Friday, October 21, 2016

Check Our New Blog

This blog is no longer being updated and we are in the process of updating all our articles and transferring them to a new improved blog.

Please visit our blog for the most up to date information on TAGteach

Monday, November 17, 2014

TAGteach: Better than a Jedi Light Sabre!

This is an account by Seany Fdm Pogson, the father of a non-verbal child with severe developmental delay. Seany has been shaping new behaviors with his daughter, Tink, using TAGteach. Former efforts by therapists to teach Tink using hand-over-hand methods had not worked well and in fact Tink had rebelled against this touching by refusing to cooperate and regressing in some previously learned behaviors. Seany has had huge success with shaping many new behaviors and Tink is very tag savvy (and Seany is an excellent shaper!), so when Tink got sick and required oral antibiotics via syringe, Seany was able to avoid force and shape Tink to accept the syringe and happily take her medicine. Here is his account of this process:

TAGteach Jedi moments

Tink's not well and has an ear infection and the flu. Having an ear infection is also amplified by sensory processing problems, so making sure she has her medicine on time is important. Normally Tink's very good at taking her medicine but this morning not a chance. She pushed the syringe away. I tried once more this time Tink pushed the syringe away and avoided any further attempts by hugging her pillow in her play pen and biting it. This she will do when excited, stressed or if she just needs a hug and gets a hug from her pillow because sometimes she can't cope with the sensory of being hugged. So it was a no go, I couldn't even get anywhere near her mouth. Then I had a Jedi moment and a calm reassuring voice popped in my head like Ben Kenobi (Martha Gabler) "use the tag Seany". Straight away my own voice of determination popped in to my head and said "I can do this shit".

So I got the clicker from my pocket and sat near the playpen for a moment till Tink calmed down a bit from her rocking and biting on her pillow. Then I calmly reached over the to her with the syringe of medicine till I was about foot away from her face were she was burrowing it in the pillow whilst biting it. This was the first tag point and clicked and I paired it with praise "did it " (the clicker now has become a conditioned reinforcer). So I moved it forwards again a bit but waited till a brief pause in the biting as I moved the syringe closer and tagged again (clicked ) and verbal praise. This time as I tagged I noticed a brief sideways eye movement in my direction at the sound of the tag, so I seized the day and moved the syringe closer, tagged again and rewarded with "did it". Tink then moved her head up a bit sideways off the pillow, so again I moved the syringe closer about 2 inches from her mouth and tagged her. Then I moved the syringe to her lips were she grabbed it and put in her mouth and I was able to get over half in and tagged her and rewarded her with "did it yeyyyyyyyy ". At this point I was confident that she would do the same as the last time so I moved the syringe to her lips and she did exactly the same and she emptied the syringe so tagged and big "DID IT " and passed her drink to her.

This is how TAGteach and Applied Behaviour Analysis is teaching me to think. As I use it more, the more effective it and my thinking become. It's teaching me to think on my feet and apply it on my feet. This is far greater than any light sabre and more useful than any force. This is teaching me and my daughter at the same time.

Read more about Tink:

TAGteach Tale:  From Sensory Avoidance to Self-Feeding – Tink’s journey to success
TAGteach Tale: Tink rocked her blood tests!

Find out more about teaching a special needs child with TAGteach:

Martha Gabler (autism mother) TAGteach blog - free tips and step-by-step descriptions 
Free ebook by Martha Gabler: Behavior Basics - A Primer for Parents - ABA terminology explained in simple terms for parents

Friday, June 27, 2014

TAGteacher Tale: Success After a Seminar

One of the great things about a TAGteach seminar - attendees go straight home, put the techniques into practice and see success right away.

