For Teachers

The Good Behavior Game Is a Hit with Students — and Teachers

The Good Behavior Game is one of many classroom behavior interventions — backed by research — that inspires better behavior from students. Here is how to play.

Teacher in classroom points to student raising hand
kali9/Getty Images

You do your best to maintain a positive learning environment for your students, from reinforcing and encouraging good behavior to celebrating their contributions and achievements. But what if you could make a game out of it?

The Good Behavior Game is one of many classroom behavior interventions — backed by research — that inspires better behavior from students.1 It’s a simple game that doesn’t cost a single penny to set up, and it increases your ability to teach students in an engaged, disruption-free classroom.

How to Play the Good Behavior Game

To set up the game, start by identifying a few behaviors you’d like for your students, who will be split up into two (or more) teams, to work toward. You can set a goal, for example, of no more than three interruptions while you’re teaching a lesson.

[Get This Free Download: The Daily Report Card for Better Classroom Behavior]

The teams who meet the goal earn a reward at the end of the lesson. Rewards can range from a quick game of freeze dance to free reading or drawing time — anything that motivates your students to want to win.

Communicate the goal and rules of the game to the class, and then write them down for all to see for easy reference. Use a chart to mark and display each team’s progress toward the goal.

Benefits of the Good Behavior Game

Apart from imparting lessons in teamwork and camaraderie, The Good Behavior Game effectively encourages good behavior through the school day. If a team doesn’t win during one lesson, they will have another opportunity to play and win in the next lesson. Another advantage of the game is that it changes the focus of peer attention. Rather than laughing at a fellow student who may be breaking a class rule or otherwise being disruptive, students instead turn their attention to winning the game.

The game improves behavior in the long run. Compared to other first graders, students in classrooms that implemented the Good Behavior Game were rated less shy and aggressive by teachers at the end of the school year.2

[Read: Positive Teaching Strategies to Uplift Students with ADHD]

What About Behavior Games for High School Students?

Do behavior games work for older students? Absolutely. Here is one game that has proven effective for encouraging better behavior in high school students:3 At the beginning of class, set a two-minute countdown timer. If the timer goes off without a single disruptive or off-task behavior from any student, the class earns a point, and the timer is reset for another chance to earn. But if a negative behavior does occur, the timer is reset, and no point is earned. The goal is for the class to arrive at 17 points — or 34 minutes of no disruptions — so that they can win free time at the end of class. Teens are highly motivated to win the game because it cuts a lesson short by about five minutes, and they can use the time to talk with their friends, which is really important to them.

Play the Good Behavior Game with your class — and spread the word so that all students in your school can join in on the fun.

Classroom Behavior Games: Next Steps

Since 1998, ADDitude has worked to provide ADHD education and guidance through webinars, newsletters, community engagement, and its groundbreaking magazine. To support ADDitude’s mission, please consider subscribing. Your readership and support help make our content and outreach possible. Thank you.

View Article Sources

1 Barrish, H. H., Saunders, M., & Wolf, M. M. (1969). Good behavior game: Effects of individual contingencies for group consequences on disruptive behavior in a classroom. Journal of applied behavior analysis, 2(2), 119-124.

2 Dolan LJ, et al. The short-term impact of two classroom-based preventive interventions on aggressive and shy behaviors and poor achievement. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology. 1993;14(3):317–345.

3 Christ, T. J., & Christ, J. A. (2006). Application of an interdependent group contingency mediated by an automated feedback Device: An intervention across three high school classrooms. School Psychology Review, 35(1), 78–90.