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How to Teach Expected Behavior to Students in a Fun Way: Using Social Stories and Games

Updated: Apr 16

How to teach expected behavior in a fun way: children smiling and laughing

As we gear up for another school year, there's an important topic we can't afford to overlook: teaching our students all about expected behavior. We all know that laying down the foundation of routines and behavior expectations, especially at the start of the school year, sets the stage for a successful year.

Yet, we've also faced the common challenge of finding fun and engaging ways to help our students understand expected behaviors. In this blog post, we're diving into ways to use social stories and social skills games as tools in transforming moments of unexpected behavior into valuable teaching opportunities. Join me as we look at some practical tips to craft an environment where learning expected behavior is not only effective but fun for our students too!

What is expected behavior? Curious boy thinking

What is Expected Behavior?

Teaching behavior expectations is a lot like explaining the rules of a new game – we want everyone to understand how to play so we can have fun together. Ross Greene talks about the concept that “kids do well if they can.” Many of our kids don’t know what is expected vs. unexpected behavior, and so we need to teach them! We want to ensure our students understand the concept of expected behavior in a way that feels natural and supportive for everyone.

Understanding and teaching expected behavior doesn't have to feel like decoding a secret message; it's more like giving our students a roadmap to success for their journey. Imagine expected behavior as the guidelines that help us get along smoothly and create a positive learning environment. Just as we use road signs to know where to go when driving, expected behavior gives us clear signals on how to act in the classroom and in the community.

You'll want to explain the concept of expected behavior to children in simple terms. Emphasize the importance of clear communication and setting expectations. Use relatable examples to help students grasp the idea of behavior expectations.

Explaining expected behavior to children: sorting cards with expected versus unexpected choices

Explaining Expected Behavior to Children

How to teach eexpected behavior with drawing activities: girl drawing

Are you wondering how to explain expected behavior to students in simple terms? Think of expected behavior as a superpower that helps us create happy and comfortable spaces for everyone. When we make choices that follow these "super" rules, it's like spreading a warm and cozy feeling around the room. Imagine that your actions are like little puzzle pieces that fit well together, making everyone's day better.

Expected choices, like using kind words and taking turns, creates a nice sense of community. It's like when we're all playing a game and everyone follows the rules – the game goes smoothly, and everyone has fun. When we choose expected behavior like to listen when someone else is talking or share with our friends, we're putting together the pieces of that kindness puzzle.

On the flip side, unexpected choices are like the wiggly piece in a puzzle that don’t quite fit. They can make other people feel a bit uncomfortable, just like when a game isn't played fairly. Imagine if everyone started talking all at once – it would be chaotic, right? Just like this, unexpected choices, like not sharing, yelling out, pushing someone, or interrupting others, can make other people feel upset or uneasy.

So, teaching about expected behavior is all about helping everyone understand that their choices, like puzzle pieces, impact the bigger picture. When we choose behaviors that fit together well, we create a happy and comfortable environment where everyone can learn and have fun. And remember, just like superheroes, our expected behavior superpower makes the world a nicer place for everyone to be.

Using Social Stories to Teach Expected Behavior

How to teach expected behavior in a fun way with social stories: social story binder of "fingerprint friends bathroom behavior"

Social stories are like the bridge that connects us with our students' understanding of expected behavior. Picture social stories as our helpful tools – short tales crafted to help children understand the expectations of the world around them and help them see the world from a new perspective. These stories are like compasses that guide our students toward expected behavior choices.

Social stories help children see why certain behaviors are important and how their choices impact others and can contribute to the community. Social stories can also be personalized which not only sparks their interest, but can also make the students more receptive to the ideas.

Do you want a Free Sample of a Social Story?

I'm sharing an editable version of my social story about expected behavior at school assemblies, or pep rallies. Just subscribe to my resource library (and confirm the opt-in email) and you'll gain access to my whole SEL library! I suggest using a personal e-mail, rather than work email. If you're already a subscriber on my list, just head to my SEL resource library and check it out!

Free download: expected behavior at the school assembly social story. Computer with image that says "On special days at school, we go to the assembly."

Are you Wondering How to Write a Social Story?

Step One:

How to teach expected behavior using social stories: characters pushing in a line with text that says "we don't stand to close to each other. We don't get in front of others in line."

Pick a specific behavior to target. It could be something as simple as walking in the hallway, how to behave on the bus, or making good choices in the cafeteria, or how to behave in the bathroom, or at indoor recess, outdoor recess, or how to make expected choices at a school-wide assembly.

Step Two:

Write a story in the first or third person, using simple kid-friendly language that explicitly teaches the student what the expected and unexpected behavior choices are. It can be helpful to include how these choices make the student and others around them feel as well.

Have an introduction that clearly identifies the topic. There should be no question what the social story is about. Make sure the story answers “Wh” questions and uses positive language.

For example, what happens when a student raises their hand? How does it make their friends and teacher feel?

Fun ways to teach expected behavior: child's hand doing a cut and paste worksheet on good choices at a school assembly

Step Three:

Add visuals to your story – colorful pictures that will help enhance your students' understanding. These visual cues help make the concepts even more relatable and can be especially useful for our ELL learners or are learners with special needs.

Step Four:

Read the social story regularly with your students. As you read, you may pause, reflect, and maybe even role-play scenarios. Through these discussions, we nurture a space where our students feel comfortable asking questions and sharing their thoughts. I like to send copies of the social stories home to families so they can read them at home as well! This is so helpful for kids so folks at both home and school are all using the same language.