Below is an example of how fast you can implement TAGteach in your lessons.
From Dagmar, an attendee form a seminar in Switzerland:

Dear Theresa: 
This morning, I had great success using the things I learned  at the TAGteach seminar in Sornetan.
It was the second lesson with the handler of two young dogs (16 and 18 weeks old). I knew her from a seminar I gave about calming stressed dogs. 
We worked on a holding the leash in a manner that may help calm her dogs.  Several behaviors including: taking hold of the leash, standing on one point, and relax as you hold the leash were put together and called "Standby". To simplify her focus, I attached a green piece of tape to her leash hand, and another piece of tape on her stomach. When she performed the "Standby" sequence, she just had to touch the two green pieces of tape together to have the perfect leash position. 
The instructions were: "Standby" and The tag point was "green to green". First, I demonstrated and tagged myself, then I let the client tag me, and finally they tagged themselves. 
First she felt a bit strange as she came from the hardcore dog training in German and Swiss dog places (Schutzdienst)...but then they realized how easily THEY learned the skills. I was so happy.
I repeated the mantra: “green to green”  and as the students became more relaxed with their behavior, the dogs also began to settle. 
Dear Theresa, dear Joey (Iverson), I thank you so much for opening up a world of giving training.
I hope I will see again soon
Dagmar (the musician )

Upcoming TAGteach Seminars 


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

TAGteach for Parents of Children Age 3-10

By  Luca Canever

TAGtots! What A Blast!

The TAGteach methodology has been used many times with  kids, (as you can see in this video), but this was the first time an entire TAGteach Seminar was dedicated to parents and educators of children aged 3 to 10 years. The seminar was presented by TAGteach co-founder Theresa McKeon. Theresa introduced us to TAGteach tools and the laws of behavior and how they can be used to communicate with our children in a positive, caring, and empathetic manner.

We were also able to discuss and watch videos demonstrating how to change an emotion by changing physical behaviors as seen in this video. Here the child’s attitude towards swimming was changed by reinforcing the desired physical behavior.

Practical Applications

During the afternoon session we worked together on three different projects to identify behaviors that can be identified, highlighted, and reinforced in everyday situations.

EATING VEGETABLES: One group chose to use successive approximations to introduce vegetables to their children. They could reinforce looking at vegetables, then smelling, touching and finally taking small bites, observing the child's body language to establish when they are ready for the next step. Theresa also suggested that parents initially play tag game together “ignoring” the child. The parents could start with the same approximations (looking, smelling, touching, tasting) that are to be ultimately be performed by the child. In this way the child is gradually introduced to the practice in a playful manner and with a low emotional impact.

RAISE YOUR HAND (Before speaking in the classroom): In this scenario a single, specific behavior was requested by a teacher. A focus funnel was used to provide context for the tag point.

The instructions are: Raise your hand before speaking
The tag point is: Raise your hand

Theresa suggested initially giving the taggers to the students and having them ‘tag the teacher’ each time the teacher performs the tag point, ‘Raise hand before speaking’. This process could help the children participate in the learning process and  pay more attention to the teacher. The students could have tagulators hanging from their desks and pull a bead each time the teacher raises her hand. After a few repetitions, the teacher would collect the taggers and begin tagging the student’s behavior of ‘Raise hand before speaking’. When all the beads have been pulled, the students could choose a favorite activity as an added reinforcer. 

HUDDLE ROUND: The purpose of this project was to discover a positive way to gather children back together as quickly as possible after being separated by activities within the classroom. The process had to be compatible with a class of children ages 3 to 6 years.

The process started with the teacher taking the hand of one child and proclaiming “Tag!” That child grabs another student’s hand and calls “Tag!” and so on and so until everyone is holding hands in a circle. They end with everyone raising their clasped hands in the air and proclaiming “Tag!” In this way the children are part of the process of gathering together physically and mentally with the benefit of having the children part of the process.

A special thank you to all the participants who have chosen to accept the challenge of finding new and positive ways to interact with their children.

To Theresa McKeon who has accepted this new challenge ... thank you is not enough!

P.S. Success!

Two days later I've got some news. One of the teachers has already began to experiment the marker in her classroom and one of the dads has already taught his son to tie his shoes!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

TAGteacher Tale: Helping Animal Shelter Volunteers Have a Great Experience

By Marissa Marino

Volunteers are one of my favorite parts about working for animal welfare non-profits. The community that is generated for a single mission can sometimes be astounding. There are a variety of reasons why people engage in volunteer activities. Some people volunteer to give back to their community, others volunteer since they cannot have pets of their own and others hope to develop friendships along the way. One common thread I see is people longing to learn new things and expand themselves.  So let’s give them what they want! My philosophy is to empower volunteers through education in order to develop a dedicated and helpful team for the staff as well as the animals.

