Red Hands for Blurting

(Excerpted from the book, Class Cards.)Red Hand

If you've taught for more than a week, then you already know how annoying it is to be in the middle of a question-answer session with your students only to have one of them blurt out an answer. It's a real drag on you and the other students to remind someone over and over again to raise a hand before responding. Well, remind no more. With this little paper tool you'll be able to act upon your expectations of behavior and not just talk about them.

Red Hands are cut from red construction paper using an Ellison die cutter. They are kept on my desk. Whenever a student blurts out an answer or response when it is inappropriate to do so, I stop everything, pick up one of the Red Hands, and extend it to the blurter. He is then required to go over to our Counseling Center--a desk in the back of the room--where he writes his name and the date on the hand. The hand is then dropped into a plastic container that "holds hands."

At the end of the week, one of the students goes through the container and records on a grade sheet--using a simple stick tally--the number of hands each student received. The students with the most Red Hands have them stapled to Student Bulletins which are then sent home. It's this type of specific, goal-oriented communication that really gets results. We're not saying that Calvin is completely irresponsible. He just needs to exercise a bit more self-control.

Red Hand Bulletin

Click here to download the two-page blackline master.

Note: For middle school teachers, use the second page. It shows that you pass out red squares instead of hands. This will reduce the possibility that your students might see this technique as being a "baby school" thing.

Green Hands

Green Hands were only given out at the end of the week. As soon as the student recording the Red Hands was finished, the grade sheet was brought to me. I then read the names of all the students who had gone through the week without receiving a Red Hand. Upon hearing their names, they would go see the student recorder who would give each of them a Green Hand.

The Green Hands were taken home, signed by one of the parents, returned to class, and then dropped in a little clear plastic container. During the week I would draw out Green Hands--one each day--and give the student some type of little prize. A Jolly Rancher was the prize of choice one year. Being able to leave a few minutes early for lunch was another popular prize.

Another way to use Green Hands is to acknowledge a student's improvement in self-control. The email I received from an appreciative teacher explains it well:

My most frequent blurter has improved from 10 to 9 to 4 over three weeks. Isn't that wonderful! Sooo, I stapled his Red Hands to the student bulletin and put a green one on top and noted that he had improved greatly. Well, that little darling was so overwhelmed that he almost started to cry! He was simply thrilled as was I. Oh the heart pounds when there is such a success.

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Teacher Variation:

I have been using your Ellison idea for several weeks now...with the hand to curb speaking out and a foot for dealing with students walking around the room.

I have now added a hot air balloon for talkers and have decided to go the positive route by giving out a gold Ellison star to help balance out negatives.

In the next few weeks I will be adding a few more.

Ken Takata
2nd grade teacher
Eucalyptus School

Blurt Alert:

Here's the container I created for "holding hands." It's just a little waste basket I got at the dollar store.

Blurt Alert

Kathie Yonemura
Hesby Oaks School


They really work...

I love the red hands. In 3 weeks my class has gone from blurtastic to having manners. :)

Alicia F.


Thank you, thank you, thank you...

This is my 10th year of teaching and I have a sweet class but they have SEVERE blurting issues. It took me HALF THE YEAR (and many many miserable days) to remember that you had a solution for this! I enacted your RED HAND procedure (but I use squares) for blurting right after we returned from Christmas vacation. IT WORKED LIKE MAGIC!

My 6 boys who blurt CONSTANTLY have totally curbed their behavior--I mean TOTALLY! I am calmer, more peaceful, and a lot happier. I'm sure my class is the same!

I shared this with my VP when she came for a walk-through. She suggested I share it at a staff meeting which I did. Many teachers are using it. Our entire first grade has enacted RED SQUARES and is so thrilled that they can't stop talking about it! One teacher opened my door last week and blew me kisses!

Peggy Zepponi
Parklane School
Lodi Unified School District

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