Positive Behavioral Incentives in Speech (aka Bribery)

I made this “Speech Money” eleven years ago when I started in my district. I am flush with (speech) cash and call myself “the banker”.

How to earn money:
1. My speech groups earn $1 for each rule that the team follows at speech (up to $3).

2. Every team member can earn also $2 for returning their speech homework (unlimited amount if the impossible happened and everyone returned homework!).

What the groups are saving for (posted all over the room to remind them):

Details of the system:
1. This is a team effort (except for homework) and all team members must follow the rules to get the money.
2. The team must decide as a group what type of party they are working towards (when there is no agreement, the SLP decides to go for the more expensive party but will let people who don’t want that item to do/eat the less expensive item).
3. Money can only be discussed at the end of speech therapy. It will not be discussed, counted, or speculated upon at any other time.
4. Money should be converted into larger denominations whenever possible (to work on money skills and so it takes up less space!).
5. Money is kept paper clipped in each group’s speech folder.
6. The SLP can continue to have kids work on speech goals at any time, even during parties! (I sometimes do drill exercises as the kids are eating their ice cream.).

I’ve used this system for many years, but am considering making a change this next year (to what I am not sure!). Here are the pros/cons of my Speech Money:

1. Team work is supported and encouraged every time students come to speech.
2. There is positive and tangible reinforcement for returning homework and following school rules.
3. Kids work on money and math skills every time they come to speech.
4. Rewards are all social in nature and work on social language and skills.
5. The kids love this system. They are highly motivated to earn these parties and it works on delayed gratification!

1. The Game Party is kind of a joke. I play games all the time. If I keep this system, I think I will abandon the Game Party option.
2. Kids change from group to group all the time. I’m never sure what to do with the “group” money they have earned if they move into a group with less money.
3. I am always forgetting to have supplies on hand for ice cream and popcorn! I have to stick the ice cream in the staff freezer and it is very inconvenient (and cramped) in there.
4. Scheduling the actual parties is a nightmare. I try to do it during their regular speech time (or lunch time), but inevitably one member of the group is absent on party day. With 9 or 10 groups in a day it is very hard for me to remember to get the supplies without having them melt.
5. Dietary restrictions have become a bigger issue recently. This year I had one K student with Diabetes and another with major food issues. I’ve had kids who are lactose intolerant or allergic to corn. It is very hard to have a party where one of the kids can’t participate!

Will I continue with this system? Maybe. Probably. It really has worked nicely (with some major drawbacks) over the the years. However, I would love any advice people have to help deal with the frequent group changes and dietary restrictions issues!

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  1. I love this! I especially like how it is “team oriented.” That way, the force comes from peer (hopefully) instead of me. Thanks for sharing!

  2. What a great system; thanks for sharing! I always like seeing how other therapists reinforce good behavior. 🙂

  3. I love this idea. I use a “Kiss your brain jar” for positive behavior that my students can fill up for an extra round of prize box.

  4. I love the teamwork aspect of this system. I’ve had kids work for popcorn or rootbeer float parties. Dietary restrictions make it tricky though. Maybe then it could be to make a sensory craft like glurch?


  5. I used to have kids save for an EXTRA RECESS or the opportunity to BRING A FRIEND to speech class for a game party! They loved both of these!

  6. I like this idea better than what I have been doing. My students have been earning a weekly prize for good behavior , but they have started to become more demanding of the items that are in the prize box. Not to mention that when the reward is weekly I am going through prizes like crazy. I have even had to deal with stealing from the prize box. I think that speech dollars and the party ideas may fix all of my headaches!

  7. Ally Marks says:

    Great ideas all! Id like to add that I too have found sensory activities to be very motivating- especially shaving cream table play/messaging/art (for up to preschoolers at least)- its a bit messy but all you need are paper towels. Ive also found glow in the dark/play with flashlights to be something I hold back as a real treat.

  8. The other year I stumbled upon a random behavior winner. I have a set to 4 tally counters. Depending on the age and behaviors to be addressed, the student either has to earn more clicks than me, or they have to earn a minimum number of clicks that I determine at the beginning. Some behaviors that earn a click include staying in his spot at the table, not answering for others, staying quiet during another’s turn, kind words during game play, or even keep trying or ask for help if it’s hard. If they follow the expectation each time they get a click, but if not I get a click. Or, if they’re not competing against me (like in a bigger group), they either earn the click or don’t. If they wanted more then me or earned the predetermined number, they get a reward. A good motivator is clicker races. We see who can click the fastest in one minute. No prize for the winner, just the fun of the game. The younger students (2nd, 3rd grade especially) are really motivated by clickers and races. This has also been a great game to play for breaks during evaluations.

    One tip about controlling the tally counters during groups: you are the only one who can add a click. I loop mine through a pipe cleaner, then tuck the ends inside my storage clipboard. They can’t grab the counters away, and if they try to grab I can move them away quickly.

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