7/11/2014

Class Dojo - 2 Thumbs Up

Today we are winding down my Behavior Management Mini-Series.  Today's topic is one I am incredibly interested in because it has a parent notification element.  Parent Communication is kind of a "buzz word" at my school.  
  
 Today we're looking at Class Dojo.  Since the website pretty much holds your hand and walks you through how to set it up and how to use it in your classroom, I wanted to get real teacher's opinions about how it worked for them - what they liked, what they didn't like, etc...

I interviewed 7 teachers from a variety of elementary grades and 7 out of 7 said they used it and liked it!

All 7 teachers said that their students enjoyed hearing the little dings knowing that someone earned a point. 

Last year I read a parent written article about ClassDojo that claimed it made her child feel bad to hear the dings.  So, I was a bit worried that it would be a negative reinforcement, but all 7 teachers interviewed said it was much more of a Positive Reinforcement.  

Bex Mawn from Reading and Writing Redhead reinforced that it could be used in a positive manner.  "I liked it because it was a quick, easy and visual way of reinforcing behaviors. I mostly used it reinforce positive behaviors. I could also have the scree off and then the kiddos would just hear the sound."

Caroline from Giggles and Grades with Mrs. Gallagher made a great point, "I loved using Class Dojo! I had always used the card flip previously. I feel like kids were to focused on their color and other kids colors. I know my niece who was in kindergarten this year would always tell me what color a boy in her class was on (because he'd always get in trouble). I think the kids were more focused on themselves with Class Dojo- which is how it should be."

Miss Martin from Miss Martin's Classroom said something that intrigued me as an Upper Elementary Teacher.   "I was worried that the little monster characters would seem babyish to my fourth graders but they loved it! They became infatuated with seeing their graph throughout the day and trying to do better than yesterday. It was almost like a game, and yet it was giving me constant data! When I showed them their individual graphs throughout the day, we could have a quick, meaningful discussion about what the positive and negative points were for (because it listed it clearly at the bottom)." #Data
Both Teresa Kawant and K's Kreations both said they used Class Dojo to give classroom incentive parties, which is something I hadn't thought about.

K's Kreations also said her parents liked that she used Class Dojo. "I had many parents tracking data daily. It was a great tool to send home quick messages and updates directly to the parents. I always print a copy of the reports at the end of the week for the families without internet."

Getting Nerdy with Gerdy commented that parents would email her to ask about negative behaviors. Jessica Hamilton from Hanging Out in First says, "My parents LOVE class dojo! Many of them have the app on their phone and are able to track their child's behavior throughout the school day." Jessica also has a blog post with a freebie about using Class Dojo, click here to read it.

This Little Piggy thinks I'll definitely give it a try next year!  What about you?

7/10/2014

Behavior Management: Around the Holidays


I'm smack dab in the middle of my Blog Mini-Series: Behavior Management.  I've learned after 10 years that the magic of a behavior plan is to go in with a plan!  It takes multiple components to make it work.  High expectations, routines, communication and teamwork.  

Imagine this:  I'm a 3rd Grade Teacher, it's the end of the 2nd 6-weeks and about 99% of my kiddos understand and follow our classroom rules/procedures.  PERFECT!  Well, now it's the week before Thanksgiving and all of a sudden those little Monsters are coming out!!!
I'm pretty sure you know what I'm talking about.  They can't walk down the hall in a straight line, they are chatting a little more than normal during group work and they feel a little too comfortable with you and start pushing buttons.  Am I the only one?   

A few years ago I heard myself say, "I know that you understand the hallway expectations, but you aren't following them.  Why not?" When I went home, I scoured Pinterest and found a few solutions.  First, I found the Classroom Elf.  Ahh, cute idea, but it isn't Christmas time yet.  I also found the idea to put letters on my (then) chalkboard that spelled N-O-I-S-E and take a letter away each time the students "got too loud or didn't follow directions". Then, they would lose a privilege. It didn't work for my kids.  They need positive reinforcement, not negative.  

I took the strategy and tweaked it to work for me.  I put the letters P-A-R-T-Y on pieces of construction paper and every time my class (whole-group) followed directions in the hallway, they would earn a letter.  If they earned all of their letters by Friday, we would have a party.  They did and I brought Little Debbie Snacks, but my 3rd Graders NEVER got snack time, so they loved it!  

