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Behavior Charts for Students with Emotional Disturbance

Instructor: Clio Stearns

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

Using behavior charts with students who have emotional disturbances can be very effective, but it can also be challenging. This lesson offers some ideas about how to use behavior charts with these students.

Emotions and Behavior

If you are a teacher who works with students who are diagnosed with emotional disturbances, then you already know that their emotional issues can impact their behavior. No two students with emotional disturbances are exactly alike, of course, but they are likely to struggle with impulse control, oppositional tendencies, and a lack of self-regulation in classroom or social situations.

To address behavior with students with emotional disturbances, it is important to stay consistent, maintain clear expectations, and celebrate students' successes. One way to do this is by using behavior charts.

A behavior chart is essentially a reward system. To create a behavior chart, you want to establish a clear goal and then a time frame that you want to see a goal happen in. Each time the student achieves the goal, he or she receives a star or sticker on the chart. After an agreed-upon number of stars, the student usually gets some sort of reward.

Behavior charts can be very effective for modifying students' behavior. There are certain nuances you will want to keep in mind when using a behavior chart with students who have emotional disturbances.

Define Your Goals

When you are using a behavior chart, it's important to define your goals clearly. For instance, it's not fair to simply ask students to 'be good' or 'stay calm.' Instead, you want to zero in on exactly what you hope to see a student do. For instance, you might want a student to 'make transitions between classes efficiently' or 'use kind words when talking to classmates.'

Clarity and minimalism are always significant when setting goals. When students have emotional disturbances, this is more important than ever. Your students need to be able to trust you and understand your expectations without any question.

It is a good idea to go over your goals with students and give them plenty of time to talk through examples and ask questions. You can refer back to these discussions as you continue your work with the behavior chart.

Keep it Possible

As you create a behavior chart for a student with emotional disturbances, keep in mind that it will be key for your students to find success early and often. Think about everything you know about this student. What is he or she capable of? What is hard for them? Set goals that are well within the realm of possibility in your assessment.

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