Personalize Behavior Plans for Student Buy-In 

By Laura Driscoll
Read Time:  min
Focus on their motivations and interests.

A lot of time and effort goes into behavior plans, but we often need to pay more attention to student input and involvement. When we personalize behavior plans, we make them meaningful and motivating to struggling students. 

One of the most significant factors in students buying into a behavior plan is their input. Make sure they agree with the goals and are motivated by the rewards. The look and design of the plan can change it from something they are embarrassed by to something they show off to other students.


When developing a behavior plan, take the time to ask the student what they want to improve. The direction of the goals can come from teachers and parents, but students should have a say in what they are. This is true even for very young students.

A child will often agree on what they need to work on, but when they develop their goals, they will be more invested.

During a session, complete this behavior matrix. It is an excellent way for students to explore and understand expected behaviors. Then, have an open and concrete conversation about what improved behavior means. It also gives teachers and parents a clear picture of what success is.

individual behavior plan behavior matrix

You can include this activity in your behavior plan documentation - nothing like getting paperwork done as part of an intervention.


Every student might love extra recess or something from the prize box. But, you also might be surprised that a student would instead invite a friend to play a game or give his whole class extra computer time.

Complete a force reward choice activity with students where they have to pick between a series of two rewards. This will give you a better understanding of what motivates the student.

Behavior plans can fail miserably if we don't have incentives that students care about. Despite that, we often stick a prize box in front of them and expect that to

Use Reinforcement Surveys to Improve Behavior Plans

Initially, the student might be most motivated by tangible rewards. Ideally, we want to be moving them away from the prize box. Instead, keep other kinds of prizes like adult approval and peer appreciation available and suggest them occasionally. Eventually, students tire of the prize box and try out more socially motivating rewards.

You can also make only two rewards available, with one that is more socially or internally reinforcing.

Make It Theirs

Sticker charts or printed one-page contracts are simple and ready to go. However, they need to be more active and take advantage of an opportunity to engage a student.

At the beginning of a plan, try customizing it with the child's interests. For example, I've used tokens with superheroes or characters from a favorite TV show. Students have even used rewards to change their tokens to another character.

One student loved Lego sets. His plan was Lego-themed, and each day he met his goal, he received a Lego piece from the set. I have done similar things with puzzles. Another student loved custom tokens and would use his reward to pick new tokens each month.

For your next behavior plan, focus on developing the goals with the student, finding truly motivating rewards, and creating a visually and personally appealing plan.

Helpful Behavior Resources

Individual Behavior Plans

Templates, guides, and charts to help you create engaging and effective behavior plans for students.

Behavior Evaluation Bundle

Tools to help you evaluate challenging behaviors and collect the necessary data to build a solid plan.

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I’m a school psychologist who left her office (closet?) and got busy turning a decade of experience into ready to use counseling and SEL resources.

I live in New York City with my adventurous husband and relaxed to the max daughter who’ve grown to appreciate my love of a good checklist.

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  1. I’m a preschool teacher at Rosewood Academy and I’m working with several difficult behaviors . I need new strategies.

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