I want you to know that on a day-to-day basis, I don't hold the whole group responsible for behavior.  I believe in personal responsibility.  I also don't enjoy punishing the "great student" when they were great all day long.  So this incentive doesn't affect each student's daily behavior log.  

Let's be serious, it's a bribe or a ploy.  And I am well aware that it doesn't work in every school or for every teacher.  It works in my school and my principal supports/encourages it.  

If your students need a little behavior incentive prior to a Holiday Break, I've made a special pack just for you!  For the month of July, the pack is $1!  In August it will return to regular price.    
A noise freebie might help you regulate the incentives.  I found 2 free noise meters you should check out.
Picture Courtesy of Totally Terrific in Texas  
Next, I found www.bouncyballs.org an online site that allows your students to self-monitor.  As the balls, bubbles or eyeballs jump up & down it lets the kids see how loud they are being.  I picked the eyes because I thought this would be great in the Fall around Halloween!!  How cute!  FYI - make sure you let the kids get loud, otherwise they will on purpose to see the balls jump around.    

This Little Piggy hopes you can find something that works for you!
 

7/09/2014

Behavior Management: What do you do when you don't have a "normal" classroom?

I'm continuing my Behavior Management Mini-Series today.  As you read yesterday, I am a fan of the clip chart.  Not just the clip chart, but the clip chart as part of a working system that you, your students, your team & the parents all understand.  But, what happens when you don't have a "normal" classroom?

This year I moved positions not a shocker to my dream job of teaching an enrichment pull-out class for GT Students.  I love my job!  In this blog entry,  I discussed a few issues I encountered with this position.  The main issue I experienced was that I saw my students at max 4 times per month.  I have pretty high expectations for following classroom procedures and I felt as if I was teaching them every time I saw the students.  

I got this position in August of 2013.  So, I had everything planned out for my classroom and suddenly, I had to change it all!!  I didn't see 3 classes per day, I saw 1 class each day.  I changed things up, but decided to keep the clip chart.  
I put each day's clips into zipper pouches and labeled them for each day I had a class.  I also assigned 1 person per day to be in charge of putting their clips in the zipper pouch and putting the next day's clips on the chart at the end of the day.  It turned out, 5th Graders didn't really buy into the clip chart like my 3rd Graders did.  
**Disclaimer**
I didn't have a lot of behavior issues.  I only saw my students once a week, it was a project based classroom that encouraged groups to talk and explore.  I also used a lot of technology & let's be serious, technology =engagement.  I did have a few issues with one class in particular, which I attribute to the school norms/expectations at their home school.   

So, next year I've been throwing around the idea of implementing "behavior tags".  I have over 60 students per week, so I need to figure out how the students will keep up with the tags and what incentives I should have.  

Another option for next year is Class Dojo.  Join me Friday as I interview other teachers and find out how they liked Class Dojo.

This Little Piggy hopes you're learning a little this week. 




7/08/2014

Clip Chart as Part of a System


Welcome to Day 2 of my Blog Mini-Series: Behavior Management.  Yesterday I blogged about what didn't work.  Today, I'm going to blog about what did work (some years)!

I've mentioned about a thousand times that I've taught a lot of different grade levels.  For those of you who don't know...I've taught PK, K, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th & 7th.  People ask me which was my favorite - it was 3rd, hands down!  

