Count on Countoons to Teach Students to Self-Monitor

by Kristin Holst, M.Ed.

Behavior interventions such as token economies and contingency contracts are commonly used in inclusive classrooms. One of the downfalls of these strategies is that the teacher is responsible for monitoring student behavior and collecting data, which can be time-consuming.

Self-monitoring is a way to help students take responsibility for their own behavior. With self-monitoring, students are taught to identify and record occurrences of appropriate and inappropriate behaviors, while the teacher focuses on rewarding the student for demonstrating and recording appropriate behaviors correctly (Dunlap, Dunlap, Koegel, & Koegel, 1991). Students of various ages and disabilities enjoy self-monitoring and are quick to acquire this skill. Teacher support can be faded as the student becomes more proficient with the intervention.

Self-monitoring often uses simple statements about student behavior such as "I raised my hand to speak" to prompt student recording. For younger students, or those who have difficulty reading, pictorial devices are a helpful substitute for such written directions. Daly and Ranalli (2003) offer guidelines for implementing a self-monitoring strategy called Countoons. The authors describe Countoons as "simple cartoon representations of a student's appropriate and inappropriate behavior, a contingency for meeting criteria, and counting frames for recording data" (p.32). The authors further suggest that Countoons may be used with a wide variety of behaviors as long as the behavior can be clearly defined and counted by the student.

Little preparation goes into developing Countoons. Teachers can draw them by hand and use simple stick figures to represent students demonstrating the desired or undesired behavior. (See Figure 1 for an illustration.) The following is an abbreviated version of Daly and Ranalli's steps in developing an effective Countoon system.

  • Pick a desired behavior and its undesired opposite (e.g., raising hand vs. calling out).

  • Observe the number of times the student exhibits both behaviors for a minimum of three days.

  • Using these data, set a target number of times for the student to show the appropriate behavior.

  • Design a Countoon showing both desired and undesired behaviors, and set goals for exhibiting both.

  • Determine a reward for the student when achieving the goals.

  • Explain and practice using the Countoon with the student.

  • Decide when to use and begin the Countoon strategy.

Figure 1. Sample Countoon.

For more illustrations of Countoons, see the article by Daly and Ranalli in the May/June 2003 issue of Teaching Exceptional Children.


Daly, P.M., & Ranalli, P. (2003). Using countoons to teach self-monitoring skills. Teaching Exceptional Children, 35(5), 30-35.

Dunlap, L.K., Dunlap, G., Koegel, L.K., & Koegel, R.L. (1991). Using self-monitoring to increase independence. Teaching Exceptional Children, 23(3), 17-22.

Date: February/March 2005