ABC Narrative Sampling: Form & Example

Instructor: Nora Jarvis

Nora has a Master's degree in teaching, and has taught a variety of elementary grades.

ABC charts are an effective way to document your student's behavior. They can help you determine where the student's behavior is stemming from and can help you figure out a course of action. This includes samples of ABC charts and a form that you can use in your class.

What is an ABC chart?

Have you ever had a student whose behavior makes you scratch your head? Their outbursts seem to come out of nowhere and you can't figure out why they're behaving this way? You might want to consider using an ABC chart to document their behavior and determine what needs the student is displaying. This chart will help you track their behavior and find patterns. You'll determine what is triggering the behavior and then implement a plan to help your student regulate themselves.

How do you use an ABC chart?

When a student exhibits troubling behavior but you can't seem to determine what is causing it, an ABC chart can be a great resource in evaluating the situation. You'll want to use these forms for the kids that you just can't seem to figure out. It's not intended to be used for every child in your class, just the few whose behavior is the most extreme.

An ABC chart should be used soon after the behavior happens, but not immediately after. Give you and your student a chance to cool down before you begin documenting. But don't wait too long—you don't want to forget any of the details. If your student has an outburst in morning meeting, you will want to deal with the outburst then and you might document 30 minutes later when all your students are doing their independent reading. Or if your student has an outburst right before you head to gym, you can fill out the ABC chart after you drop the class off.

The chart has three important columns that you'll fill out. Below is a brief description of each element of the chart.


The A stands for Antecedent, which describes what is happening before the student exhibits the behavior. Is the class doing individual work? Is the class in a transition to the library? Is the student being asked a question in front of the whole class? These are the types of antecedents you might write down on your form.


The B stands for Behavior, in which you'll write down what behavior the student is exhibiting. When you record this information, make sure that you objectively write down what happened, keeping your judgments out of the description. For instance, instead of writing ''Trevor was angry and scaring the other children'', you'd write ''Trevor yelled Shut up! at two different students and kicked his desk.'' Do you see how the second description is factual? By filling out an ABC chart this way, you make sure that you're not clouding the results. The data you can gather from your ABC chart will be much more useful if it's based on facts, rather than your the-heat-of-the-moment feelings.


The C stands for Consequence, in which you'll write down what consequence came from the behavior. This consequence could be teacher-created or could just be something that happened right after the behavior. If the student was disruptive during class, the consequence might be that they were sent to the office or another classroom.

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