check ins

Choosing How Often to Check In


How often will you check in with the student?

When you write a behavior contract, you need to choose how many times a day you want to check in with a student and monitor their behavior. Behavior contracts only work when you are consistent. If you know you can’t check in with a kid after every single lesson, don’t write a contract that says you are going to check in with them at the end of every lesson!

Generally, younger and lower students need you to check in more often while older and higher functioning students are cool with you checking in less often.

You need to check in more often when you are establishing a new behavior and less often when you are maintaining the behavior.

By check in, I mean actually talk to a kid. Contracts are learning and teaching tools. Ask them how they think they did—talk with them about it and what they could do differently or did well. You secretly filling in a contract doesn’t teach the kid anything. Talk to them about what went well and what went badly and make a plan for next time. Treat behaviors like you would any other skill—do exit slips and re-teaching as needed and remember to pre-teach the hard stuff.

As a student’s behavior begins to improve, increase the time frame of their contract and decrease the check in frequency.  Behavior contracts should never be fixed—they need to change as the child’s behaviors and the teacher’s available time/energy change!

After every activity?

  • There are students who struggle with behaviors like paying attention during every single activity of the school day. They might need a quick check in at the end of every activity—“How do you think math went today? How much work did you get done?”
  • each activityThese are pretty common for older students who change teachers. The student needs to bring the contract to each classroom to get the teacher to sign. The goal is to increase communication within a team about a student and to reinforce the positive behaviors across teachers. However, if you get one teacher who won’t fill it in or who always forgets the whole contract can fall apart. In that case, you will have to choose either letting a student self-report how they did, leaving that teacher off the contract, or switching to a daily check in instead.
  • When most people think contracts, this is what they are thinking about. It is incredibly powerful for a student to get feedback (positive and negative) on their behavior constantly during a day. However, it is really hard on teachers to check in that often with a kid. What tends to happen is that a teacher starts out checking in with a kid at every time period on the contract and then, after a week or two, starts to forget. Instead of filling it in at the end of every activity the teacher will go back at the end of the day and try to back fill.
  • Consistency is what makes contracts work. If you notice that you aren’t checking in with the kid as often as the contract says, change how often you are supposed to check in.


After each chunk of the school day?

  • This is the next step down. Instead of checking in with the kid at the end of every activity, check in with them a few times a day. Maybe check in with them on the way to lunch, right before recess, and at the end of school.
  • chunk of dayIf you have a student who needs frequent check ins (they call out during every activity) but checking in after every lesson isn’t working for you, try this. You get to choose how often you want to check in. A student of mine struggled in line on the way to class, right before lunch, coming in from recess, and kind of overall. So we checked in with her when she got into the class in the morning, as she was about to walk to lunch, after recess, and right before she went home. It wasn’t often enough to drive us crazy and was frequent enough to change her behaviors.


Once a day?

  • As student’s behaviors start to improve, decrease how often you are checking in with them. Students aren’t always going to need you hovering. Once they start to get what you want them to do, you can start checking in with them only once a day.
  • dailyIf you are only checking in once a day, make sure that you have a real conversation about the day. “I noticed that this morning seemed kind of rough but then you really turned it around after lunch. What changed? How could I support you in making your mornings look as awesome as your afternoons?” Don’t just focus on the negatives of the day. Call out a few good things that the student did during the day. If these conversations are just another lecture, a kid is going to shut down and the contract won’t work.
  • Use the daily check ins as a chance to make a plan for the following days and weeks. “I noticed that you had some trouble being focused in math today. There is going to be a test tomorrow in math. What can you do to stay focused during the test? How can we help you?”


After each challenging activity?

  • activityI get kids every year who are great in the classroom and hit kids out at recess. If that is your kid, make a recess contract. Check in with them after recess every day and make a contract just for recess. If you kid is great at math but shuts down in writing every day, make the contract just for writing and remember to check in with them at the end of each writing class. Talk to them about how they did during the writing lesson and how their work was compared to other days.
  • This works really well for kids who consistently struggle with only one or two activities in a given day like recess or writing.



  • This is the least work for you!
  • Don’t promise to check in with a student at the end of every activity. Instead, create a reward chart where you will give them a star whenever you happen to notice them doing the good behavior.Random
  • Let them know that sometimes they might do the behavior without you seeing it—you will give the stars when you happen to see the behavior NOT every time they do the behavior.
  • This is also the best training for the real world—no one actually notices every time we do something good.
  • This time frame works to generally increase positive behaviors but isn’t as good at teaching specific behaviors like raising your hand.
  • Normally, random check ins are used for students who have already learned a positive behavior and just need some reinforcement to maintain the behavior.


Go back to  behavior contract resources

Go back a step to:Pick a time frame

Go to the next step: Decide what behaviors you want to focus on