katherine zagotsis
Highly Accomplished Teacher. AAC Communication Partner & Advocate. Mum of one. Accidental Leader. Reflectionist, Mentor and life-long learner.

Engaging Now! 7.4

You're right, it is a very low number. What's your opinion on the accreditation process?

About 2 weeks ago from Katherine Zagotsis's Twitter via Twitter for Android

Demonstrating 4.5

Reward Systems

May 16, 2020 | Focus Areas: | | | | | | | 0 COMMENTS

This will be my 8th year of teaching and within that time, I have never used a reward system. The site I’m at however, has been implementing Positive Behaviour Intervention Support for about a year and a half. This approach uses both incidental and explicit teaching of expected behaviour, which ideally, decreases the negative behaviour exhibited by students. Another part of that approach is using tangible rewards. To be honest, I’ve been pretty resistant to do this. And I know, from advocating for people to use communication systems with their students and experiencing some push back, just how annoying that is. Anyway. Last week, we were encouraged during staff meeting to implement a reward system if we hadn’t done so already. This, for me, meant working out a way of “buy-in” for myself. Two days later, I asked my class.

My class of Receptions this year consists of 6 students. Two of them have a significant physical disability, one with significant comorbidities and three are on the Autism spectrum. All have an intellectual disability and three are English as a Second Language learner. In the class, I would consider one student verbal and one student pre-verbal, however, every student in the class has Complex Communication Needs (CCN) and requires an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) system. Two of the students already have their own prescribed communication system (PODD book and PECS folder). In the classroom, we have ProloQuo2go available and used by myself and my team for all students.

I’ve started something new this year, which is to sit in front of each student at the end of group-time and give them the iPad with ProloQuo2go, using the prompt “Do you have anything to say?” I’m focusing on my own waiting time for a response and attributing meaning to any attempts made. Or not. I learned last year that it’s perfectly fine for students to not say anything. Just like it’s okay for people who are verbal to not want to say anything. On Wednesday, I explained the idea of rewards and changed my prompt to “What would you like as a reward?” and opened the ‘Fun’ folder:

Whiteboard with text ‘I want ______’ and student names redacted by white rectangles

The first student responded using the iPad and said that he wanted: thing, stuff, nothing. This student really likes lying on the crash mat, so this made sense to me. The second simply said they wanted ‘good.’ I took that to mean that he wanted more positive feedback. The next, who was about to fall asleep, didn’t give his own response, but my SSO commented that we’d seen him engage quite often with wheels. The fourth, who has only just started school, immediately chose headphones, video game, trampoline, computer and swing. The next student, who is verbal and hasn’t used the iPad for communication yet, was watching this response intently. To my surprise, he didn’t respond verbally, but chose play outside, play catch, headphones, music and Lego. The final student was very certain in his response, choosing computer and trampoline.

This interaction with my students led to me changing my mind about the possible usefulness of having a reward system in place. It also further reiterated for me just how important student voice is. In whatever form that happens to take.

I spent some time during my NIT finding the SymbolStix image for each response given as well as 3 stars for each student. (3 stars, then reward given). My original thinking was to also create an ‘I am working for….’ A4 card for each student, but on further reflection, I think this may be a little difficult to manage. Especially as one student has recently been very keen on ripping everything off of the wall. What I might do instead is to put all of this information on the whiteboard. That way I’m not trying to keep track of multiple pieces of paper, I can see if I haven’t acknowledged positive behaviour for a while and what each student is working for. This will hopefully be easy for the other adults in the room as well.


Create a choiceboard for all SymbolStix images and begin to implement reward system next week.

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