A group behavior contingency (GBC) is a classroom management system designed to proactively support appropriate classroom behavior. Groups or teams of students are rewarded for exhibiting appropriate or desirable classroom behaviors rather than being punished or reprimanded for exhibiting inappropriate or undesirable behaviors.

Why use a GBC? Gimmicks like names on the board, check marks, and loss of recess don’t work and are self-shaming to students.

When teachers systematically implement positive and proactive class wide interventions, teacher–student interactions become more positive, students are more engaged, and teachers are able to focus on teaching appropriate behaviors vs giving unnecessary attention to negative behaviors. I talk about two of my favorite GBCs below.

The steps of GBC are:

  1. Choose the target behaviors. The first step in designing a group contingency is choosing the behaviors that you want students to exhibit (be on task — learning ready, use kind words, etc.). The target behaviors should be clear, positively stated, and easy for students to understand.
  2. Determine how students or groups can earn points.
  3. Decide how you will award points.
  4. Choose who awards the points.
  5. Determine a schedule.
  6. Select rewards. Rewards do not have to be consumable. In fact, the best rewards are not. Consider creative rewards like class recognition, peer approval, watching a short YouTube video, having a three-minute dance party, doing classwork in colorful pen, taking shoes off during the next activity, completing classwork outside, and/or letting students choose surprise awards.

Student vs. Teacher

The student vs. teacher points system is an effective and low-prep behavior management strategy that motivates even the most reluctant of students. It works like this.

Use your class rules as a foundation, or specifically target a certain behavior — i.e., being a good friend.

  • Write the rule with an image (if possible) near the point tally as a visual cue.
  • When the students are following the rules — they get a point.
  • When the students are not following the rules — the teacher gets a point.

At the end of the designated time period — the winner earns a special privilege. When the teacher wins, then the students do not earn the privilege.

Tangible rewards such as PBIS tokens or a 30-second dance party may work well. After some time, the sheer joy of winning might be enough for your children.


  • The first few times you play — make sure your students win! You will get immediate buy-in. If they access the reinforcement and experience success, they will be invested the next time you play.
  • When the students get a point for following the rules, make sure to comment on what the person doing that is earned the point. This will help further reinforce this desired behavior. i.e., I love how Andrew is taking turns so nicely with Grace.


  • Have two or more designated times to identify the winner, for example, halfway through the lesson and after the lesson.
  • Offer incentives such as bonus points, i.e., earn double points if every group is exhibiting the desired behavior.

Marble Jar

Marble jar also rewards college and career appropriate student behavior. A video is worth a thousand words, so check out an elementary example and a secondary example on The Teacher Toolkit.

Be sure to consistently praise students who are doing what you want them to do, instead of scolding students who are off task. Increasing attention to positive behavior and allowing opportunities for success by setting achievable goals are keys to a successful group contingency.

Give yourself time to create and set up a routine. The systems will require explicitly instruction, practice, and patience. GBCs are definitely worth the investment of our time!