Check In Check Out: School Counseling Behavior Intervention

This year, my school is part of a pilot program with our multi-tiered systems of supports for behavior.  This meant I was able to attend some additional behavior-focused trainings, including one focused specifically on Check In/Check Out (CICO). For years, I’ve used some sort of daily behavior point sheet with some of my students struggling with behavior. I had a bit of success so I thought I had it down pat, but turns out there was a lot more to it than I knew! I’ve learned a lot over the last several months about this awesome EVIDENCE-BASED intervention and want to share a bit about it.

Check In Check Out Behavior Intervention

What is Check In Check Out?

CICO is an evidence-based tier two behavior intervention. It combines adult attention, frequent feedback, self-monitoring, and rewards.

Who is CICO for?

Students with moderate behavior needs that are motivated by adult attention. This second part is important – and is where I made a mistake this year. Just because a student has an office referral, scored “moderate risk” on a behavioral universal screener, and is known for being a kiddo that needs some behavior support doesn’t mean CICO is the best fit for them. Of all the parts of CICO, the adult mentoring pieces is most key. If a student is not pretty motivated by adult attention, they will be better off with a different intervention.

How intensive of an intervention is it?

In successful cases, you’re looking at two to three months duration from start to finish.  It requires classroom teachers to provide brief frequent feedback throughout the day and mentors to be available a few minutes in the morning and a few more in the afternoon. In theory, because it’s a tier two level intervention, it isn’t considered intensive. In practice, when done correctly, it does require a bit of (wo)man power.

What does Check In Check Out look like?

Each student on CICO has a “daily report card” (I call it a daily point sheet) that’s aligned to the school’s core expectations and the student’s daily schedule. For each block of time and each expectation, they can earn up to two points (two points for exhibiting the behavior, one point for requiring reminders, and zero points for not exhibiting the behavior). Each morning, the students checks in with their mentor teacher. The mentor gets a sense of how the student is feeling, they create a goal for how many points the student is aiming to earn that day, and the student picks a reward they want to earn for meeting their goal. Throughout the day, the student’s teachers provide feedback by circling the number of points earned in each block (and making brief, positive focused comments to them as needed). At the end of the day, the student checks out with their mentor. They tally the points, talk briefly about the behavioral strengths and struggles of the day, and if applicable, the student receives their reward.

CICO Point Sheets

How did I set it up?

I formally kicked off the program by presenting to our whole faculty about CICO, including both classroom teacher duties and mentor duties. Then I asked for faculty members that were willing to volunteer as mentors. I already had a list of students that I thought would be good fits for the program using data from the SRSS-IE screener (I’ll blog about that another day!) as well as my own observations. If I was doing this all super formally, we would have written specific qualifying criteria for entry into CICO, including attendance data, office referrals, etc. – but for several reasons, that wasn’t going to happen for us. Then I “matched” mentees and mentors. In some cases, I gave the mentors names and asked if they already felt they had relationships with any of the students. Sometimes I thought about personalities and tried to be a matchmaker. And sometimes it was random. If we weren’t a brand new school with a brand new faculty, I would have asked the students their opinion as well, but they don’t know many teachers outside their own. Then I emailed teachers and mentors about matches and gave them both materials. For teachers, I gave them a letter for them to leave behind when they have subs. For mentors, I gave them the student’s CICO folder (with point sheets, reward options, and data tracking sheets), a parent letter, and a ‘script/guide’ to help them the first couple weeks.

Check In Check Out Materials

What kind of rewards?

This totally depends on your school and your mentors. Our lists include things like: coloring time, computer time, change your name the next day, stickers, trip to the library, etc. It is advised that all students within a grade level have the same reward options (it won’t go over well if Ms. James is buying people McDonalds but Ms. Mancini just has plain pencils).

How does data play into this?

Data forms for kids

One of the awesome things about this intervention is that progress monitoring is built right into the system! You have data about each student’s behavior daily. In an ideal and beautiful world, mentors would enter the number of points a student received and the percentage of points possible earned into an electronic database (Google Drive, OneDrive, good ole Excel, etc.). In many of our worlds, that feels like a big ask, like just one more thing to ask of mentors. What I do is include a weekly tracking sheet in each student’s folder and ask mentors to write the info on them and then turn that into me each week. I want to tell you that I then enter those data points into the fancy excel spreadsheets my cluster’s behavior analyst gave me. But I don’t. I just look at them, contact mentors and teachers if changes are needed, and hold onto them in case we move forward with a child study meeting for a kiddo.


