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How to Make a Counter Keychain for Behavior Management

If you’re looking for a low- tech, low cost positive reinforcement tool to award good behavior, wait until you see this easy behavior management idea! It’s prefect for special education teachers, but can be used by anyone, really. Here’s a step-by-step explanation on how to make your own Behavior Counter Keychains.

What is a Counter Keychain?

Behavior Management Bead Counter KeychainA Counter Keychain is a positive reinforcement token system that uses beads to track behavior or achievements.

Every time a student achieves their goal, one bead gets moved down. When all beads have been moved down, the student earns an reward. The reward can be a break, a sticker, a chance to sit in a bean bag, time with their favorite book, or whatever would be reinforcing for them.

You can use the Counter Keychain in the same way you’ve used other token systems. I’ve heard of this type of idea being called a tagulator too. Basically, it’s a positive reinforcement token system that uses colorful beads instead of stickers or token boards.

Goals to Address with a Counter Keychain:

  • Independent work tasks
  • Toilet training
  • Reading goals
  • Appropriate behavior
  • Abstaining from inappropriate behavior (on timed intervals)
  • Pretty much anything you would use a token system for

Limitations of Other Token Systems

Sticker charts generally are stuck on a student’s desk. When visitors come in, they can see at a glance who needs extra help achieving their behavior goals. (But if you’re into sticker charts, I do offer a free one in my TPT shop).

Some teachers put their students into groups and distribute awards to the groups that achieve their goals.

“Table 3 is working so well together and has already completed the first part of the activity, so they earn stickers.”

Sound familiar?

Group rewards can be effective, but can promote resentment amongst classmates when members of a group are not meeting expectations. This ruins the chance for everyone in the group to earn the reward and can turn the activity into a negative situation.

  • Writing students’ names on the board

Outdated Discipline Methods and What You Can Do Instead

Some teachers write students’ names on the board as a warning. Eek! Please don’t be that teacher. Writing a student’s name on the board does two things:

  1.  It announces to everyone who’s having trouble making good choices in class that day. This can be embarrassing for the students on the board. Such a shameful consequence can have a negative effect on the student instead of a rehabilitating or motivating one.
  2. Writing names on the board sets up a predictable cycle for students who often need extra help achieving their classroom goals (“Oh, Kyle’s on the board? He’s always on there. His name should be written in permanent ink”). After a while, these students become used to seeing their name on the board and are no longer phased by it. At this point, the system is useless.

So let’s not write students names on the board as a warning. Please and thank you, on behalf of all of your students.

Why You Should Use a Counter Keychain As a Behavior Management Tool

DIY Behavior Management Tool

Counter Keychains are mobile.

If you’re heading to the playground, take your keychain with you. Behavior management doesn’t stop the moment a student leaves their desk. Behavior mod on the go!

Counter Keychains are fun.

A Counter Keychain looks like something that any child would have on their bookbag, so it doesn’t stick out in an embarrassing way. They look fun and can be made in any colors.

At a glance, no one would ever know it is used for behavior modification. Counter keychains can be used by special education teachers or general education teachers. No one will know what it is or who it’s for. It looks like a cute little accessory.

Counter Keychains are inexpensive.

Say it with me: Teachers do not need to go broke to run an effective classroom.

You can make a Counter Keychain for less than a dollar. And you probably already have beads and string somewhere (might have to dig through that craft box in the closet…), so you can basically make one for free.

Counter Keychains are easy to make.

No laminating, no velcro, and definitely no Cricut machine needed. Just some beads and string. You can make one in minutes. See my step by step instructions below.

How to Make a Counter Keychain

Hang onto yourself, because this is going to be a lot easier than you expected.

Materials Needed:

Step- By- Step Instructions:

  1. Images showing steps to make behavior toolFold your string in half and tie a knot.
  2. Thread a bead onto one of the strings.
  3. Take the other string and thread it through the other side of the bead. (Don’t thread it straight through in the same direction of the first string. You should see a loop as you thread it through the opposite side of the bead).
  4. Push the bead all the way up. Thread another bead onto a string.
  5. Thread the other string through the other side of the bead (the same way you did in step 3).
  6. Repeat with as many beads as you’d like to use on your Counter Keychain.
  7. When you have all your beads, push them all to the top.
  8. Leave some room (a few inches) and tie a knot at the bottom. Cut off the excess string.
  9. Add a keyring to the top knot if desired.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Behavior Management Keychain

How to make a behavior management keychain: Positive reinforcement behavior tool

Have an adult carry the Counter Keychain.

That is, at least until you feel confident putting the student in charge of their own behavior system. Like any token economy, a student can be taught how to manage their own behavior system, but not all students will be able to handle that responsibility.

Keep the Counter Keychain somewhere within reach.

Clip the Counter Keychain to an ID badge, a bookbag, a clipboard, a belt loop, the student’s chair, or anywhere else that can be easily assessed. It won’t do you much good if it’s not around when you need it.

Don’t make too many Counter Keychains.

I heard about a teacher making a set of Counter Keychains for an entire class. Can you imagine that? I have so many questions. Did the adults have them clipped all over their bodies? How did they keep track of all the students? How were the students able to see their own progress? Did they all go insane? Where are they all today? So many questions.

Don’t do that. Start with one Counter Keychain and see how it goes. I think you could probably manage a few, but don’t go overboard.

Always give, never take.

Positive reinforcement: Always give, never take

This is a positive reinforcement system and is designed to reward students for achieving goals. If they do not achieve their goal, they do not receive a bead. Beads are not taken away because this is not a punishment system.

Use the right amount of beads for your students.

Five beads may be too many for your student to start off with. Maybe they’re aiming to complete three tasks independently. In that case, use three beads. Or maybe they’re following a schedule for the whole day. Then you’d need eight, or ten, or however many increments they’re working through. Make the Counter Keychain idea work however you need it to and adjust it to fit your students’ individual needs.

So if you’re a tired teacher in survival mode, a first year special education teacher, need a new way to differentiate your instruction, or are just looking for a way to help students with sensory issues, I hope you find this Behavior Counter Keychain useful.

I offer a few behavior management resources in my Exceptional Thinkers TPT shop. Check them out and let me know what you think!

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