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  • Writer's pictureEllie

Classroom Management - "Uh-Oh Cards" A system to effectively manage your students.

Updated: Jul 11, 2020

It seems that right as I turn out my light to go to sleep, my brain fires up and starts thinking about everything teaching related. Last night, it was all about the classroom management strategy I used with my Grade 1 students. I had a very busy group of Grade 1s last year. From calling out, using unkind words, to being hands on, you name it, it was present in my classroom and it was CONSTANT. I was wracking my brain thinking about how I could solve this problem and then it hit me!  


I wanted a classroom management strategy that was relatable to the real world and could provide a valuable lesson to my students. Uh-Oh cards stemmed from the idea of breaking the law and receiving a fine. Not following the rules can serve a hefty consequence. So, together as a class we talked about some examples of consequences you receive when you don’t follow the rules (e.g. getting a ticket for speeding). 


I explained to my students that from now on, if they break one of our classroom rules, they will receive an uh-oh card. If they receive an uh-oh card, they have to pay the fine using their tickets (our classroom reward system). However, it was important to make it clear to my students how and when I hand them out. 

UH-OH Card Rules 

  • Can be handed out during teaching time

  • Can be handed out during work time

  • Can be handed out after recess if an incident has occured

  • You can receive more than one fine in a day

Paying The Fine

  • Must be paid to teacher

  • Must be paid during OWN time - do not interrupt lesson or teacher 

  • If you do not have any tickets - teacher will record the amount you owe - aka your debt!


I tied the uh-oh cards into our classroom reward system (tickets) in hopes that when my students broke our co-created classroom rules that they were more likely to break their bad habit. The cost varied for each fine depending on the “offence” but ranged from 1-3 tickets! Students can also receive more than one fine at once, therefore I didn’t want to make the cost too high. I wanted to ensure that positive behaviour was also being rewarded in my classroom, so I created "Way to Go" cards that enabled students to earn back any tickets that they had lost.


I created uh-oh cards with an “offence” that related to the issues we were having in my classroom. Each card had a corresponding fine amount. I colour coordinated the cards based on the fine amount.

The students used the tickets they received and purchased coupons from our coupon shop to buy a reward. This helped to create value to the tickets, and the students hated having to give them up!

Over the year, I found this system to be very effective. Students started picking up on their bad habits because it started costing them their valuable tickets. A student who called out often on carpet without raising her hand began to catch herself and covered her mouth quickly everytime she was about to call out! Another student started going back to his desk to tuck in his chair because he knew he would get a fine if he didn’t tuck it in!


I found this system to be very effective because it was a system that did not disrupt our classroom routines and lessons. The tickets were handed out silently and did not disrupt the classroom. For example, if I was teaching in the middle of a lesson and a student blurted out, I would hand them a card. This was their signal and reminder to stop calling out, and served as a consequence, they now owed me a ticket.  There is nothing worse than losing your train of thought to redirect behaviour so I found this system effective to keep things moving along while dealing with disruptions. 



Fast forward to this year, I started teaching Kindergarten and began to notice the same issues. I wanted to use a system that was similar to my “uh-oh fines” however, due to the way our Kindergarten program is run in Ontario, I couldn’t use an individual reward system as it would be too hectic! I needed something that would teach my kindies a valuable lesson and for them to begin to recognize their own behaviour. So, I decided to tie in the Zones of Regulation into the idea and create consequences/rewards for receiving a card.  


We first began by doing some lessons on the zones of regulation. Since kindergarten students have a short attention span, I broke it down into four different lessons, one for each zone. In each lesson, we talked about the way we feel when we are in that zone and created anchor charts for the students to make reference to. 

After the Zones lessons, I explained how the Zone cards work. Chunking information for Kindergarten students is KEY. I explained that a teacher can give out Zone Cards AND students can give out Zone Cards.

Zone Card Rules 

  • Teacher can hand out a zone card to you

  • A friend can hand a zone card to you 

  • Cards can be given at anytime, but are not allowed to interrupt a lesson 

I allowed students to hand out zone cards because I wanted everyone to develop self-regulation skills and also the ability to recognize un-regulated behaviour. For example:

“Jack and Wayne were playing in the block center. Jack wrecked Wayne’s structure and made Wayne sad. Wayne gave Jack a blue card for using unkind actions and placed the card in Jack’s pocket (library pockets or a pocket chart for each student). Now Jack needs to choose a next step (chart below) and will receive the consequence for his actions and the zone he put his friend in”

I explained to my students the "What to do chart" to enable them to develop self-regulation skills and independent problem solving skills. The chart allowed them to understand how they made a friend feel, what they needed to do, and the consequence or reward for their actions. In addition to posting the chart, I also used the Student Strategy Cards from Chelsea's Colourful Classroom. I had these hanging next to the chart to allow my students to use the breathing exercises or to identify how big or small their problem is to determine what they can do next.

Overall, I found this strategy to be very effective in my room. The cards can be edited to fit your classroom needs and your classroom reward system. I found that it helped to hold my students accountable for their actions, and they began to understand how their behaviour affects them personally as well as their peers.

To view this product, or purchase it in my TPT store click here! If you try it, I would be interested to know your thoughts!


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