Management Monday: Stoplight Cards

Today flew by! I am excited to get my kiddos into their final research project of the year- Colorado Animals! Each student is going to research their animal of choice, create a flipbook, and present their project during our Publishing Party in a few weeks.

For this project, I brought out our Stoplight Cards:
These little guys are super easy to manage and solve a world of problems for us. Here is the basic setup:
There are 3 pictured here- each open to the different colors
Each color is glued to the back of the next color (1 green glued to 1 yellow, 1 yellow glued to 1 red, and 1 red glued to 1 green) and then laminated and bound together. They are tiny, only about 3", so they don't take up much space, but serve their purpose very well.

What is their purpose? To help the teacher (me) know who needs help, who has a question, who may be stuck, or who is smooth sailing.

Here's how it works:
If a kiddo comes to something they have a question about, they flip their card to yellow and continue to work on something else. I am wandering about the classroom and as soon as I see a yellow card, I check in to see how I can help. When their question has been answered, they flip back to green and I move on to the next.

A student can flip their card to red only if they are completely stuck and cannot do anything else related to our project. In that case, instead of leaving it on the desk, they hold it in the air so I can see it better and come over as soon as possible.

Green cards up tell me that they are doing well and no questions or concerns are arising. I still check in with them and ask questions and check their understanding- all that good teacher stuff- but it is not in response to an immediate concern.

Here are a few green card students at work (I couldn't get pics of the yellow cards because I always forgot!):
Kids can work someplace comfortable in the room, and these are small enough for easy transport!
To introduce these cards, I posed questions and had the kids show me what card they would flip up. Some of my questions included:
  • I am finding all of the facts I need (green)
  • I found a cool interesting fact I can't wait to share (green)
  • I don't know what a word means and I've tried my strategies (yellow)
  • I am having trouble finding information about their habitat (yellow)
  • Are these enough facts? (yellow)
  • I am completely stuck, can't find any information, don't know where to look, and am starting to feel very frustrated (red)
Kids did very well with this warm-up and I loved being able to wander around during research and go to kids who need me, not have kids trail behind me or form a line as I work with one of them. I always pictured myself as a band leader or a conductor with all of these followers, so this has completely alleviated that problem.

I also appreciate how these cards challenge kids to leave a problem and go to another topic while they wait for me to come and answer their question. This helps to build their independence and oftentimes, they will be able to answer their own question when I come to check in because they have been away from it for a bit- good life lesson!

I keep all of these Stoplight Cards in a bin and collect them when we are done so they stay safe.

Do you do any specific management techniques during group work time? How do you avoid the "conductor" role when kids have questions?


  1. Oh my goodness, YES! The conductor is another good example. We had so many phone calls Friday afternoon that I answered the phone "Grand Central Station" when I saw it was from the office on the caller ID. I could totally have used the conductor analogy. =) I also tease my kids that I am not their mother and they are not ducklings so they need to sit down and keep working until I get there.

    I also have my students try the "Ask three before me" strategy during work time.
    Christi ツ
    Ms. Fultz’s Corner

  2. Hi Christi,

    I LOVE the duckling analogy, that's totally right :) Love Ask 3 Before Me- did you see the cute sign that Down Under Teacher made? I pinned it and posted it here:
    Love that font :)

    Happy Monday!


  3. These are a great idea! I love how it doesn't keep the kids with their hands in the air waiting for me if it is something that they can wait for me to answer and move on in the meantime. Thanks for the suggestion!

    The Second Grade Superkids

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    The Second Grade Superkids