Behavior Chart Ideas for Elementary School

Instructor: Rachel Tustin

Dr. Rachel Tustin has a PhD in Education focusing on Educational Technology, a Masters in English, and a BS in Marine Science. She has taught in K-12 for more than 15 years, and higher education for ten years.

Behavior charts can be a powerful tool for an elementary teacher. However, sometimes it's hard to think of ways to set up behavior charts that create a partnership between students and teachers. Try these creative ways to set up effective behavior charts.

Making Behavior Charts Work

In every teacher's classroom at any given time, there's a student who stands out. It might be the one who's constantly everywhere but where he's supposed to be, the girl who constantly shouts out in class, or the child who has tantrums whenever he doesn't get his way. These children cause distractions not only for themselves, but also for every other student in the class.

Behavior problems make it hard both for the teacher to conduct lessons and the students to focus on learning. Behavior charts are a strategy teachers can use with students to help increase their awareness of their behavior and make them partners in improving it.

Individual Behavior Charts

Individual behavior charts are a good option if you're working with a handful of students on their behavior in your classroom. These types of behavior charts are individualized to the child, focusing on the specific behavior(s) you're seeking to work with the student to improve.

Some teachers choose to do a behavior chart for every student each day, but remember: when using individual behavior charts, you need to be consistent. So don't take on more charts than you can realistically maintain each day. Let's look at a few examples of individual behavior charts.

Clock Behavior Charts

As a teacher of elementary students, you need to be realistic. The odds of a child in this age group being good all day are slim to none. The purpose of behavior charts is to help improve a child's behavior, and often that means giving them multiple opportunities in a day to demonstrate that they can follow your behavior expectations. A clock behavior chart is one way to accomplish this goal.

Sample Clock Style Behavior Chart
Clock Chart

In a clock behavior chart, the teacher checks in on the child's behavior once within each interval defined on the behavior chart. It might be four times a day - or more or less - depending on the schedule in your classroom. If you're doing this for younger students between kindergarten and second grade, you might just use smiley or frowny faces to indicate whether they were following classroom expectations. If they're a bit older (third to fifth grade), you might choose to use a number scale system, where one is poor and four is excellent. Whatever scale system you choose, you need to be sure that the child understands it.

Three Strikes Charts

If you're working with an elementary student on a specific behavior, you might choose to use a three strikes chart. This type of chart allows you to track the frequency of the behavior you want to focus on improving with the student. You'll want to set a goal with the student and parents for the maximum number of occurrences of the negative behavior that will be allowed. You might select two or even five, depending on the nature of the behavior itself.

Depending on the situation of the particular child, you might want to break down the chart into AM and PM sections for each day. That way, if the child has a bad morning, he or she knows that the chart will reset at lunch, and that could motivate the student to improve for the rest of the day. It's important that small children feel like there's hope - knowing that when they have bad times in class, they can recover. If students don't use their strikes, there should be a reward - nothing elaborate, just something small like a sticker or an eraser.

Sample Three Strikes Chart

Whole-Class Behavior Charts

If you have a particularly unruly crowd in your classroom, you might want to utilize a whole-class behavior chart. These types of charts would apply to large-scale classroom management issues, such as maintaining appropriate noise levels, cleaning up after activities, and walking from the classroom to other locations in your school, such as the cafeteria. Again, let's look at a few examples.

Red Light, Green Light Charts

A red light green light behavior chart looks like what it is - a stoplight. You can easily create a large one for a corner of your whiteboard. You'll then want some small magnets that are all the same - such as circles, squares, etc. Then, decide how many 'stops' in instruction you will allow your students to cause each day in class. A stop is anytime you have to pause class to address behavior. You might start with a higher number, such as five, and then decrease that number as behavior improves.

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