Keeping "Graphic Behavior" Socially Appropriate: Using Visuals to Teach Behaviors

by Kristin Holst, M.Ed.

Graphic organizers are typically thought of as tools designed for academic content areas. A less frequently considered application exists in the realm of teaching behavioral expectations. Students often need this type of explicit, concrete instruction rather than traditional verbal cues and reminders to understand how to behave in a school setting.

The following is an adaptation of Rock's (2004) guidelines for using graphic organizers to teach behavioral expectations.

  • Provide clear, detailed instructions to students on the use of graphic organizers.

  • Start out using one or two types of graphic organizers. As students develop proficiency, increase the variety (e.g., sequence, cause-effect, top down, Venn diagram).

  • Scaffold instruction by modeling, leading, and then having the students complete the task independently.

  • Post completed graphic organizers in the classroom and allow students to refer to them throughout the day for feedback about their behavior.

  • Spend 10 to 20 minutes five times a week reviewing behavioral expectations with graphic organizers.

  • Encourage ownership by allowing students to make design modifications to graphic organizers.

  • Consistently acknowledge students who are demonstrating desired behaviors based on the graphic organizer.

  • Provide naturally occurring and immediate consequences to students who are not exhibiting desired behaviors.

Figure 1 provides one example of a graphic organizer that may be used to teach lunchtime routines and behaviors.

Figure 1. Sample Graphic Organizer


Rock, M.L. (2004). Graphic organizers: Tools to build behavioral literacy and foster emotional competency. Intervention in School and Clinic, 40(1), 10-37.

Date: May/June 2005