What is the token system?
- The Token Economy System is a behavior modification system based on the positive reinforcement of targeted behaviors. You give the students tokens for the desired behavior, which they can later trade in for a reward.
- It can be used to reward students who already show good behavior and to motivate students with challenges. Since each student is different, you can customize the rewards to the student.
- When using tokens, the teacher must be consistent or it will not be effective – that means constantly looking for good behavior to rewards.
- Sometimes it helps to take away a token to discipline undesired behavior. Often you only have to do this once for the kids to become even more motivated.
- When creating your token system, be sure to specify 1) the token, 2) the desired behavior, 3) the reward/reinforcer.
- Use tokens to shape behavior my not expecting perfection in the beginning – first reward “the try” or less than perfect behavior that does approach the goal, then gradually only reward the better forms of behavior.
- Consider how soon you reinforce the behavior. “The longer people have to wait for a reward, the less effect and the less they will learn.”
- (Sources: School Psychologist Files, Wikipedia)
A recent intern at our barn made these token system cards for us.
You velcro the desired behavior in the column on the left (Woah, Walk On, Trot, etc.), and the student received stars to place down the row. At the bottom you can write how many stars equals what reward, such as 8 stars = Trail Ride.
I have found this system works well with my littlest students, but have heard it also works well for Autism Spectrum Disorder students. Take one day to try it with everyone and see who it works for or not!
Example Lesson Plan
Goal: Student will demonstrate “walk on” using voice and leg aids 4 times with minimum verbal prompts, 1 Leader, and 2 Sidewalkers spotting.
- Mount via block
- Warm Ups
- arm circles (to prepare upper body for good posture and using arms for whoa)
- shoulder twists (same)
- ankle circles (to prepare lower body for walk on leg aids)
- horse parts (incorporate stretching for ears, mane, and tail both sides)
- Review skills
- previous skill: “Whoa” using voice and hands
- new skill: “Walk on” using voice and leg aids
- Practice Activity
- Explain activity: practice Whoa and Walk On by cones spread out in arena, for each Whoa and Walk On you get to put a star on the chart, when you get 8 starts total we can go on a trail ride!
- Progress: start with max verbal prompts, then remove as able toward goal of minimum verbal prompts
- Trail Ride
- If uncooperative, work on upper body strength via walk/trot/walk transition on wall 4x each direction (not as punishment but just an alternate activity)
- Cool Down
- ride without stirrups 1 lap each direction
- Dismount via croup
What about you? Have you used the Token Economy System in riding lessons before? What was your experience?
Note: This is not professional advice, this is a blog. I am not liable for what you do with or how you use this information. The activities explained in this blog may not be fit for every rider, riding instructor, or riding center depending on their current condition and resources. Use your best personal judgement!