For the last 3 years, I directed the behavior and training department at the East Bay SPCA in Oakland & Dublin, CA.  During that time I developed nine volunteer programs to help support our canine and feline populations. A  few of these programs focused on canine and feline enrichment, assisting dog training classes, canine jogging and exercise as well as canine behavior modification. 

Creating Educational Materials

In order to develop these programs I had to create educational materials as well as hands on training curriculum. There were many skills the volunteers needed to learn in order to safely interact with our animals.  Some of these skills included what to do when an animal mouths you, exiting and entering the kennel as well as offering an animal space and time if they appear fearful. I have found that breaking things down into small steps for volunteers can be most helpful when teaching a new skill. I used the principles of TAGteach in order to help each learner absorb the information and develop the necessary handling skills. 

Developing Your Own Trainings 

In my upcoming webinar, I will discuss handling skills all volunteers should know when working with animals. I will also showcase videos demonstrating volunteers learning these and other skills.  Since every shelter is different, it is important for you to take the knowledge you learn from this webinar and be able to apply it to your facility. Therefore, I will discuss how to develop TAGteach trainings for your own volunteers so you can all reap the benefits of this way of teaching.  


We hope you will join us on May 6th, 2014 for a fun and exciting webinar with Marissa!         

Click here for more information or to register.


In celebration of its International Dog Bite Prevention Challenge, non-profit Doggone Safe will donate a Shelter Family Safety Kit in a random draw to one attendee at the end of this webinar. This kit contains materials to help educate the families that visit the shelter about how to treat pets with respect, read dog body language and prevent dog bites. The retail value of this kit is over $300 and it contains:

1 Be a Tree Teacher Kit (contains 15 large heavy weight dog body language posters and more)
50 Coloring Books
20 Story Books
2 Posters
500 stickers

Anyone with a shipping address in the US or Canada who registers for the webinar will be eligible for the draw. So even if you can't attend, register anyway! You will automatically receive the recording when it is available.

To find out more about the contents of the Shelter Family Safety Kit, visit the Doggone Safe store.

BONUS#2! When you register for this webinar you will receive a discount code for 25% off our recorded webinar: TAG! Not Just Another Game at Camp. If your shelter runs summer camps for kids, this webinar will give you lots of great ideas for fostering cooperation and fun for your campers

BONUS #3! When you register for this webinar you will receive a discount code for 25% off our recorded webinar: Leave it! Impulse Control for the Teacher with TAGteach cofounder Theresa McKeon, since this is a great complement to this webinar for training shelter volunteers.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

TAGteacher Tale: Junior Scholars Love TAGteach

By Sarah Cook

After many happy years as a teacher at A Dancer’s Dream, I recently branched out into the world of public education, accepting a position as a full time dance teacher in a charter School network in Boston, MA. For those unfamiliar with A Dancer’s Dream, it is a wonderful studio where every teacher is TAGteach certified and the children are very tag savvy. This particular charter school network is a high performing K-8 charter school with 3 campuses. The schools are academically rigorous, have a very strict behavior policy, and are huge on positive reinforcement and behavior narration.  They also have every student take dance. The dance classes are large, with 27-32 students per class.  Needless to say, I have my hands full.

After a year and a half of struggling with huge classes, no mirrors, and less than perfect dance ‘studio’ conditions, I asked my principal if I could start using TAGteach. She said yes and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I could finally introduce TAGteach and the audible marker to all my classes.  Below are a few highlights from our first week using TAGteach.

Sixth grade:  We are well into our tap unit. With 27 kids in class, it’s challenging to see and correct the mistakes of every child.  How do you solve problems like too many kids, not enough time? With TAGteach, of course! After watching the entire class attempt flaps (a tap skill) and making a mental note of the most common errors, I chose one student to start the process.  I explained what a tag meant and how it helps your body and brain learn.  In less than two minutes and with only two tag points, his flaps were fixed. Not only did it fix his flaps, but everyone in the class vastly improved after watching the TAGteach session. They were thrilled and just a little amazed. I was just reminded of the effectiveness of TAGteach
First grade:  There are 32 children in this class (THIRTY-TWO CHILDREN!!) In an effort to streamline my classes, I decided to start using TAGteach to work on class management first. As the class began, I kept an eye out for the first scholar who quietly sat down in crisscross. Without saying a word, I tagged him and voila!  The room went from chaos to silence in 3 tags. It was so easy, They figured out right away that if they didn't get a tag, they could look at a friend who did get tagged and fix their behavior to match. My entire class was silent, ready to go without redirection from me and in less than a minute. One scholar told me “I like the tagger because when you tag one person, we all know what to do without you talking and wasting our learning time”.  Right on, kid - me too.

