4 quick tips for using First-Then Charts

First Then Chart

First Then Charts are based on the Premack Principle which is derived from ABA therapy.  It is a tried and true method to get children to complete tasks using a visual support system.  Here are 4 quick tips to help you get started with first then charts.

First then board to be used as a schedule

1. "First"

Make sure that the first part of the board, the “FIRST” part, is an undesirable task.  You want to make sure that this is the task that you want the child to do.  The hard thing, the work!   For example, if they want to go play outside, they have to put their shoes on first.  So on the left side of the board, you would write or place an icon of “put my shoes on”.  Sometimes educators get stuck on first then chart because they are just following the master schedule and they want to put, “first bathroom then math”.  That is not how you use a first then board. Use this chart, not as a schedule but as visual support to get them to complete tasks.

first then chart with a time timer

2. "Then"

On the right-hand side of the board is where you want to put the desirable object. You want to make sure that you put a reinforcer under the “THEN” part.  In the example above, you would write (or place an icon)  “playground” on the right side of the chart. And in this specific example, I couldn't even find a chart, so I wrote on the desk.  Even on the fly, this method works wonderfully. 

3. The Reinforcer


You want to make sure that the reinforcer really matches the behavior.  For example, you would NEVER put “First: Have a zero behavior day”, “Then you can have ONE Skittle.”  You would need to up the ante quite a bit for that type of request.

Another bad example:  First tie your shoes and then we will buy you a new TV”. 

Do you get my point?

Here are some examples of FIRST/THEN's that work:

FIRST:  “Do your math” THEN: “you get 5 minutes of iPad time.”

FIRST:  “go to the bathroom” THEN: “get one skittle.”

FIRST:  “vacuum the floor” THEN “get 20 minutes of outside time”

FIRST:  “work with the teacher” THEN: “get to play with blocks.”

4. Consistency

You want to make sure that you are reinforcing the behavior right away.  Do not wait until later or the next day or the next week.  When the child is done with the task they should be getting their reward right away.  Also, make sure that if they do NOT do the undesirable task, that they should not receive their reward.  Try not to reinforce that negative behavior.  And the key is to stay consistant.  You want them to rely on this visual to get those behaviors under control.  Make sure to pair verbal praise every time.  You want to be able to fade this tool when the time comes. 

If you are looking for pre-made first then charts, you can find a bunch of different options in my visual aids bundle. Let me know if you are looking for something specific, I am always willing to add to this! 

You can also read this blog post on how to use token boards in your classroom!

You can email me at [email protected]

visual aids for special education

You can also pin this post for later!

I am a High School, self-contained Autism teacher from Central New York, who is passionate about individualizing student learning. I am a mommy of three, lover of all things Disney, married to my best friend and addicted to chocolate!! I hope that you find great ideas and inspiration here, so welcome!!

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