STAR Cards for Positive Classroom Behavior

Over the years, I have tried many classroom rewards for students who go above and beyond during the school day. I try to avoid picking from the Treasure Box or doling out candy, mostly because that's not sustainable, for the kids or myself.

I was looking for a way for kids to earn their way to a reward, but in so doing, making something that was motivating for them, and easy for me. I am not a great record keeper, so it needed to be something we could all track with ease.

For the past couple of years, we have had STAR Cards to fill this need and they have really done the trick! I picked up star hole punches on Amazon (I bought two so they would be in strategic places around my classroom), and each student is given a STAR Card at the beginning of the year. I just copy them on cardstock and write their names on the back in Sharpie.

In our classroom, STAR stands for Students Taking Academic Responsibility, but I am going to be changing that over to Amazing Responsibility, since I want the focus to shift off of just academic deeds and more on their whole character.

These cards are small, just 2 x 3 inches, so they fit well inside of their bins. Students are responsible for keeping track of them throughout the year. If they lose one, they will get a new one, but have to start all over. It's amazing how even my most organizationally-challenged kiddos still usually know where their STAR Cards are.

Whenever I see a student going above and beyond, they will get a star punch in one of the stars on their STAR Card. After ten punches, these cards can be redeemed at Friday Free Choice for a reward of their choosing. They then get a new card and start the process over again. I avoid color-coding cards or any way to distinguish who is on their first card from who is on their second or third. I want this to be a system where all kids can excitedly come up for a star punch and stay motivated throughout the year.

As I introduce these cards, there are two important lists we have to make: How to get a star punch and what rewards did they want when they filled their card?

How to Get a Star Punch?

Similar to clipping up or giving tokens, the STAR Card is just a small and quick way to acknowledge good behavior in class. At the beginning of the year, I am a card-punching crazy lady! I want to recognize the positive actions and choices immediately, to get our year off to a great start. I then calm down, but am still keeping my eyes peeled each and every day for kids who are doing the kind and right thing.

Sometimes I will give a punch to a table group that is focused and working hard. Sometimes I will give one to the whole class after a group compliment. There really are are no hard-and-fast rules about how you choose to dole out punches, except to keep it up and to not be stingy about them. Ten can be quite a bit for some kids to get through, and I want all of my students to feel success with this.

These cards have also been a good challenge for me to look for the positives each day, and reward students accordingly, instead of dwelling on the negative, the misbehavior, or the ones that aren't doing what they should. I have found that dedicating the majority of my energy to the majority of my students who are doing the right thing is so much more powerful for everyone, me included, than when I spend that same amount of energy on just a handful, or less, of students that are off-task or misbehaving. That unbalance is what drains me, so this has been a great system to help me shift my focus and stay supportive!

We brainstorm a list as a class about kind, respectful things that we can all do throughout the school to earn a star punch. This list is then posted for the first few weeks of school until kids get the hang of it. Ours has been down for many months now, but the energy around punches remains.

* One lesson I do want to strongly encourage you to include is being sure to teach them when to come to you for a punch. Transition times, independent work times, etc. are ideal. Whole-class, small-group or one-on-one teaching times are not! This also took some brainstorming and practice, on both of our parts! They had to be respectful of my time, and I needed to be respectful of theirs by having a star hole puncher ready to go (thus my second one in a different spot). I love that they have yellow handles so I can find them easily during the day!

Rewards for a Full STAR Card

This was another fun list to brainstorm with the kids as soon as we passed out the cards. The only time they can redeem them is during Friday Free Choice, which is about 20-25 minutes every Friday.

Many actually did like the typical Treasure Box trinkets: stickers, stamps, bracelets, fun erasers, etc. and I was able to secure some parent donations to help fill my box. Those items are also easy to find on Amazon HERE.

Another popular choice was to be able to use Chromebooks during choice time. We're a 1:1 Chromebook school and use them quite a bit during the day. Because of that, I don't allow Chromebooks during free time, since I want to encourage board/ strategy game-playing, building, and camaraderie with one another. However, with a full punch card, I will acquiesce.

A big surprise for me was that most kids are choosing the Treasure Box items over the Chromebooks, so it all works out in the end.

Some students choose to keep their full punch cards in their bin, collecting them for a rainy day, and some will turn them in the second free choice time starts. It's an easy system since I am not constantly filling a Treasure Box for every little good thing I notice a student doing. This is quick, easy, and discrete, although I do sometimes like to make a big deal out of it to give them some pride in a job well done.


If you're interested in these STAR Cards, I have them available for a FREE download in my TpT Store. I did include two versions: one with Academic and the other with Amazing, so you can choose what works best for your class' needs. Download them HERE.

Be sure to pick up the star punches HERE if you'd like to add that special touch. The punch is the exact size of the star on the card, too! Of course, a regular punch or even your initials would also be a great way to track the progress on the card.

Enjoy these cards and I'd love to hear how you're using them with your students!

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