The Different Sounds of Tagging

A topic that seems to come up with some frequency in our interactions with TAGteachers relates to the sound of the tagger and what kinds of sounds (or other stimuli) can be used with TAGteach. Here is a sampling of some of the concerns that have come up:

  • I work with children diagnosed with autism. They are very sensitive to sounds and will be upset by the sound of the traditional tagger (clicker).
  • I work with people who are hard of hearing. They won’t be able to hear the click sound.
  • I teach riding to children and adults and all my horses are clicker trained, so I don’t want to use the same sound for the people since the horses might get upset or confused if the hear the click sounds and don’t get a treat.
  • I teach people to clicker train dogs (or other animals) and I am worried that the animals will be confused if I use the same sound for them as for the people.
  • I would like to try peer tagging, but with so many taggers going off all over the place I don’t think anyone will know which tag is for them.

Let me preface this discussion by saying that in all the many years and many applications in which the TAGteach founders, faculty and experienced TAGteachers have used TAGteach, we rarely use anything other than the traditional box clicker (tagger) to make the tag sound. We have tried other things, but in the end they break, we lose them, or they didn’t work any better anyway. Even with children diagnosed with autism, noisy roomfuls of kids tagging each other and in the presence of clicker trained animals, we have had great success with the box clicker – as have others.

In trying to decide the best way to deliver the tag stimulus, a TAGteacher needs to consider the following:

  • Can the learners perceive the tag?
  • Does the learner like to get a tag?
  • Is the tag distracting other learners (including animals)?
  • The first two are easy to assess. All you have to do is ask the learners.

Does the Learner Perceive the Tag?

We have often been astounded that learners hear their own tag even if there are lots of other taggers and other noise going on. If they don’t hear their own tags, then you might need to spread out more, change the position of the person with the tagger so they are closer to or within the line of sight of the learner or take turns with tagging so that fewer taggers are going off at once. You will most likely find that once the learners become tag savvy, they don’t have any trouble hearing the tag that is meant for them.

Does the Learner Like the Sound of the Tag

Some learners find the tag sound aversive. This is more often true with adults than kids. They may dislike the sound for no particular reason, may experience physical pain (very rare) or may have a past negative association with the sound. Generally they will not suffer in silence and will be quick to let you know that you are causing them grave suffering. Sometimes this aversion can be remedied by associating the tag sound with a tangible reinforcer (candy, stickers, chocolate etc). Sometimes they get over it when they see others progressing well and the want to have some of that success for themselves. The tag sound has not been a problem for professionals working with children diagnosed with autism. These children seem to adapt well to the tag sound, most likely because it is associated with a primary reinforcer (popcorn, a sip of soda etc) and because they quickly learn that this is the sound of success and something that they can control in an otherwise largely uncontrollable world. This latter is just speculation, since we haven’t conducted any studies, but it has been a surprise to some to find that sound-sensitive children are not bothered by the sound of the tagger.

Visit Martha Gabler’s page about TAGteach and autism

Visit our reference list for scientific research reports

Is the Tag Distracting Other Learners?

The tag sound is generally not distracting to other learners who are also engaged in the tag session. For example a roomful of gymnasts or volleyball players all tagging in pairs or groups will not disrupt the others. They get very good, very quickly at concentrating and hearing the tag that is meant for them. In a quiet situation in which a teacher is tagging one student for reading skills, while the others work quietly, the tag sound could be distracting, so muffling the sound or using something quieter may be best.

Many people are using TAGteach to teach animal-handling skills. In the majority of these cases the animals are clicker trained, or are being clicker trained and so the tag for the person could be distracting for the animal. Some people are concerned that the power of the click will be diminished if the animal hears a lot of clicking and doesn’t get a treat. People who teach group clicker training classes, train animals in a group situation or have multiple clicker trained animals at home know that animals very quickly learn that not every click is for them and not every clicker session involves them. They learn to read environmental cues, pay attention to where the trainer’s cues are directed and most importantly to where the treats are coming from and where they are going. Animals become very good at knowing when it’s their turn.

When animals are first learning about clicker training, or if the animal is likely to get excited and become a danger, then an alternative approach is needed. This may involve using a different sound or working on the human skills with the animal out of the picture at first. In some cases it may be appropriate to have the click and the tag be the same. For example, if you are teaching loose leash walking and the tag point is “leash hand at waist”, then both dog and person could get a click/tag at the same time. If the use of TAGteach for teaching animal handling skills becomes confusing and problematic, then you need to take steps to simplify. We always recommend that the animal be out of the picture until the person learns the skill.

