Behavior Punch Cards

Oh. My. Gosh. For my first official resource post, I had to choose my all-time favorite resource in my class- behavior punch cards. Classroom management is definitely my favorite part about teaching so I tend to create a lot of things geared toward behavior management. I didn’t make this to sell initially. I made this because I needed something for students in our class to appreciate intrinsic rewards. I really don’t like extrinsic rewards and use them as one of my last resorts (with a scowl on my face because I need children to learn to do the right thing solely because it’s the right thing, not because they get something out of it). However, when you work with first graders, it can be pretty difficult to teach motivation just because it will make you a better and smarter individual. That’s why I created my behavior punch cards.

I started this as a personal challenge and accountability routine in our room. My goal was for students (and myself) to reflect on their day as a whole and answer the question, “Did I do my best today?” I’m all about handing the power over to students so “my best” can mean a lot of different things. When I have a lot on my plate and I’m stressed out, what does “my best” look like for that day? I’ll tell you what, it looks much different than “my best” on the days where I wake up on the right side of the bed with nothing I’m worried about. I want students to realize this as well. “My best” is translated into, “Did I do the best I could given the circumstances I was faced with today?” This daily activity teaches them about self-reflection, accountability, and integrity. I will forever use this resource in the classroom I’m teaching in. Here’s how I use it.
When I first introduce behavior punch cards, whether it’s the first day of school or the middle of November (when I first used them), I tell students that this is their card to take care of every day. This card will be taken out at the end of each day for them to basically rate themselves on their behavior and their choices. I tell students that the last few minutes before we pack up and leave for home, I will give the class the opportunity to quietly reflect on their day. I tell students that we will do this each day and when they receive their last hole punch, they will earn a special treat (because let’s be honest, I treat myself when I do well). I leave it at that and ask them to put their names on their cards and put them in a safe place where they’ll be able to find them. Throughout the day, I’ll remind students that we have reflection for punch cards and I’ll ask if they’re doing their part to earn a hole punch. I like to use the phrase, “_____ looks like they want a hole punch!” or “I think _______ will earn a hole punch today.” I want to reinforce that I see those choices and I value them. Okay, now to tell how I incorporate using behavior punch cards.
I usually give 20 seconds for silent reflection at the last 5-10 minutes of the day. I advise students to think about how they did during instruction, centers, recess, specials, how they treated others, how they treated their teacher, and really anything else that happened that day at school. By the end of the time, they should have decided if their behavior and choices earned them a hole punch. When the timer goes off, students know to get their punch cards out and I walk around and ask the question, “Did you do your best today?” Students reply “Yes” or “No”.

“What about students who try to cheat the system and get hole punches when they didn’t earn one?”

Don’t think I didn’t plan for this! Every year when I start this, there’s always one student who thinks because they’re in charge, they can breeze through. That’s where the accountability piece comes in. I tell students that they have the freedom to tell their choice, but I have the freedom to agree or kindly disagree with their choice. If I disagree, we can have a productive conversation about if the student really did their best or not. I want them to know that I’m human and teaching/monitoring 20+ kids can be difficult so we may have different perspectives on situations. There have been times a student said they did their best and I kindly disagreed “because I saw _____ and _____”. Once the student did some extra reflecting, they decided they could do better than that. There have also been times where a student said they didn’t do their best and I kindly disagreed “because ______, but you really changed it around”. Then the student decided they really did try their best. Best doesn’t have to mean perfect. There have also been times where a student said they did their best and I kindly disagreed. The student then defended their argument with reasons why they felt that was their best and I changed my mind and agreed. I don’t view behavior punch cards as my way to gain control of the class. I look at it as a way to connect with each student in the class and help provide that discipline to help them become the best version of themselves.
I do this process with every student, every day. It’s my favorite part of the school day. Even if a student decides it wasn’t their best day, that’s okay with me. That’s the integrity piece of behavior punch cards. I certainly don’t have good days every single day and I don’t expect student to either. No one is in trouble if they decide it wasn’t their best day. We simply make a plan for the next day. Because I value honesty, there are times when a student is truthful and can tell me why they didn’t do their best and I give them a hole punch anyway. It takes a lot to humble yourself and admit your faults and I want them to know there’s honor in that. Every piece of behavior punch cards is a learning experience.
So, what happens when someone reaches their 10th hole punch? We celebrate! Students congratulate their classmate and then they get a little treat! This really is up to your discretion. 🙂 I like to use chips, because yum. Then the student receives a new punch card and the cycle starts over! I said earlier that I use these all year so in the product there are punch cards with pictures to use all year! There are also cards you can use year-round.
And that’s it! That’s behavior punch cards in a larger nutshell. Like I said earlier, this is the best management tool I’ve put in the classroom thus far. If you’re interested in using them yourself, just click the link below this winter-themed punch cards picture to be directed to the product!
Snowman behavior punch cards for winter. 🙂
If you’d like to learn even more about this product, click here to watch my video description. 🙂

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