First/Then Card: School Work

  • Situation

    How can I get my student to do work in a subject that he dislikes? Every time he sees math on his schedule, he tantrums and rips up the paper.

  • Summary

    Determine an activity or item your student likes or enjoys. For example if he enjoys spending time on computer always choosing it as a leisure activity then antecedently hand him a First/Then card at math time. The First/Then card has an icon/word for Math followed by the icon/word for computer. Your student now knows that he will be able to spend time on the computer as soon as he is finished with the math work.

  • Definition

    A First/Then card or board shows two sequential activities identifying them in order of completion as “First” and “Then.” It sets up clear expectations for the student by providing visual structure. It can function as a behavioral contract for those specific activities or as a visual reminder to the student. Showing a non-preferred task followed by a rewarding activity that immediately follows will make the task more manageable.

  • Quick Facts

    • Child's Age: 3-5, 6-10, 11-13, 14-17, 18+
    • Planning Effort: Low
    • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Pre-requisites

    Knowledge of the steps of the class or activity, Materials to depict the step in picture or written form, Anticipatory knowledge of non-preferred trigger activity/task and an identified reinforcing activity

  • Process

    1. A reinforcing activity must be identified with the student.

    2. Make a First/Then Board . This can be done with two different colors or post it notes.

    3. The 2 tasks/activities are represented using by icons/words.

    4. The First/Then Board ideally should be explained and used antecedently with clear directions. (Ex. “First, this math, then computer time.”)

  • Documents and Related Resources (website resource for visual supports)


    Sample First/Then school card (image)


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