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How to Use a Behavior Chart Effectively

Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

In this lesson we will discuss how to use behavior charts in an effective manner with the goal of changing specific student behaviors, while also giving them positive experiences.

What Are Behavior Charts?

What teacher hasn't found behavior management at times exasperating? Behavior charts, sometimes called 'rewards charts' or 'routine charts' or 'sticker charts', may help you with maintaining student focus by tracking and rewarding target behaviors.

Before we take a closer look at behavior charts, it's worth noting that they are somewhat controversial; some people espouse their virtues and others disdain them. The important point to remember is that rewards or incentives are not the same things as bribes.

Benefits of Behavior Charts

Teachers who have found behavior charts an effective tool describe these benefits:

  • Feedback is immediate so students can look at the charts and make immediate adjustments.
  • Expectations are clear, which many experts believe leads to more successful results.
  • Motivation is increased because children often respond better when anticipating a reward rather than avoiding a punishment, such as losing an item.
  • New rewards can always be created offering alternatives when adults run out of privileges to revoke.
  • Focusing on positive behaviors is more effective than focusing on negative behaviors, according to many behavior experts.

How to Use Behavior Charts

Following are the six major steps to utilizing a behavior chart effectively.

1. Choose a Behavior to Modify

Choose which behavior you would like to modify. Many experts believe best results are achieved by attempting to modify one habit instead of many at once, but some teachers and parents have success modifying multiple behaviors.

2. Use Positive Language

Use positive language instead of negative directions or commands when listing behaviors. For example, instead of saying don't yell so loud in this classroom when you speak, you can say remember, we whisper or talk softly in this classroom.

3. Select the Chart

Find a behavior chart that matches your needs, and then download and print it. Consider whether the child will care for the artistic design, and how many repetitions you and the child will need to successfully complete and master the chart.

When selecting a chart, consider these four major types of behavior charts:

  • Chore charts (Does your student have trouble getting routine chores done?)
  • Homework progress charts (Does your student have trouble turning in homework each day?)
  • Multiple behavior charts (Does your student have trouble maintaining a routine in the morning?)
  • Single behavior charts (Does your student perhaps tend to cut in line when leaving the classroom?)

4. Select the Reward

Choose the appropriate reward or incentive. This is where you, as an educator, will have to use your judgment to determine which reward best matches a specific child. What motivates this particular pupil? Is it candy or some other treat? Does she like stickers or crayons or inexpensive coloring books? Would he prefer to choose a game for the class to play?

5. Apply with Consistency

Monitor behaviors and reward them consistently. Try to watch the student on a regular basis and also provide the reward with regularity. One trick is to hand out a coupon for a later reward if you are pressed for time.

6. Have Fun!

Enjoy the process. Don't make the behavior chart a tedious task for you or the student. You may have to adjust your methodology, and stay positive so the student does as well.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

When you begin using behavior charts, keep in mind these common mistakes to avoid.

Expecting Perfection

Have you ever heard that trying to play an instrument, or golf, or other pursuits can be defined as the unattainable pursuit of perfection? The key words in that phrase are perfection and unattainable. Children are human beings, just like adults. It's OK to demand above average results or even excellence, but not perfection. Have you ever heard the saying Rome wasn't built in a day? It's probably unrealistic to think that in a 31-day month your student will have 31 successful days, so be content if the behavior goals are reached in more than half of them.

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