Skip to main content

How To: Managing Problem Behaviors with Check-In/Check-Out


Sometimes the simplest strategies work best. While every student is different and may require differing levels of intervention, if you want to motivate students to improve classroom behaviors, you need at least two things:

  1. A clear picture of expected behavior
  2. Incentives to work toward those behavioral goals

One of the most straightforward ways to put this into practice is with a modified version of Check-In/Check-Out. This behavioral intervention package is designed for use during a single 30-90 minute classroom period (Dart, Cook, Collins, Gresham & Chenier, 2012). The structure is simple: the teacher checks in with the student to set behavioral goals at the start of the period, then checks out with the student at the end of the period to rate the student’s conduct and award points or other incentives earned for achieving behavioral goals.

Here’s how it works.

Preparing to Use Check-In/Check-Out

  • Start by selecting 3-4 behaviors to be targeted during the intervention. Whenever you can, state these positively as DO behaviors rather than DON’T behaviors. “Promptly and quietly follow teacher requests,” not, “Don’t dawdle or talk back when the teacher asks you to do something.”
  • Create a Behavior Report Card (BRC) that incorporates the target behaviors. This is a rating scale you can use to rate the student’s behavior at the end of the class or other evaluation period. You can view a sample, or create customized BRCs for freebehavior report card
  • Decide on a daily reward or incentive for displaying positive behaviors. This could be anything you like — 5 minutes of free time, 3 “positive behavior points” to be redeemed for items from the prize box, or a parent phone call praising the student. Get a listing of potential reward ideas here.
  • Set a minimum rating on the BRC items that the student must achieve to earn the selected reward.
  • Explain the process to the student. Meet with the student to explain the intervention, review your expectations, go over how the Behavior Report Card will be filled out and explain how the student can earn rewards.

Using Check-In/Check-Out in the Classroom

During any class session or evaluation period when Check-In/Check-Out is in effect, it’s as simple as following these three steps.

  • Check-In. At the start of the class session, meet briefly with the student to go over the behavioral goals on the Behavior Report Card and encourage the student. Prompt the student to set a behavioral goal on at least one of the target behaviors, such as, “Today I will not leave my seat once without permission.”
  • Monitoring/Evaluation. During the class, observe the student’s behaviors. Then rate those behaviors on the Behavior Report Card at the end of the class.
  • Check-Out. At the end of the class, meet briefly with the student once more. Have the student report on whether he or she met the goals discussed at check-in. Then share the BRC ratings with the student and award any rewards the student earned. If the student didn’t meet the goals, give encouragement about success in a future session.

Share Your Stories

Have you — or has anyone at your organization — had success using Check-In/Check-Out to help students achieve behavior goals? Tell us! We’d love to hear from you through LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter.


Dart, E. H., Cook, C. R., Collins, T. A., Gresham, F. M., & Chenier, J. S. (2012). Test driving interventions to increase treatment integrity and student outcomes. School Psychology Review, 41, 467-481.

Jim Wright

Jim Wright is a highly-acclaimed national presenter, trainer and author on topics that cover the essentials and beyond of Response to Intervention and Multi-Tiered System of Supports. He has worked for 17 years in public education as a school psychologist and school administrator. Jim has published "The RTI Toolkit: A Practical Guide for Schools" and is the creator of the website.