But I Need an Alternative Signal!

Sometimes you really may need an alternative signal for the tag, whether it be a different sound or a different signal altogether. Here are some alternatives to the traditional box clicker (tagger) that have been used or suggested by TAGteachers:

  • i-click (quieter click sound)
  • Clicker+ (makes 4 different sounds – these are no longer in production)
  • Muffle the sound of a box clicker with a cloth, your hand or from inside a pocket
  • Car key fob (from the dollar store – makes the sound that your remote car door opener makes when you unlock your car)
  • Whistle
  • Squeaker from squeaky toy
  • Clap hands
  • Click from ball point pen
  • Click from hand-held counter (also counts the tags, which can be useful)
  • Juice bottle lids that pop when pressed
  • Bicycle bell
  • Party noisemaker
  • Ding from triangle instrument
  • Sound from phone app
  • Tongue click
  • TAGteachers have also used non-sound markers with hearing impaired students and in other situations in which the tag sound is inappropriate or would be ineffective:
    • Flash of light
    • Tap of finger on shoulder or hand
    • Hold tagger against the learner’s back so the feel it, if they can’t hear it
    • Virtual tag – pretend to tag by making the tag motion without tagger
    • Slide a ticket or a block or other marker from one side of the desk to the other
    • Pull down a bead on a tagulator

Here is a video that shows a shoulder tap being used as a tag:

Do You Know the Difference Between a Tag Point and a Pinpoint?

By Joan Orr M.Sc. and Anne Wormald M.ADS

TAGteach and Precision Teaching go together like ice cream and apple pie. Each makes the other even more awesome. Add TAGteach to your Precision Teaching and watch your acceleration lines soar. Add Precision Teaching to your TAGteaching and you’ll see exactly what’s working and what tag points are the most effective.

If you’re a TAGteacher and you’re wondering “what’s Precision Teaching”, visit Chartlytics University for lots of free information.

If you’re a Precision Teacher and you’re wondering “what’s TAGteach?”, visit TAGteach Online Learning for a free course on the Fundamentals of TAGteach.

What’s a Tag Point?

A tag point is the goal behavior in a TAGteach session. The teacher tags (marks) the desired behavior with a click sound (tag) when the behavior occurs so the learner knows the exact moment that they got it right. A tag point has four criteria (WOOF):

What you want: the tag point must be phrased in positive terms

One thing: the tag point can be only one behavior

Observable: the tag point must be observable

Five words or less: you must be able to articulate the tag point in five words or less

Read more about the WOOF criteria for tag points here.

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Using TAGteach to Help Learners Acquire Spontaneous Imitation, Functional Play and Social Skills

By Roni Dunning, B.A., ABA M.Sc., TAGteach Level 2, Blossom ABA

The first time a child performs a skill that they haven’t previously demonstrated is always unforgettable! At Blossom ABA, we’ve been using TAGteach® to help our learners emit spontaneous behaviours in a number of different developmental areas such as imitation, play and social skills. While we use an audible marker, we tend to limit language to teach behaviours that we want to increase in frequency or behaviours that require a chain of steps.

How Does TAGteach Work?

TAGteach enables the teacher to mark a learner’s appropriate behaviour with a sound made using a handheld clicker (or tagger). The tag becomes a conditioned positive reinforcer through association with tangible rewards (access to a preferred toy for example) or praise if the learner finds praise reinforcing. At times, the tag sound can be combined with a small piece of a highly preferred food, a sip of a preferred drink or a token economy system, which helps learners who are being taught skills intensively to understand when they’ve finished that round of teaching and can access a preferred item or activity. We use the terms “reinforcement” and “reinforcing” when referring to things that increase the likelihood that a behavior will happen in future (Skinner, 1957). There is research evidence to support the use of TAGteach and its efficacy in teaching a number of skills, ranging from the teaching of every day tasks to children with autism, movements in sports and to teach surgical procedures to medical students (Jackson, P. A., 2014; Gabler, M., 2013; Fogel et. al, 2010; Levi et. al, 2015).

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The Effects of Using TAGteach™ to Promote Earthquake Safety for Children in School

By Luca Canever, Elisa Casarini and Eleonora Galanti

Canever, L, Casarini, F. and Galanti, E. (2014) The Effects of Using TAGteach to Promote Earthquake Safety for Children in School. Presented at the 7th Conference of the European Association for Behaviour Analysis. University of Stockholm. Stockholm, Sweden. Sept 10-13, 2014.
Read Abstract: http://www.europeanaba.org/events/submission/7/62

Obviously, the more you train the more skilled you get, or at least, you should get. We wished to find out if, given the same amount of training time, using an event marker (like the box clicker we use in TAGteach) could make any difference in terms of learning quality. We wished to find out if a marker based teaching could be a more effective way to improve learner’s retention, endurance and application of new skills.

