how to teach self management skills
Aug 05 2020

Teaching Self-Management Skills: 5 Strategies to Create an Effective Plan

Positive Action Staff
Self-management is the ability to manage stress and impulsivity while motivating oneself to meet a specific goal.

Social-emotional learning competencies focus on teaching students the skills to navigate their lives. Character education teaches confidence, social-emotional intelligence, and self-awareness, among other life-long strengths. Self-management, however, may be one of the most critical skills that students take from SEL.

Learning to self-manage teaches students to have a growth mindset. Failure happens to everyone, but we learn from it and try again.

To teach self-management skills to students, you need a reliable and proven plan.

What is a Self-Management Plan?

Teaching self-management skills for students has been proven to improve academic performance, productivity, time-on-task, and decrease problem behavior.

Ideally, self-management strategies for students start before problem behaviors occur. However, they can replace disruptive behaviors by substituting them with more desirable conduct.

A self-management plan is a set of tools that build and foster independence, self-reliance, and self-motivation. More than an education philosophy, self-management skills are crucial for students to learn.

Self-management plans use SEL character-building proficiencies to lead students toward self-discipline, self-motivation, and independent learning.

Self-management strategies involve:

Goal setting

Students and teachers should cooperate in setting small, reachable goals that the student can work toward. Goals can be anything from “working quietly for 15 minutes” to “turning in homework consistently.” By allowing the student to participate in setting their goals, you empower them to take an active role in self-management strategies, as well as self-management interventions.

Behavior monitoring

Self-monitoring, or behavior monitoring, occurs when students observe and record their behaviors, redirecting themselves when necessary.

They practice their self-awareness skills and build a record of their difficulties and successes. Through self-monitoring, students become more aware of where they struggle and where they succeed.

As their self-awareness increases, they gain confidence in their ability to redirect themselves and participate in self-reinforcement activities.


Self-reinforcement is the act of rewarding oneself after completing the desired behavior or meeting a goal. Rewarding positive behavior increases the likelihood your student will repeat that behavior. According to Psychology Today, 85% of people who don’t learn self-reinforcement have trouble in other areas, like self-esteem.

Rewards can be a chance to get up and move after completing an assignment, extra computer time, or assigning classroom jobs. Tailor the rewards to the student and the behaviors you want to reinforce with the self-management plan.


While students may look forward to the rewards, reflection on the process teaches them the most.

What helped inspire them? What was the most challenging part of the process? Was the reward worth it? What can they do better the next time?

These questions and answers help teachers and students gain confidence in themselves and their skills. They can also identify areas where the teacher and student believe they can improve.

This self-evaluation process also teaches students the power of resilience and perseverance. They learn that failure can happen, but if they keep trying, they can succeed.

Build an Effective Teaching Plan with These 5 Strategies

By inviting your students to take an active part in their education, you empower them to self-manage. Teaching self-management skills to students may seem overwhelming.

Try using these self-management tools in your classroom.

  1. Time Management Logs. These logs are a place for students to track and manage their time. The log can span the length of a single assignment, an entire day, or a week, whatever is appropriate. For younger students, the goal of their self-management plan may be to complete a worksheet without interrupting other students. For older students, they may set a goal to gather insight into their working habits and improve them.

  2. Checklists and Rubrics. The act of checking boxes on a to-do list can be exciting for students. Each checkmark is a goal completed toward a larger objective.

It’s important that both student and teacher clearly understand the objective, and that you have manageable steps to get there.

  1. Rating Scales. A rating scale allows students to rate how well they accomplished a specific goal. For example, a student sets a goal to complete an assignment within a stated period. The teacher could mark off ten-minute intervals or play a beep tape. When cued, the student records whether they succeeded in focusing on their assignment during that interval. They reward themselves with a star or smiley face if they succeeded and leave their record blank if they didn’t. At the end of the class, students see how many stars or smiles they’ve earned, allowing them to rate their efforts.

  2. Contracts or Agreements. While contracts are ideal for older students, they can be used for young learners as well. Agreements can be a list of rules or ideal behaviors and can be individually based, team-based, or class-based. Students can then evaluate how well they kept the terms of the agreement at the end of it. Ensure that students get involved in setting the rules or behaviors so they feel more engaged in sticking to them.

  3. Behavior Report Cards. These report cards should have a place for both students and teachers to grade their behavior. Younger students may earn grades on teaching sessions, while older students may be able to handle a grade for the entire day.

How Positive Action Can Help

Positive Action has created a research-based SEL curriculum that focuses on self-management as an underlying objective for all lessons. We also have units that focus on self-management.

To learn more about our programs, you can also reach out to us via chat, email, or call us at (800) 345-2974. You can also join us for a 15-minute webinar.