to the reinforcement system (time: 0:53).

View Transcript

Additional Reinforcement

In addition to awarding PALS dollars to student pairs, Mrs. Garcia selects an “Employee of the Month.” This is a student who:

  • Has good attendance
  • Is highly productive
  • Has a positive attitude
  • Is a team player

As suggested by the developers of PALS, Mrs. Garcia awards this student with a $10 cash bonus. (Other teachers might choose to reward the Employee of the Month differently.) She also presents the student with an Employee-of-the-Month Award.

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