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How to Create a Student Behavior Contract

7 Min Read
WF1995913 Shaped 2024 Classcraft blog batch2 15

Looking to implement student behavior contracts—where students collaborate with educators to target specific behaviors—into your PBIS initiative? While there’s no single way to do so, certain key components can help you and your students achieve the best results. In this post, we’ll provide the answers to your burning questions and an outline on how to create a student behavior contract that will help lead your students to success. 

What Is a Behavior Contract for Students?

A student behavior contract is an agreement between a student and a teacher that outlines classroom behavior expectations. These contracts are often used in schools that implement Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, or PBIS, which is a framework designed to improve schoolwide climate and reduce disruptive behaviors. 

The contract usually includes several elements: a list of expected behaviors, consequences for not meeting those expectations, rewards for following the agreement, and specific goals that the student hopes to achieve. Both the student and the teacher sign the contract, and it can be modified over time as necessary. PBIS behavior contracts can be beneficial for both students and teachers.

The components below include not only some of the elements that go into the contract but what teachers can do with the contract to ensure its success in the classroom.

Students Behavior Contract Example Components

1. Specific targeted behaviors in the contract

If you and your students aren’t clear on what daily behaviors you want to target, it will be challenging (if not impossible) to make any lasting changes. Without focus, it’s all too easy to slip back into old habits.

At a loss for where to start? Here are a few target behaviors you could integrate into your behavior agreement for students:

  • The student completes daily homework tasks.
  • The student responds to transitions after one prompt.
  • The student moves to an alternative space to work when needed.
  • The student comes to class prepared with materials like a pencil and binder.
  • The student actively engages at least once in all classroom discussions.
  • The student ceases side conversations when the teacher is speaking after one prompt. 

To be successful, have a specific behavior in mind and focus on one or a few tasks at a time. You can work with other behaviors afterward once your highest priority is achieved.

2. Expected consequences for breaking the contract

The consequences for breaking the behavioral contract can vary depending on the situation. Generally speaking, breaking the contract can lead to a loss of privileges, such as access to specific school resources. 

It’s crucial that educators try to frame contracts around the earning of privileges rather than their loss. For example, the contract could be used to encourage the student to engage at least once in classroom discussion. Once a student demonstrates this behavior, they could earn a sticker that could later be redeemed at a PBIS school store.

3. A track record of when a student has met the behavioral contract expectations

There are a few ways to know if students have met the expectations of their contracts. One way is to record data and keep track of their progress. Another way is to have a parent-teacher conference to discuss how the student is doing. Finally, you can ask the students how they feel about meeting the expectations outlined in the contract.

4. An expected contract duration

There is no set duration for a student behavioral contract. It can vary depending on the severity of the student’s infractions and their age and overall behavior history. However, a behavioral contract will typically be in effect for one to three months.

5. A celebration once students have met all expectations in their contracts

The way you celebrate success will depend on the goals you’ve set and your available resources. Here are a few general tips that can help you make the most of any victory, big or small:

  • Set aside time to celebrate: Don’t let your busy schedule get in the way of taking a moment to savor your student’s success. Whether it’s setting aside an hour for a special lunch or just taking a minute for a quick victory dance, make sure you create time for students (and you) to enjoy their accomplishments.
  • Involve others in the celebration: Sharing the success of completing a behavior contract with others is a great way to create positive memories and reinforce target behaviors.
  • Use this celebration as an opportunity for continued growth: Remind students that you will work with them to define new goals and target behaviors that expand personal growth. Involve students in brainstorming what new goals they will target next.

Steps to Implementing a PBIS Behavior Contract

So, you’ve done your research and are now ready to build your behavioral choice contract. Contracts differ from student to student, but here are a few general tips to get you started:

1. Define your objectives 

Behavior contracts are a great way to improve all types of problem behaviors. For starters, they can help students focus on raising hands, participating in classroom discussions, and being respectful toward their peers’ personal space.

The idea behind these handy contracts is to reward students for positive actions, leading them to feel empowered enough to change targeted behaviors both in and out of school. What do you hope to achieve with this contract? Identifying your goals will help you determine what elements need to be included in your behavior contract template.

2. Gather relevant data 

Relevant sources of data could include:

  • Surveys of student behavior
  • Disciplinary records from previous years
  • Observations of current student behavior

Taking the time to collect and analyze this data will give you a better understanding of what kinds of choices students made in the past and how to target future behaviors.

3. Define the desired student behaviors you would like to see more of in your classroom 

Define the behavioral expectations you want your students to meet. This might include respecting others, demonstrating a positive attitude, or putting forth a reasonable effort. It’s vital to reinforce desired behaviors when you see them happening in the classroom. Acknowledge when students are behaving well, and praise them for setting a good example. Remember to include the students in this process (meetings work great!) and gather their input. 

4. Make sure the consequences for each choice are clear and fair 

When drafting a behavior support contract, it’s important to understand the potential consequences of each choice. This includes both short-term and long-term effects and the impact on oneself and others. Ensure that the consequences are fair so that everyone involved benefits and is on the same page. This will help students understand what they can expect if they make a certain choice.

For example, a fair consequence for speaking over the teacher would be that the student does not earn a token for that targeted behavior for that day. This supports a positive reward system for changing behavior, rather than a punitive one. 

5. Create a list of rewards that students can earn for making good choices 

Creating a rewards system for good behavior is a great way to encourage students to make positive choices. For example, you can create a list of rewards that students can earn for behaviors like following classroom rules or completing homework on time.

Some ideas for rewards that students can earn include classroom privileges (like being able to choose the seats they want), extra recess time, verbal praise from the teacher, or even small prizes (like stickers). Tailor the rewards to your specific students’ interests. And remember, positive reinforcement works best when it’s consistent. Be sure to give rewards whenever students exhibit good behavior, not just occasionally. 

6. Customize a template

You don’t have to start your contract from scratch. Search online for a behavioral contract template that works for you, and customize it to meet your students’ specific needs.

7. Refer to the contract frequently and hold students accountable to it

Students should know what is expected of them and what consequences will occur if they don’t uphold their end of the bargain. That’s why frequent reminders are key, especially in the beginning. Let students know that you’re going to be checking in on their progress and holding them accountable to the contract terms. You can do this verbally, in writing, or both. Approach this in whichever way works best for your situation and relationship with the students.


Behavior contracts for students are a great evidence-based way to help them stay accountable for their goals. Have you tried creating a behavior choices contract? If so, how did it go? Let us know in the comments below.

This article was adapted from a blog post initially developed by the education technology company Classcraft, which was acquired by HMH in 2023. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of HMH.


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