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Turn-A-Card Behavior Management Plan

An Effective Behavior Management Strategy for Elementary Students

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Turn-A-Card Behavior Management Plan

The traffic light is an easy way for young students to understand.

© Hulton Archive Getty Images

A popular behavior management plan most elementary teachers use is called the "Turn-A-Card" system. This strategy is used to help monitor each child's behavior and encourage students to do their best. In addition to helping students display good behavior, this system allows students to take responsibility for their actions.

There are numerous variations of the "Turn-A-Card" method, the most popular being the "Traffic Light" behavior system. This strategy uses the three colors of the traffic light with each color representing a specific meaning. This method is usually used in preschool and primary grades. The following "Turn-A-Card" plan is similar to the traffic light method but can be used throughout all elementary grades.

How it Works

Each student has an envelope containing four cards: Green, Yellow, Orange and Red. If a child displays good behavior throughout the day, he/she remains on the green card. If a child disrupts the class he/she will be asked to "Turn-A-Card" and this would reveal the yellow card. If a child disrupts the classroom a second time in the same day he/she will be asked to turn a second card, which would reveal the orange card. If the child disrupts the class a third time he/she will be asked to turn their final card to reveal the red card.

What it Means

Green = Great job! Working well throughout the day, following rules, demonstrating appropriate behavior, etc.

Yellow = Warning Card (breaking rules, not following directions, disrupting the classroom)

Orange = Second Warning Card (still not following directions)
This card means that the student loses free time and takes a ten minute time out.

Red = A Note and/or Phone Call Home

A Clean Slate

Each student starts off the school day with a clean slate. This means that if they had to "Turn-A-Card" the previous day, it will not affect the current day. Each child starts the day on the green card.

Parent Communication/Report Student Status Each Day

Parent-communication is an essential part of this behavior management system. At the end of each day, have students record their progress in their take-home folders for their parents to view. If the student did not have to turn any cards that day then have them place a green star on the calendar. If they had to turn a card, then they place the appropriate colored star on their calendar. At the end of the week have parents sign the calendar so you know they had a chance to review their child's progress.

Additional Tips
  • It is expected that each student stays on green throughout the day. If a child does have to turn a card, then kindly remind them they get to start fresh the next day.
  • If you see that a particular student is getting a lot of warning cards then it may be time to re-think the consequences.
  • When a child has to turn a card, use this as an opportunity to teach the child the correct behavior that should of been displayed.
  • Reward the students that stay on green all week. Have "Free-Time Friday" and allow students to choose fun activities and games. For the students that flipped over an orange or red card during the week, they will not be able to participate.
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