This post may contain affiliate links. You pay the same and I get a small commission. Yay! (Please see my/our full disclosure for further information.)
In my classroom, I focus highly on PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention System). But let’s be honest– no matter how many class points or Dojos are given, all kids are still going to act up. And that is why I now use the card system.
So when you are thinking about classroom management in your own classroom, think about two basic principles: 1. What happens when a kid does the right thing? and 2. What happens when a kid does the wrong thing?
PS– I have a free resource! You can get yellow, red, and green cards so that you can use this system in the FREE resource library! If you haven’t joined yet, all you have to do is click here to join! You will get updates, lesson ideas, and access to the free resource library– like the cards for this system!
When Kids are Good in Music
Across the school, we use Class Dojo— so when kids are good, they get points. The only exception is with fifth grade– I use the envelope system with fifth grade because the teachers are not as consistent with Dojo, so I find having my own system is better. In addition to that, we earn class points. We can earn up to 5 points for (almost) everyone being on task, transitioning well, etc. If we earn 20 points in a week (4-5 a day), then we get to play a music game of their choice on Friday.
With some classes, the individual rewards work better, and with others, the class rewards work better.
So those are all of the things in place to keep my classroom a positive place, and reward kiddos for good behavior.
As far as not so good behavior… That is what the card system is for…
When Kids Are Not Good in Music
Last year, I used the strike system for classroom management. It worked well, but I ran into problem with having to keep up with the strikes (I would write them on my seating chart, but had to remember to erase them every day and the seating chart would get all messed up…), and also the kids forgetting or not even paying attention when I told them they had a strike.
So…. It worked, but I wanted something a little bit better.
I decided to go with the card system, which is something that I saw one of the other teachers in my district using. She is at a school that is considered not good with behavior, but her classes ran like a well oiled machine.
I’m not quite there, but I’m working on it.
So I have been using her card system since the beginning of the school year (it is currently January), and it has been going really well.
The Card System for Classroom Management
The way I saw this system done, there were three cards: green, yellow, and red. They were just laminated pieces of colored paper. I do mine a little bit differently– but more on that in a bit.
- Green: Green means good! When students are good, they get a green card. A green card has some kind of reward tied to it– that could be a Dojo point, a piece of candy, a sticker, etc. The teacher that I observed did a special instrument at the end of the day and only the people who had earned a green card would get to play it. It also allowed students to learn about an instrument that they normally would not have, because you may only have one or two.
- Yellow: Yellow is a warning + time out. This means a student is not on task. While they have a yellow, they cannot play games or instruments. When they fix themselves, they are able to put the yellow away and join the class.
- Red: Red card means the student had a yellow and continued to not follow directions. Red card means some kind of punishment. In this classroom, it meant phone call home and a lunch detention.
Like I mentioned, I do the card system a little bit differently in my classroom.
How I Changed it for My Classroom
Most of the card system I kept the same, but I did change some of it. Like I said, we use Dojo, so I didn’t feel the need to make green cards when I could just give a Dojo point on my phone. I guess I could give a green and replace it with a Dojo… but that is too complicated for me.
Here is how my version of the card system goes:
- Yellow: When a student is off task or talking or whatever, they get a yellow card. Yellow card is like a time out– no games, no instruments, no dancing, etc. I have them stay at their normal seat (I had problems sending kids to the back because they were too far away and felt like I couldn’t see them.) Once they are sitting correctly, I allow them to come back and join us.
- Think Sheet: I found that I needed something in between a yellow and a red, and a writing activity gives kids the cool down time they need. I have a version for younger students and a version for older students. These stay on my front table, and when a student is finished with it, they put it in the basket and they can come back to join us. You can get them in my TPT shop here!
- Red: If a student has done a writing assignment and is still not doing the right thing, they will get a red. In my class, a red card equals a parent phone call, not getting to participate in fun activities, and with the older students (3-5), a lunch detention.
And, because the kids always ask, if they get a red card two days in a row, then they have an after school detention. But I probably only have that happen once every few months.
Things to Look Out for
Just like with any system, there are always sticking points when it comes to how the system functions. Here are a few things that I have noticed can be issues, just so you are aware:
- Crumpling/playing with card: Sometimes when students get a yellow, they get upset and they will roll, crumple, fold, etc the yellow card. This results in them getting disgusting– I actually had to throw away a bunch and make new ones at Christmas. This doesn’t bother me too much, because it’s a bit of a stress reliever, so I figure if they need it, it’s fine.
- Refusing to get a yellow card: I usually have the kids go get their own cards, and occasionally I will have a student refuse to get one. I tell them they cannot put it away if they don’t have it– so if they refuse to get one, they will have it for the whole class.
- Throwing the card or trying to hand it to someone else: Again, if you don’t have it, you cannot put it away. And if someone hands it to you and it’s not yours– don’t worry about it.
Any classroom management system only works if you buy into it and COMMIT. If you sometimes give cards and sometimes let things slide, it will not be effective. I can tell the days that I am “trying to be nice” and not give kids yellow cards, because I will be really annoyed and feel like the class is doing horribly and not be able to pinpoint what the problem is.
Classroom management is also most effective when you focus on the POSITIVE. I feel like this post has talked a lot about what to do when kids are bad– and that is something we need to deal with!– but make sure you are focusing in your classroom on the positive. My mentor during student teaching used to say that you should say 5 positives for every 1 negative. So for every one student getting a yellow card, you should be giving five Dojos or five green cards or at least five compliments. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but it helps keep you in check.
I hope that you found the card system for classroom management helpful! Even if you decide not to use this, I hope that you got some insight into how to manage your class better. I know a lot of people don’t like to talk about this– but if your class is out of control, NO ONE WILL LEARN ANYTHING. For real.
If you missed the links earlier (because you were enjoying the post so much!), here they are again:
What classroom management strategy do you use? Let me know in the comments!