Using games to teach kids about expected behavior in a fun way: a hand rolling a dice over a "cafe choices" board game

Using Games to Reinforce Expected Behavior

How to teach expected behavior in a fun way using social stories and games: a hand rolling a dice over a "good choices" board game

In my work with kids, I have found game-based learning to be an interactive, playful, and dynamic approach to reinforce and teach expected behaviors. This is a fun strategy that can truly work wonders in our schools! I like to introduce the game portion to reinforce the learning after we’ve read the social story together.

Games have an innate ability to captivate young minds and make learning fun, and when it comes to behavior expectations, they're no exception! The advantages are plentiful: games tap into children's natural curiosity and playfulness, creating an engaging environment where they can learn and apply expected behaviors with enthusiasm.

As seasoned educators, we understand that teaching behavior isn't a one-size-fits-all approach – especially when we’re working with children with behavioral, mental health, or special needs. That's where game-based learning can come in and be so helpful.

How to teach expected behavior using games: a hand rolling a dice over a "recess choices" board game

Board games are another gem in our toolkit. Imagine a game where children are reinforcing their learning about behavior, and at the same time each move reinforces the value of expected choices, creating a seamless connection between learning and fun. Not to mention, it's a great way to practice social skills and sportsmanship.

Also, consider the usefulness of role-playing scenarios and games, where students step into different shoes and act out scenarios showcasing expected behaviors. This not only fosters empathy but also allows them to practice and internalize these behaviors in a safe and controlled setting.

And let's not forget the benefits of simple charades-style games, where nonverbal cues and communication skills take center stage. By drawing attention to body language, facial expressions, and gestures, we're empowering our students to understand the subtle art of social interaction. Through game play, we're creating an environment where learning becomes a fun adventure, full of opportunities to reinforce expected behavior.

Fingerprint Friends Expected Behavior Bundle

Fun ways to te ach kids expected behavior: sorting mats that say expected and unexpected with cards to sort

If you’re looking for a resource that combines expected behavior social stories, board games, and fun activities and worksheets, check out my Fingerprint Friends Expected Behavior Social Story and Activity Growing Bundle.

This comprehensive resource offers a fun way to teach and practice behavior expectations in your students. The bundle combines the power of social stories, games, and engaging activities, creating a fun approach to teach and practice expected behavior choices. By exploring relatable scenarios through social stories, games, and hands-on activities, your students will not only grasp the concept of expected behavior but also internalize these lessons in a fun and memorable way.

Whether you're a seasoned educator or a passionate school counselor, this bundle serves as a valuable asset to create a positive and supportive school environment where every student can thrive socially and emotionally because they know what behavior is expected of them, as they’ve been explicitly taught it. Don't miss out on this opportunity to make expected behavior an enjoyable and impactful part of your routine.

Expected Behavior Worksheets

Fun ways to teach kids expected behavior: two hands doing a copy and paste good choices in the bathroom worksheet

Once I’ve introduced the expected behavior strategy with a social story, and reinforced it with a board game, I like to scaffold and follow up with some fun worksheets. In my Expected Behavior Fingerprint Friends series, I have some really fun worksheets to reinforce positive behavior choices including:

  • Behavior cut and paste worksheets

  • Behavior Mazes

  • Drawing Activities

These are available to purcahse separately or in a growing bundle, which means new additions will be added at no additional cost to you!

Drawing Activities

A lot of my students LOVE to draw so one of the activities in each of the different fingerprint friends expected drawing sets includes dawing worksheets where students draw themselves displaying the expected behavior! This is such a fun activity that many of my students often ask to do it.


How to teach expected behavior in a fun way using social stories and games: a hand rolling a dice over a "hallway choices" board game

In our journey to equip our students with the tools to navigate the world and learn expected behavior choices, we've uncovered some fun strategies that blend engagement and effectiveness. From explaining expected behavior in relatable terms to using social stories, game-based learning, and fun drawing worksheets and mazes, we've delved into several techniques. The use of social stories, games, and worksheets is a great trio that helps teach and reinforce expected behavior in a fun way!

Through the magic of social stories, we've witnessed how using these tools can empower our students to understand behavior expectations. These stories, coupled with visuals and direct instruction, act as bridges to connect our students to the world of expected behavior choices in a fun way. And game-based learning has shown us the power of tapping into children's natural curiosity and playfulness to reinforce the strategies learned in a memorable way.

Free social story: expected behavior at the school assembly. Laptop showing an image of characters sitting and states "If we need something from a teacher, we raise our hand to ask for help."

As school counselors and educators dedicated to fostering a positive and supportive classroom environment, consistency is key. Just as we continuously refine our techniques, so must we consistently reinforce these strategies. By doing so, we pave the way for a school-wide culture where understanding and practicing expected behavior is celebrated.

So, as we begin the new school year, let's not forget that each student is unique and tailoring our strategies to suit their needs ensures that learning remains enjoyable and impactful. By embracing the power of social stories, games, and fun social-emotional learning drawing activities, we're building a foundation that fosters empathy, cooperation, and a strong sense of community.

Remember, if you want a free sample of an editable social story about good behavior choices at school assemblies, just subscribe to my resource library (and confirm the opt-in email) and you'll gain access to my whole SEL library! I suggest using a personal e-mail, rather than work email. If you're already a subscriber on my list, just head to my SEL resource library and check it out!

Fun ways to teach expected behavior: a hand filling out a recess choices maze

Free social story expected behavior at the school assembly: a tablet with 4 characters sitting with text that says "we stay with our class and with our teacher."

How to teach expected behavior in a fun way with drawing: child's hands drawing a picture

Using drawing to teach kids about expected behavior in a fun way: child's hands coloring a picture



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