How to Use a First Then Board

By Shari Kurtzman

Find this resource and more like it in our Special Education Category!

First Then Boards are a visual support system that allows young children or children with language delays to understand routines, expectations, and reward systems in more accessible ways. By providing a visual support along with language and social interaction, students are able to participate more independently and with less frustration in everyday activities. The simple layout of two spaces allows for the caregiver to update the board frequently and adjust depending on the student’s needs. Often a binder or pocket folder with Velcro to hold many cards makes the system compact and usable throughout the routine.

Create a First Then Board

First Then Board Examples


  • First Circle, Then Playground
  • First Brush Teeth, Then Bus
  • First Art, Then Good-Bye


  • First Potty, Then Wash Hands
  • First Wash Hands, Then Eat
  • First Play, Then Clean Up

Reward Systems

  • First Veggies, Then Cookie
  • First Clean Up, Then Screen Time
  • First Make Bed, Then Breakfast

Create a Storyboard 

(This will start a 2-Week Free Trial - No Credit Card Needed)

The primary philosophy behind First Then Boards is the Premack Principle, which suggests engaging the student in doing a less preferred activity before a more preferred activity. This principle helps students extend their attention on a learning task and builds positive relationships between caregivers and students. This is done through consistency using expectations and following through on promises or expectations on both sides. Teachers and caregivers feel like their day continues to move forward (instead of having to handle a tantrum or fight) while students feel like they understand and are “rewarded” or are getting the feedback they need.

A First Then Board can be used to support any challenging transition or for new routines. These visual supports are helpful for new concepts, new language, and for explaining how to get from one activity to another. “First clean up, and then parachute!”

Any child can benefit from this approach. It is helpful for adults to slow down and break down ideas for any child. Simply setting expectations with pictures and discussing a plan or timeline often alleviates much of the push-back parents/caregivers see in students.

When Should I Use a First Then Board?

You may want to try a First Then Board with your student if:

  • Transitions to non-preferred activities are challenging (dinner, bedtime, ending screen time, etc.)
  • You need to break down complex activities into smaller parts (potty routine, morning routine)
  • You want to increase language and engagement with your student

Use one of Storyboard That’s example boards or make your own by going to “Create a Storyboard”. You can use pictures from the Storyboard That art library (see Strategies to Support Language and Social Skills) or upload your own photographs to help students understand exactly where to go or what is expected in their environment. Only simple text and images are required on the board, mostly to facilitate adult usage and consistency of language. You want simple, straightforward pictures that the child can identify or label easily. Avoid very detailed, large pictures and stick with single objects or places that are familiar to the student.

Create a Storyboard 

(This will start a 2-Week Free Trial - No Credit Card Needed)

First Then Boards are a great way to consistently model language, expectations and routine! Show us your favorite way you use your visual supports @StoryboardThat!

Create a Storyboard 

(This will start a 2-Week Free Trial - No Credit Card Needed)

Image Attributions


Help Share Storyboard That!

Read More of Our Blog

Looking for More?

Check out the rest of our Lesson Plans!

View All Teacher Resources

Our Posters on ZazzleOur Lessons on Teachers Pay Teachers

Clever Logo Google Classroom Logo Student Privacy Pledge signatory
Start My Free Trial
© 2020 - Clever Prototypes, LLC - All rights reserved.
Explore Our Articles and Examples

Business Resources

All Business ArticlesBusiness Templates

Film Resources

Film ResourcesVideo Marketing

Illustrated Guides

Try Our Other Websites!

Photos for Class   •   Quick Rubric   •   abcBABYart   •   Storyboard That's TpT Store
Prefer a different language?

•   (English) How to Use a First Then Board   •   (Español) Cómo Usar un Primer Tablero Entonces   •   (Français) Comment Utiliser un Premier Conseil D'administration   •   (Deutsch) Wie Benutzt man Eine Erste Dann Board   •   (Italiana) Come Utilizzare un First poi Consiglio   •   (Nederlands) Hoe Maak je een First Dan Board Gebruiken   •   (Português) Como Usar um First Then Board   •   (עברית) כיצד להשתמש הראשון אז מועצת   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) كيفية استخدام المجلس الأول ثم   •   (हिन्दी) पहले तो बोर्ड का प्रयोग कैसे करें   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Как Использовать Первый Совет Тогда   •   (Dansk) Sådan Bruges en First Så Board   •   (Svenska) Hur man Använder en Första Då Board   •   (Suomi) Kuinka Käytä Ensimmäinen Sitten Board   •   (Norsk) Hvordan Bruke en Først Deretter Board   •   (Türkçe) İlk Olarak Kurul Nasıl Kullanılır   •   (Polski) Jak Korzystać z Pierwszej Płyty   •   (Româna) Cum se Utilizează un Prim Apoi Consiliul   •   (Ceština) Jak Používat Nejprve Pak Board   •   (Slovenský) Ako Používať Prvú Dosku   •   (Magyar) Hogyan Használjuk a First Aztán Board   •   (Hrvatski) Kako Koristiti Prvi Onda Odbora   •   (български) Как да Използвате Първа След Това Съвет   •   (Lietuvos) Kaip Naudotis Pirma Tada Valdyba   •   (Slovenščina) Kako Uporabljati First Potem Svet   •   (Latvijas) Kā Izmantojiet Pirmā Tad Padome   •   (eesti) Kuidas Kasutada Esimese Siis Board