Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence Chart

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence (ABC) charts can be really useful ways to understand what is happening for a difficult student. This lesson teaches you what an ABC chart is and how to use it in the classroom.

Purpose of ABC Charts

If you are a teacher dealing with difficult behaviors in the classroom, an antecedent-behavior-consequence chart, or ABC chart, may be beneficial to you. An ABC chart is essentially a way of documenting and keeping track of students' behaviors with an eye toward what is causing or preceding them. These charts can be particularly useful because when you get a handle on what is causing a difficult behavior, you are better equipped to prevent the behavior and help students move toward self-regulation.

ABC charts also help you keep track of what happens as a result of students' behaviors. When you look back at the chart, you may discover that the student is engaging in the behavior in order to precipitate certain events. This understanding can also help you turn things around by finding other ways to give the student what he is seeking.

An example of the purpose of the ABC chart may be in a student who tends to act extremely disruptive and pick fights with his friends. By keeping track of this behavior over time, you may come to learn that the antecedent, or event leading up to the behavior, tends to be the end of recess. You may also discover that the consequence or result of the behavior is that you send the student away from the group for a few minutes. The student has thus learned that if he wants some quiet time to settle down after recess, he should cause conflicts with his friends. You can now change the behavior by bringing the student in from recess a minute or two early and giving him some quiet time to settle down and transition back in to the rhythm of the school day.

How to Make an ABC Chart

An ABC Chart does not have to be cute or fancy; it just has to work for you. Create a grid with six columns and ten rows. At the top of each column, write the following labels: date, time, antecedent, behavior, consequence, possible function. To put the chart into use, keep it with you at all times. Each time the student exhibits a problematic behavior, write the date and time. Next, move to the behavior column and write what the student did. Then, write what came immediately before the behavior in the antecedent column, and describe what followed in the consequence column. Finally, in the last column, describe your interpretation of what the student might be getting out of exhibiting this behavior.

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