I am so excited to have brought this tool to my school. We accomplish more in less time, our practice is more deliberate, and everyone is happier. I know it makes helps me stay calm and focused. 

Now, someone remind me why I hadn't done this before…? Stayed tuned for more Adventures of Tagging in the classroom!  

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Using a Verbal Marker to Signal Success for Your Learner

By Joan Orr MSc

Let me just apologize right up front for the title of this article. I am not in fact going to explain how to use a verbal marker, or to expound on the benefits of verbal markers. In fact the opposite is quite true, if disappointing to some.

I am not a fan of the verbal marker (that is using a word such as "yes" or "good" to mark a correct response). The more experience I get with TAGteach and clicker training, the more firmly I believe that the verbal marker is inferior to the tag sound (click) in teaching new skills. We have used taggers (clickers) with everyone from tiny tot ballerinas to business professionals to fishermen with lots of muscles and tattoos who work in the Bering Sea (see previous blog posts for the tale of the fishermen). We have used taggers with elite athletes, kids with autism, kids with Down syndrome, business professionals, prison inmates and medical students to list a few examples. Using the tagger absolutely works and it works with every population of learner that we have encountered.

Why Did She Get a Better "Good" Than Me?

We at one point back in the time before we had as much experience as we have now had suggested to people that they might use the word “good” or another verbal marker to signal success to the learner. In practice this has turned out not to work well. The verbal marker becomes very repetitive and annoying very quickly. It seems condescending in a way to say “good, good, good” over and over especially to another adult. It is also very difficult to keep the tone of the “good” the same each time. People tend to want to convey additional information with the verbal marker. They tend to vary the tone and give a more expressive “good” if there is a particularly good effort. It is hard to avoid the big excited “YES” when they finally get it, or the desultory "yes" when you're tired, hungry and have a headache.

A teacher may inadvertently vary the tone of the "good" for different learners, and trust me - they notice! The learner wonders why they didn’t get the big “good!!” the next time or why another person got a bigger “good” than they did. Learners no matter how young can tell the difference between genuine praise and a rote "good job".

The verbal marker inevitably mixes praise with information. This defeats the purpose of using a marker. The marker must be the same every time and must convey only one piece of information “you got it right”. There are no degrees of “rightness”. It is either tag or no tag (click or no click). This allows the learner to focus only the task at hand, the tag point, and not to have to process verbal information at the same time.

Praise is Great, but Not as a Precise Marker of Behavior

I am not saying that praise is bad, or that there is no place for it. What I am saying is that words cannot be used as markers as effectively as a neutral sound because words inevitably convey more than just the critical information (yes! you got it). The way to use praise effectively is in concert with the marker. Tag without talking and at the end of the tag session, give the verbal praise. For example, the learner might get 10 tags and then you end the session and say “You’re doing really well” or “you are hitting your tag point much better than yesterday” or “Fantastic!!!”

Our classic Highjump Video demonstrates this nicely. There is no talking other than to give the tag point, no feedback other than the tag and then the verbal, heartfelt praise at the end.

We have been trying to work out in our own minds the problem with the verbal marker and over time we have come to the conclusion that is the mixture of praise with information that is at the heart of the problem. Separate praise from information and you will get better results and more satisfied learners.

But I Just Can't Use a Sound Marker

There may be times where it is not appropriate or not possible to use a sound marker. You may have used the tagger for an intense teaching session and your learners are starting to fade. Not to worry! You can still use the principles of TAGteach in all your teaching. While you will not get the incredible power of TAGteach without using a tagger, you will still benefit from using the TAGteach principles. We call this Naked TAGteach (TAGteach without the tagger) and we have a webinar that explains this in detail. Click here for more information or to purchase.

More About Verbal Markers and Why the "Tag/Click" Sound Works so Well

Read an article by Karen Pryor: Bingo! You Win!

Watch a video clip from Karen Pryor on the neurobiology of TAGteach and why the tag sound works so well:

Related Resources