Friday, August 16, 2013

A Tool for Tallying Frequency

Because our classroom utilizes an ABA-based model, the staff and teachers in the room our almost constantly taking data on one or more students (and often multiple behaviors for each kiddo!). We use this data to drive our instruction and decision making. Frequency is a common way to measure how many times a behavior occurs. It's a useful measure for "quick" behaviors (such as vocal outbursts or addition problems completed).

Today's post is probably a regular tool for many, but I've come to realize there are tons of parents and teachers who aren't aware of a device for counting frequency: the tally counter!

This tool can be purchased from Amazon or at most sports stores. They're notably inexpensive ($1-4) and typically come with a black lanyard for use. With the lanyard, the tally counters can be clipped on a key ring, belt loop, or worn as a necklace. At the end of a day, session, time period, or interval the number on the face of the tally counter can be transferred to the data sheet.

Additional colored lanyards (shown above) can be purchased, too; this is helpful in situations for tracking multiple behaviors or multiple students.

I prefer tally counters because they are a tool that is inexpensive and reliable. They don't use batteries and, when worn, travel constantly with the individual collecting data. Tally counters may also prevent some errors in data for those moments when you're thinking, "Oh, I'll remember to write that incidence [of behavior] down." (Come on, we've all done it at least once.) In addition to all of this good stuff, they're nearly indestructible.

Happy Teaching!
Kortnie C.


  1. Can't go wrong with a tally counter. In a pinch, I've used "row counters" for (used by knitters) for the same purpose. You can pick these up at stores like Walmart or craft stores.
    Funny story- there was a time when I was working "one-on-one" with a student who was fully included within a kindergarten classroom. I was using 2 tally counters throughout the entire day to track percentage of compliance (click one for every single directive given, click the other if compliance was achieved - based on our predetermined definition).
    The instructor of the class approached me one day - asking me to explain what I was doing with the tally counters.. as several students had expressed their concern for my client.. thinking I was "shocking" him with every click (my client wasn't incredibly compliant at first and did a lot of yelling out when given a directive).
    Needless to say, I gave a quick explanation - and assured the kiddos that I was doing no harm to their peer!!! I don't know, though - I think a few were still suspicious...

    1. Thanks for the idea, Sara! I've never used a row counter before but I will be sure to pick one up next time I shop!

      It's amazing how even the slightest doubt can lead to such negative thoughts! As we both know, the science is often misconstrued.. that's why promoting knowledge of ABA (and autism) is so important to me!