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Token Boards: 10 Tips for Effective Use

If you are a BCBA, ABA therapist, or any type of special education teacher, you are undoubtedly familiar with using token boards in your classroom or practice. In this blog post, I’ll be sharing 10 practical tips on how to make the most out of this trusty tool. No frills, just straight-up advice to make your classroom days smoother.

Using Token Boards in the Classroom

We know that these simple yet powerful tools can work wonders in promoting positive behaviors in our classrooms. Token boards offer a visual, tangible way to reinforce appropriate behavior and celebrate each step towards a positive goal. Click here to download these 10 tips in a one page handout to post in your classroom as a visual reference for all staff!

10 Tips for Success

  1. Clearly Define Target Behaviors:
    Identify specific behaviors you want to reinforce or decrease. Make the goals clear for both staff and learners.
  2. Establish Clear Criteria:
    Clearly outline the expectations for earning tokens. Clearly outline the expectations for earning tokens (e.g., correct responding during academic tasks or participate appropriately in a group game). If you are using the same token board across various settings, a simple statement at the onset of each activity such as, “Let’s sit quietly to listen to morning meeting” can help re-define expectations in each setting.
  3. Individualize Token Systems per Learner:
    Customize your token boards to meet the unique needs of each learner (e.g., how many tokens, requirements for earning, and rewards earned).
  4. Start Small:
    Condition the token as a reinforcer by starting with 1 token = earning reward. This could look like presenting a token board with a slot for only one token OR presenting a token board with 5 slots for tokens, and 4 are already on the token board!
  5. Consider Personalized Token Boards:
    If your learner has a strong interest (superhero, television show character), a token board with this picture may make the experience more enjoyable for them!
  6. Pair Tokens with Praise:
    Use behavior-specific praise (e.g., “Nice job matching apple!”) as you deliver tokens to reinforce the behaviors that you want to increase.
  7. Increase Expectations over Time:
    Gradually increase the number of demands required per token and/ or the number of tokens required to earn. Move from a fixed ratio (e.g., 1 correct response = 1 token or 2 correct responses = 1 token) to a variable ratio (e.g., 1 OR 2 OR 3 correct responses = 1 token). This article details in more example the difference between a fixed and a variable ratio schedule of reinforcement.
  8. Be Flexible:
    On an “off” day, it may help to lessen the usual requirements to earn with the token board. If you notice any pre-cursor behaviors that indicate that your learner is feeling sick, tired, or agitated, for example, you may move from requiring 4 correct responses per token to requiring 1 correct response per token.
  9. Encourage Self-Monitoring:
    Older learners may benefit from using token boards as a visual to structure their tasks/ time. For example, they can learn to deliver the tokens themselves and exchange for their reward once all tokens are earned.
  10. Fade the Token Board:
    Gradually reduce the frequency of tokens- only when your learner is ready! The goal is not to depend on a token board forever, but rather to slowly and systematically fade it out over time so that the learner can generalize appropriate behaviors to the natural environment.


As you explore these 10 tips for success with token boards, remember that every small adjustment can lead to major gains. Whether you’re diving into token boards for the first time or fine-tuning your approach, keep in mind that often progress is slow and steady. Grab this FREE download to hang up these 10 tips in your classroom as a visual reminder for all staff!


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