Positive Reinforcement

I am currently in a Head Start placement, so I am working with 3, 4, and 5 year olds. One of the biggest things I have observed thus far is positive reinforcement to the students and how it is implemented. My cooperating teacher focuses heavily on the students using their words, especially when they get upset about something with a teacher, themselves, or another peer. Many of the students struggle with using their words, especially the ELL students. Many of them result in yelling out, kicking, and hitting.

The question I have asked myself is: When is it appropriate to implement positive reinforcement?

The article, PRESCHOOL TEACHERS’ USE OF PRAISE IN GENERAL, AT-RISK, AND SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOMS, had some interesting points in regards to my question. The article specifically talks about the benefits of using positive reinforcement, for example it is not costly, it helps to establish a praise between teacher and student, and if implemented correctly, it can save students from getting expelled. I also saw in my research that positive reinforcement should be used every time a student completes a desired behavior.

With there being a language barrier between some students that have not learned English yet, communication with their peers and teachers is hard.  For the ELL students to understand positive reinforcement is also difficult. That being said a question I still have is how is it best to teach positive reinforcement to ELL students? My cooperating teacher has a system with a student who speaks little to no English. If he sits respectively at the carpet during whole group time, he is able to have a small action figure toy to fidget with while sitting. However, this student does not yet understand the correspondence of sitting respectively with being able to have the little toy. He wants to walk around and be disruptive, but also wants the toy at the same time. When he doesn’t get the toy he just gets upset and tries to hit and yell out. How would you personally work with an ELL student and teaching them positive reinforcement?


Floress, M. T., Berlinghof, J. R., Rader, R. A., & Riedesel, E. K. (2017). Preschool Teachers’ Use of Praise in General, At-Risk, and Special Education Classrooms. Psychology in the Schools54(5), 519–531.