A T-Chart can be made by placing a line down the middle of a page and labeling the left and right side of the page according to acceptable and unacceptable behavior. The T-Chart is then used to clarify acceptable or desired behaviors versus unacceptable or undesired behaviors by listing those under each of the categories.
I was visiting with a teacher about one of his high school students that was wreaking havoc with her profanity. They had many conversations with her and had a tried several other strategies, but the profanity continued to spew. I offered this as a possible strategy and the teacher immediately told me that she knows she is not supposed to say those words, but she just doesn’t care about that. He was trying to tell me that writing good words on one side of the T-chart and bad words on the other side was just too simple.
Perhaps a bit reluctantly, the teacher implemented the T-chart strategy over the next few days. He had incorporated the student’s interest of Pirates of the Caribbean by placing a picture of the good pirate and the bad pirate on each side to support the concept. In addition, he sat down with her during a calm time and asked her to come up with some new words that she could say instead of her current repertoire. She came up with very special words that she could use instead of the usual . . . “Holy Plankton” and “Holy Macaroni” were just a few. The teacher was surprised and pleased that this very simple strategy did, in fact, support a positive change in behavior.
- When possible, generate both lists with the student. If student input is not possible, then collaborate with teachers and parents to identify what is most meaningful for the student.
- Pictures may enhance the effectiveness of this strategy.
- Review during calm times. The beginning of the day or each class may be good opportunities.
- Refer back to the T-Chart when the targeted behavior occurs. Practice replacement behaviors from the acceptable list.
- The T-Chart may incorporate a special interest, increasing the effectiveness of this strategy.
- The T-Chart may be posted in the class or located in a student folder/notebook.
Another variation of the T-Chart strategy is to use it to clarify where certain activities or things are appropriate. From the kind of videos that are appropriate for home versus school to certain basic human needs, the T-Chart can help clarify the appropriate environment
As an example, Casey was a young 6th grade student who loved to bring toy guns to school. Each day the teachers struggled to have him at least keep the toy gun in his backpack once he had brought it to school. This item was not acceptable for the safety and security of all other students at this school, even in toy form. On some days, the debate about the toy gun took up much of their instructional time.
The teacher introduced the T-Chart strategy to clarify that this was not an acceptable item to have at school. As a matter of fact, on the very first day the teacher asked which side the toy gun belonged on and Casey looked at the T-Chart and said “at home”. Once they wrote it down, it seemed to become “the law”. From time to time, he would still try to take the toy gun out of his backpack. The T-Chart reduced the debate to a quick reference to the strategy.
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