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PBIS Check-In/ Check-Out Overview

6 Min Read
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Positive Behavioral Supports and Interventions (PBIS) initiatives work by encouraging positive behaviors from students. Unlike the “traditional” route of using punishment to discourage misbehavior, PBIS incentivizes good behavior through positive reinforcement.

For most children, basic PBIS strategies like offering rewards for good behavior and setting goals, is enough to keep them on the right track. But some need additional support, and will move to Tier 2 of PBIS, which involves more targeted support.

Children who need Tier 2 interventions are typically able to gain control of their behavior and move back to Tier 1 with time and practice. Teachers and staff can help students reach this goal with check-in/check-out (CICO) meetings.

What Is Check-In/ Check-Out for PBIS?

The basics of a PBIS check-in/ check-out is simple!

At the beginning of the day, students check in with their teacher (or the principal or another staff member) who is dedicated to helping them develop positive behavioral goals. 

This time is used to talk to them about: 

  • The previous day at home 
  • How their morning went
  • Their goals for the day
  • Any support they may need

Throughout the day, students keep a goal sheet with them that tallies their points earned in different categories. These are filled out by their teachers. At the end of the day, students bring their points card to their check-out meeting, where the same staff member evaluates the student’s day and possibly sends the card home for parents to sign.

Check-in/check-out provides a way for educators to meet and collaborate with students to help them achieve their daily goals. 

By opening up this line of communication, educators allow students to:

  • Effectively set goals
  • Understand and control their actions in school
  • Feel empowered when they do well in school

Check-in/ check-out in PBIS is a particularly excellent method for children who benefit from extra adult attention when it comes to achieving behavioral goals. This is because this method requires each teacher or staff member to interact with students to keep tabs on their behavior. 

Children who receive this extra support and encouragement are often:

  • Better equipped to handle their own emotions
  • Able to control emotional outbursts
  • Able to build self-esteem

Since each of these factors is instrumental in positive behavior, it makes sense that check-in/check-out meetings are a vital part of any Tier 2 PBIS initiative.

Who is Check-In/Check-Out For?

It is crucial that the right students be recruited into check-in/check-out initiatives for your school to see the best results. To identify the best candidates for this method, consider the following criteria:

  • Students who need extra support beyond Tier 1 PBIS structures
  • Students who struggle to turn their work in, or who score poorly on class assignments or tests
  • Students who have little time management or organizational skills
  • Students who struggle to control their emotions or show signs of low self-esteem
  • Students who frequently engage in disruptive outbursts

This is just a snapshot of the children who could benefit from check-in/check-out meetings. If you feel you have a child that would benefit from this strategy, talk to your PBIS director to help you evaluate the possible impact on the student.

6 Best Practices for a PBIS Check-In/ Check-Out System

Introducing a student to PBIS check-in/ check-out strategies for the first time can be a confusing ride for everyone involved. Some of the most successful CICO programs are operated by invested educators who are dedicated to helping students improve their behavior. The following recommendations are tried and true and can help you have the most positive impact possible on students.

1. Build rapport

Perhaps the best way to get student buy-in is to build rapport with them. When you have a personal relationship with a student you are helping, they will be much more likely to open up to you. Consequently, you have a better chance of getting valuable insight into what support is needed to move them back to Tier 1 PBIS interventions.

Building rapport with a student can take time. Since you’re interested in using check-in/check-out, you’re clearly already invested in the success of the students at your school. Now it’s time to show how invested you are. Don’t be afraid to share things about yourself and ask the student to share, too. Creating lasting personal relationships is one of the best ways to build confidence and self-esteem in children, which can make a significant positive impact on their behavior, both within and beyond the classroom.

2. Give a warm welcome

Staff members who greet students in the check-in/check-out PBIS program are often the first person the student sees when they get to school. For this reason, it’s imperative that they set the tone for the day at check-in. One of the best ways to encourage a positive day is to greet the child with a warm welcome and a smile. This will start the day off on the right foot, making it easier for your students to open up and share their behavioral goals for the day, along with any issues they’re struggling with.

3. Keep conversations short

Warm welcomes and personal connections are absolutely necessary for a successful check-in/check-out program, but try to keep conversations as short and sweet as you can. Time with students is limited, so this will help ensure students pay attention, are focused, clear on their expectations, and understand which actions to take to reach their goals.

4. Empower the student 

Even though we know the behaviors that are desirable at school, it’s important to empower students participating in check-in/check out meetings to come to these realizations on their own. The best way to do this is to empower them to make their own connections, goals, and benchmarks. You can guide students to draw certain conclusions, but ultimately, it should be the students themselves setting their goals for the day. 

5. Use your village

Every student has a network of people around them that provides the support and guidance needed to perform well in school. When a child misbehaves, a check-in/ check-out PBIS strategy is implemented to try to reverse that behavior. However, this process cannot be successful without collaboration among several different parties. While helping a Tier 2 student to address behavioral issues, be sure to involve teachers, administrators, and other staff members. It’s also a great idea to keep parents and caregivers in the loop to make sure they are also implementing strategies to address issues the student is experiencing at school.

6. Graduating from CICO

Every day, students check-in and check-out with a dedicated staff member to set daily goals and behaviors. As the process goes on, the eventual goal is for the student’s behavior to remain consistent (and positive!) without any reminders. Once a child reaches this phase, it’s time to start moving away from check-in/check-out and to place them back into Tier 1 of the PBIS model.

It’s crucial to complete this transition smoothly with any child moving back to Tier 1. If the change is made too early or abruptly, you risk undoing a good portion of the work that was achieved. You can start by decreasing the frequency of check-ins and check-outs. For example, a child who successfully completes CICO every day can begin meeting once every other day or every two days. If issues don’t arise as a result of the decreased supervision, you’ll know it’s time for this student to “graduate” from CICO.

The Bottom Line with Check-In/Check-Out in PBIS

PBIS check-in/ check-out is a proven initiative that can gently correct students’ behavior in school. The increased supervision and attention from educators helps kids build confidence and self-esteem. This leads to empowering them to behave better in school and reach the goals they have set for themselves. Schools that have implemented PBIS initiatives can significantly benefit from check-in/check-out and should consider it for all Tier 2 targeted students who could benefit from extra adult attention and support.


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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