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Interview with a TAGteacher – TAGteach in the Classroom with Luca Canever

Listen to this interview of TAGteach Faculty member Luca Canever with TAGteach cofounder Joan Orr on the topic of TAGteach in the Classroom. Luca tells us how he got started with TAGteach and tells about how he uses TAGteach in his classes. He talks about the following topics:

  • His applications of TAGteach in a typical middle school classroom in a group setting
  • His application of TAGteach with special needs students one on one
  • How the kids responded at first
  • TAGteach for math and reading
  • TAGteach for behavior management
  • Some challenges in working in a classroom environment
  • Using peer tagging
  • What he’s going to be up to next

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TAGteacher Spotlight – Luca Canever

luca circleAbout ten years ago, Luca had an idea: to give his girlfriend a puppy as a birthday gift. The puppy, named Iris was a starting point. After a few months, Luca bought a clicker and started to train Iris. The discovery of clicker training was his light bulb moment. Luca gained the CAP3 certification in 2006. After this he started his career as a professional dog trainer, even though his main activity remains Archaeology. Luca holds a Bachelor’s degree In Archaeology from Padova University. In 2008, Luca’s first son, Alessandro, was born. As a new parent, Luca became more focused towards using positive reinforcement with his son. Karen Pryor’s “Reaching the Animal Mind” introduced him to TAGteach. This was a real life changing event, that led Luca to attending one of the first TAGteach seminars in Europe.

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TAGteacher Tale – Can Students Learn Too Fast?

By Fanna Easter CPDT-KA, ACDBC, KPA CTP, ABCDT-L2

Students Learning Too Fast?

It sounds like a good problem, right, but I wondered if my students were learning as much as they should.  After adding TAGteaching into my classes, either teaching pet parents or Dog Trainers, I noticed we zoomed through our daily course material.  Interestingly, this allowed additional break periods, which increases learning, I think.  Was I doing something wrong?  But why were we moving so fast?  Were students learning and retaining?  What to do with all that extra time?

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TAGteach in the Classroom

By Luca Canever, TAGteach Faculty

Managing the reinforcement for a group of people is one of the major difficulties that we may encounter. Especially if the people in question are 20 kids, 11 years old, with interests and personalities different from each other.

For the last two months I’ve been working in a school as a teacher. For the first time, I have the chance to use the marker with a large group — a group with no particular desire to be at school! How can we reinforce them? Some of the kids enjoy candies, some others like beads or extra time for recess. There are (they exist!) students who find study itself reinforcing, but, they are very, very, very rare.

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Teachers: Here’s a Surefire Way to Help Your Learners Get it Right the First Time

Do you want your teaching to result in success the first time? Here’s how to do it: Set a learning goal that the learner can already do. It’s that simple. Start every new lesson with success and then keep building on this to get more success.

What is the Point of Success?

The point of success is something the learner can already do and where he is guaranteed to earn a tag. For example a kindergarten student can certainly pick up a pencil with her writing hand. The first tag point in teaching letter formation could be “pencil in writing hand”. Starting with the point of success ensures success on the first try and provides a rewarding introduction to the lesson. The point of success will gradually change as the learner gains competency. The point of success is a place to return to if the learner is having trouble with more difficult tag points.

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More Than Just a Sticker: How TAGteach Prevents Kids from Being Punished by Rewards

There is a book called “Punished by Rewards” by Alfie Kohn. I saw the title and thought “how can that be?” and so I bought the book. Dr. Kohn explains how endless stickers and charts and ribbons and praise and approval to children for every single accomplishment no matter how small is creating children who cannot function without outside approval. They have no confidence in their own abilities and low self esteem because they judge themselves through the eyes of others. They are not self motivated and do not derive satisfaction from achievement for its own sake since they have been systematically trained to look to others for approval as a result of the frivolous doling out of rewards by parents, teachers and coaches. This is of course an over-simplification, since it is quite a long book with lots of scientific references, but you get the idea.

The Praise Junkie

Theresa McKeon (TAGteach cofounder and professional gymnastics coach) calls these kids “praise junkies”. They are the ones that always want the coach to look at them. They can’t work independently. They are not focused on learning, but are focused on what the coach (parent, teacher, etc) thinks. They require constant approval and encouragement. They may even misbehave in order to have the attention focused back on them if other children are getting in the way of this.

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