How to Use Behavior Incentive Charts in the Classroom

Instructor: Amanda Wiesner-Groff

Amanda has created and taught English/ESL curricula worldwide, has an M.Ed, and is the current ESOL Coordinator for the Saint Louis Public School District.

This lesson is all about implementing behavior incentive charts into your classroom. We will go over why and how the charts are used, as well as ideas for incentives you can provide when students reach their goals.

Introduction to Behavior Self-Monitoring

If you've ever found yourself giving your students check marks for bad behavior, writing their name on the board, or repeatedly giving verbal warnings, you are not alone. Self-monitoring behavior (regulating your own behavior in a social setting) is a skill students need to be taught, and the first step is teaching awareness.

How exactly can you do this? Allow students to be part of the creation of class rules and guidelines so they understand which behaviors are, and are not, acceptable. Being involved in this process will make students feel they are part of a community; therefore, they will be more likely to adhere to the guidelines that are in place. When students do veer from these guidelines, ensure they're aware that their behavior requires adjustment.

One way to help students stay on track while they learn to self-monitor is to use behavior incentive charts. In this lesson, we will explain how to use these charts and how to best choose the incentives toward which students will be working.

What Is a Behavior Incentive Chart?

Behavior Incentive Chart
Behavior Incentive Chart

A behavior incentive chart can come in many different forms; however, the most common format is a chart with different colors representing different levels of behavior monitoring. Here's one possible color scheme:

  • Pink= Outstanding
  • Purple= Being an Example
  • Blue= Making Good Choices
  • Green= Ready to Learn
  • Yellow= Think About it
  • Orange= Teacher's Choice
  • Red= Parent Contact

Each student will have a clip with his or her name on it, and will start the day with their clip on green to indicate they are ready to learn. As the day goes on, the students' behavior will determine where their clips will go on the chart. If a student's behavior is setting a great example to the rest of the class, the teacher may have him or her move the clip to purple. If a student is being disruptive and uncooperative, the teacher may have that student move his or her clip to yellow while offering up a reminder of the expected behavior.

The visual behavior incentive chart allows students to see the impact of their behavioral choices. Teachers then have students work towards incentives by keeping track of each child's progress on their own personal logs.

Individual Behavior Incentive Logs

Individual Incentive Log
Individual Incentive Log

At the end of each day, record where each student ended up on the main behavior incentive chart. This helps give each student a visual representation of their own behavioral patterns. Keep a teacher log for yourself, but also provide an individual log for each child to take home for parent review. As a class, decide how often students will work toward incentives based upon their behaviors, and how those incentives will be earned.

Here's the questions you and the students should consider:

  • Should students earn incentives daily or weekly?
  • Should students who are on green or above all week earn incentives, or only students on pink and purple?
  • Can a student earn an incentive if they have had one day below green during the week?
  • How can students move their clips from an undesired color (behavior) back to a desired color (behavior)?
  • Do students get a warning before their clip is moved, or is it moved the first time their behavior strays from class guidelines?
  • What consequences are associated with the clip being moved to orange (teacher's choice)?

Creating these guidelines with the students will help them not only understand what they are working toward, but also how they can be sure to meet their behavioral goals in class.

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