Things I wish I had done differently/what I need to work on:

  • I should have ensured buy in from classroom teachers more. I did a whole faculty training about Check In Check Out, and sent an email to classroom teachers each time I ‘matched’ one of their students. After this early mistake, I started emailing them (about future matches) asking if they think their student would be a good fit and reminding them of their role. To gain their investment (and follow through), I need this to be a decision they have more input in. It’s a tough balance between trying to do everything/not send too many emails/not bug teachers and making sure I’m communicating enough.
  • I wish I had talked with all of the students myself first. Explain why they get to participate, begin generating some investment, let them know that it’s not forever, etc. There’s never enough minutes in the day and so I skipped this but I regret not making it happen with my first kiddos on the program.
  • I forgot to make time to keep up with it all. In some ways CICO seems like an easy method for multiple students to receive behavior support at once without the counselor having to service all of them. In other ways, like any other program, it comes like a bit of maintenance and upkeep. The hope is that schools have behavior teams that meet regularly to analyze data, problem solve, make changes, etc. It’s not always like that though and it’s certainly not for me, I’m flying solo on this for my caseload. I had to start scheduling a designated chunk of time (30 minutes) each week to do this.

Check In, Check Out Tier 2 Behavior Intervention
Check In, Check Out (CICO) is an evidence-based tier 2 behavior intervention for students. It combines adult attention, frequent feedback, self-monitoring, and reinforcement. CICO is for students who are motivated by adult attention. Running the program requires a coordinator (you!) and some adult mentors (any faculty members). This resource has everything you need to roll out this behavior program at your school!

16 Responses

    1. Many of the documents are editable: parent letter, sub letter, mentor guide. The parts of the daily point sheets that are editable are the period/subject titles (ELA, math, recess, etc.) and the expectations (respectful, responsible, safe). There are CICO sheets with smiley faces, 0-1-2 points, 1-2-3 points – and also for 5, 6, and 7 periods. Shoot me an email if you have any more questions! theresponsivecounselor@gmail.com

  1. Thank you for the awesome insights! It’s been on my to-do list to get CICO started at my school. We do not receive any district support or resources for this, so I am so grateful for counselors like you who take the time to share your experiences. Going to your Tpt now 😊.

    1. You are very welcome! I am happy to be able to help others because I know how much I gain by learning from others!

  2. Hello! I was wondering if you have any other interventions that you typically run to for Tier 1 and Tier 2 students? I’ve heard of the CICO before but wish there was one go-to spot of interventions to try that describes (like you did) of why to use it, how to use it, and how to collect the data from it to improve behavior, etc.

    Thank you!

    1. Hello! The other individual tier 2 behavior interventions I use are mentoring, small group counseling, accommodations like you would use for someone with ADHD (seat disc, chair band, chunked assignments, frequent breaks, etc.) and daily point sheets (without the checking in and out). I think you may have meant tier 2 and tier 3. For tier 3 interventions my go-tos are personalized daily point sheet (with differentiated target behaviors, additional times for reinforcement, etc.), token boards, 2:10 (for building their relationship with the teacher), and other creative positive reinforcement systems. Anything I make that involves positive reinforcement, the teachers track the frequency of reinforcement and we use that (as well as behavior write-ups) for data.

  3. Were you the person to do the daily CICO with the students? I have been asked to do this, but with all the emergencies, I cannot guarantee that i am available every morning and every afternoon.

    1. Definitely not just me! I only had 1 student. Art teacher, STEAM teacher, math coach, librarian, EE teachers, and a few classroom teachers – lots of different mentors. At the end of the PPT I delivered explaining CICO to the faculty, I asked for volunteers. Didn’t quite get as many as I’d hoped, but we made it work. Not only should the counselor not do it because of how frequently we’re unavailable, I think it’s important for the students in CICO to develop relationships with OTHER adults in the building. The way that our district was trained (from state MTSS-B people), counselors coordinate it but everyone should be involved. Best, Sara

  4. Thank you so much for sharing the CICO resources. I am a Dean and it’s been a challenge to handle every situation and still give our kiddos the attention they need to be successful! I am so excited to implement this program at my school!

    1. Hi Trisha, I typically pronounce it as “see-ko” which I guess you could say is a blend of both.

  5. I am the sole counselor for an elementary school with 700 students. This is my first year and I am thinking that it might be a little late to get this up and running. I wouldn’t have the carved out time to talk/train staff in this. I also do not think I would get many (honestly if any) mentors. I have come to realize that anything behavioral falls solely on my plate…Any suggestions on how to get this going and working? I could use the help!

    1. Hi! I think it can be helpful in situations like this to start small. Find a couple of faculty that you think would be on board, and a couple of students that would be a great match. Consider it a “test run”. Then, you can slowly start building more capacity. The faculty who served as mentors can champion how their experience was, the teachers of the students served can informally share how it was helpful for their students. Then more faculty get on board with it. That’s my suggestion! Best, Sara

  6. I really connected with this article! I do CICO a little differently for my students as it is mostly preparing them for their day by reviewing schedule changes, when I will see them for supports, and if they have a behavior plan providing them with their chart and going over the expectation and what they are working for that day. I am also doing this myself and it takes roughly 30 minutes in the morning and again 30 in the afternoon. It is a lot for one person and I fear more students being added as I am stretched so thin right now. Thank you for sharing your insight, self reflection, and your resources!

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Hello, I’m Sara!

With 10 years of experience in
elementary school counseling,
I get to serve in a different way now
– by helping fellow counselors and

I value quality over quantity,
effective practices and resources,
and meeting the unique needs of all
our diverse learners.

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