Even if you and I find yelling aversive (and it REDUCES our behavior in the future), that doesn't mean it will have that same effect on everyone's behavior. I have had several students who find "being yelled at" reinforcing, because it is another form of attention to them. So, when we yell at them for engaging in inappropriate attention seeking behavior, we are actually increasing the likelihood that they will engage in those behaviors in the future.
Reinforcing items and activities can also change for people depending on the day or time of the day. Just because your student loved gummy bears yesterday, doesn't mean they will want them today. Giving your students visual choices to see what they are motivated by on a daily basis, can help in determining which items/activities may be reinforcing. My main reason for writing this post isn't about getting into all the definitions associated with reinforcement, but just to remind ourselves to look at what happens right after a behavior and actually pay attention to how that effects the future changes in your students' behaviors.
I also wanted to write this post, because I have started to notice how "strange" a lot of the preferred items are for students in my classroom...so I wanted to remind us all to not discount the small things and be creative.
I have students who choose to work for:
*Straws *Plastic Giraffes (yes...ONLY giraffes!) *Plastic Bottle Tornados *Theraputty *Lotion *Strips of Paper *Pieces of String *Looking out the window
*Edibles (candy, chips, granola bars, crackers) *iPad or Computer *Drawing Pictures
Like I said earlier, these preferred items/activities may not always function as reinforcers, but they are a good place to start when trying to increase targeted behaviors with our students. So, pay attention to what your kiddos like, and find a way to use it in your classroom as a reward! Do you have anything interesting in your class that the kids choose to work for?