In my school counseling, I am often providing services for students with “behaviors.” The term, behaviors, however, can have a very wide range. From aggression to tantruming, students with behaviors stand out in the classroom and make life difficult for teachers when they occur frequently and are disruptive to instruction.

By focusing your counseling sessions on Expected vs. Unexpected Behavior, you can help a variety of students, with a variety of behaviors. Using the vocabulary of “Expected” and “Unexpected” you can help children label their behavior, which can help them to understand that they are not “bad”, but their behavior is “unexpected”.

In my counseling, I define “Unexpected” with a few of the same reasons for being “Unexpected”.

These include that the behavior may be one or more of the following:

  • The behavior does not follow the school or classroom rules
  • The behavior is unsafe
  • The behavior make others feel uncomfortable
  • The behavior may injure themselves or others
  • The behavior makes them feel bad during or after it is over

Here are some of the activities that I’ve created and use OFTEN with my counseling students. From videos, to games and social stories, providing a variety of types of instruction can hopefully cement this concept into your students’ minds, so that they start making better choices with their behaviors.

These activities and behavior systems are available in my store individually, or as a bundle, which can save you some money!

#1 Videos

Videos are a great and easy activity that you can use with individual students, or a whole class of students for easy-breezy SEL. Kids love videos, as they provide instruction and modeling in an entertaining way that they find fun for the most part. In this videos-list, counselors and teachers can quickly access videos for a variety of topics, including Expected/Unexpected behaviors.

Here’s a video that is also a game that is free to use with your students for teaching them Expected vs. Unexpected behaviors! It’s 15 minutes long.

#2 Worksheets

This is also an easy activity for students to do in a small group or individually when learning this concept of Expected vs. Unexpected. It’s best for younger students, but you might have to pre-cut out the pieces. You can even play it as a game and re-use it if you don’t glue down the pieces.


Games are generally my students favorite activity to do in counseling. I created several games that are designed to disguise learning with fun. When playing games, it is also a good opportunity to practice social skills and if an expected behavior occurs when playing.

For example, I have a student that bursts into a big emotion when he thinks that he is losing. This is always a great opportunity for me to point out when this happens that he is having an unexpected emotion, typically by asking him, “Is crying during a fun game expected or unexpected?” Its been a few weeks at this point, but I think he’s slowly getting it. Remember, it takes a while to “fix” behaviors that students have been having over months or even years. We are not miracle workers here, right?

Here are some of the games that I made and play with my own students to address teaching them Expected and Unexpected Behaviors.

#4 Social Stories

This Social Story is a coloring book to help make learning social skills an interactive activity that can be personalized. This story explains what Expected and Unexpected behaviors are and then gives examples of both in the school setting.

To use: Print as a booklet or full page and staple. Use in a counseling session or read with the student in class and on a daily basis until you see improvements in behaviors. Pair with other videos and activities that focus on “Expected vs. Unexpected” behaviors.

#5 Behavior Systems

Behavior Rewards Charts are my jam. Having a personalized system that both explains (with words or pictures) the behaviors that are expected and unexpected is a great way to remind the student throughout the entire school day what he or she should be doing. While counseling sessions are instructional and great, rewards charts help put into action the day to day of improving specific behaviors. T

Some systems can also include a visual aide for emotional regulation and a calming strategies pictures, break cards and bathroom pass cards, or coloring rewards.

If you like some or all of these ideas and activities, you can save money buy buying them as a bundle. Just click on the picture below to learn more.