I use the vocabulary terms expected and unexpected behaviors from Social Thinking to identify behaviors students are exhibited in different social situations. Expected and unexpected behaviors allows me to acknowledge and praise my students when they are being “expected” for the situation as well as directly let them know when they are being unexpected without lecturing them for 2 minutes about why something is not okay to do.
Last year at the middle school, I primarily used expected vs. unexpected terms with my social emotional students as well as my students with social skill deficits. They learned the terms very quickly; however, when I would verbally point out their behavior (both good and not so good), I got two responses. I either received defensive comments and student denial about the action/words/tone of the behavior or continued behavior in which I was verbally monitoring their behavior throughout the entire session.
As I would further explain how my students behavior was making me feel, I was met with resistance, rude overtures and sometimes escalated behaviors. Most people don’t like to be told they are being unexpected! The struggle with our students with social skill deficits is that they do not naturally pick up on social cues to adjust their behavior independently. SOMEONE has to call them out, so they can learn to survive in the world. Most jobs rely heavily on being able to successfully interactive with other people and if you fail at that, it doesn’t matter if you are an amazing at your job because people remember how they feel rather than the actual job that was performed.
I decided that I would implement a visual monitoring system, so that I could take informal data about the percentage of time the student was exhibiting expected behavior, provide a visual cue (so, I could reduce verbal cues aka lectures), and use as an incentive to point out successes with expected behaviors. Download my easy template HERE or just click on the photo above. I just glued to construction paper and laminated, so I could use a dry erase marker with it.
During the session, I let the student know that I will be visually tracking their behavior. If they have more unexpected behaviors than expected, they do not earn their incentive (for my higher students, I did 5 stars = hot cheetos, jolly rancher, ipad time, game, etc). As I see behaviors, I mark expected or unexpected. If they are being unexpected, I mark unexpected and ignore undesirably comments/behaviors. I quickly try to mark expected to show the student that I am notice both good and bad behaviors.
With one student in particular, every time I tried to explain that his comments were sounding very rude, I would get a big argument about how he was not doing A,B, or C. I got the okay from parents to address his behaviors with the terms kind words/tone vs. rude words/tone. This student would either use rude words or he would say something in a very rude tone for very minimal things such as “I don’t want to play a game” or “I will not seat over there.” I did the exact same system and did not verbally engage the student when I marked rude comments. He quickly figured out that he had to adjust his behavior to kind because he really didn’t like seeing marks on the rude side. This worked for most of my students, but some students may escalate in behavior if they see the “negative” side, so that is something to consider when using this.
How do you work on self monitoring skills? I would love to add more tools in my toolbox!