When my team began teaching those little 2nd graders we knew we would loop up to 3rd grade with them. We also knew that we would be facing a new state assessment - The STAAR.  They were a rough bunch, not to mention that it was FULL of TK's (teacher's kids).  Plus, we began 2nd Grade self-contained and in January we switched to departmentalized.  My school does this in 2nd Grade & it stinks for everyone involved - kids, parents and teachers!
We needed a lot of structure.  I knew the **key** to behavior for this group was positive incentives.  I began with a token system where kids would gain tokens for good choices (behavior, bringing in homework, teamwork, etc...).  I made it work for a self-contained classroom but when we switched to departmentalized, I couldn't keep up.  Oddly enough, the kids were really disappointed -- they loved those gold tokens.  One of the main issues we faced was the increase in transition time.  There was a lot of time wasted in the hallway waiting on the next class.  Little 2nd graders had to gather supplies, switch classes, settle down again, get settled and switch their brain from ending one class to beginning a new class.  The parents didn't understand 3 different sets of rules and neither did the kids.  They would get in trouble in 1 teacher's classroom and not in the other 2 classrooms.  Which leads parents to believe it is the teacher's fault. UGH...
Pic from This Little Piggy Reads
We were not strangers to the clip chart.  In fact, our school began using it a few years prior.  But, it was known as negative reinforcement.  I knew our team needed a cohesive behavior system.  I introduced my team to the "move-up clip chart".  I made identical charts.  We all used them.  The clip chart moved with the kids.  It didn't stay with the teacher.  The kids even took the chart to P.E., Music and Art.  We all agreed that if our students moved their clip down, they could earn a move up.  We also agreed that if they landed on purple they would immediately earn a prize (usually a pencil or an eraser).  Our school provided an agenda for each student.  So, every teacher wrote/signed the agendas daily and parents were expected to sign them daily as well.  
When we looped to 3rd Grade, as a team we implemented a few items to increase structure with this group. First, a voice level chart.  
Pic from Live, Love, Laugh Everyday in Kindergarten
   Next, visuals to give kids a heads up about what they should have on their desks during learning time.  
Pic from an Unknown Source
Finally, we also began sending a weekly Newsletter.  I e-mailed it to our parents.  It inspired my Classroom Newsletters.  They are editable so you can save them and send them electronically or print & send them.  
This is what I call a "System".  It is many components that work together and create a plan of action for teachers, students and parents.  It wasn't the clip chart that made everything work.  It was the teachers working as a team to create a streamlined system of expectations for the students.  

Check back tomorrow when I discuss how the Clip Chart didn't work with another classroom.

This Little Piggy wonders, have you ever used a clip chart?  Did it work for you?    

7/07/2014

5 Things I would do Differently if I Taught Kinder Again

This week, I plan to present a quick blog series all about the lessons I've learned concerning a pretty controversial topic: 
  
I am of the philosophy that every class (depending on the year, depending on the teacher, depending on the school) needs a different management plan.  I also think that some students need their own plan, but I admit I'm NOT PERFECT & I have a difficult time implementing personal plans.  

In my 10 years of teaching I've taught so many different grade levels and such different types of classrooms that I know there is NOT a "Magic Plan" that works for all.  So, this post is not about some "Magic Plan" you've never heard of.  I wholeheartedly believe that teacher prep/planning & student engagement plays a HUGE role in the management plan. 



Rewind 10 years to my very first year teaching.  I taught at a Junior High School with 50 minute class periods, no more than 18 kids in a classroom and a male principal who carried a paddle around the halls.   #easiestjobever  Did I mention we had a Special Ed teacher, so I only had general education students and GT students.  I didn't need a management plan. 

Imagine 4 years later when I was thrown into a Kindergarten classroom, 3 weeks after school began with no aide and 24 students.  #teacherintrouble  I was assigned a mentor.  I know what you're thinking...ahhh salvation!  Nope.  Don't get me wrong, she is an awesome teacher!  But, everything comes natural to her.   I needed direct instruction. "When Jakobe leaves the alphabet center and goes to the dramatic play center, you need to do XYZ."   She would come watch my class & didn't understand why I couldn't just run a classroom.  Which made me feel like a horrible teacher!  

Looking back, I see the issue she didn't.  DUH.  My 7th Graders never went to centers and pretty much came to me with social skills and understood how school worked.  Kindergarteners needed me to teach them these things.  Why didn't she just tell me this?  I turned to the internet and I found a few blogs that gave me some insight.  I ended putting names on my rug and finding something like the color card pocket chart below.  It did it's job.  But let's be serious a color chart isn't a behavior plan.  And did you know that when a Kindergartener can't read their own name, they will just choose any name and pull the card?  #whoknew?
After 10 years of teaching, I've done a lot of reflecting. Now that I am a Mom to an almost Kindergartener, I realize that the behavior issues were pretty much all my fault
So, here is a quick list of things I know would have improved my classroom behavior.  


When I read this list of 5 things, I'm actually embarrassed that I didn't know better.  I knock myself on the head and think, "DOH, of course I should have taught procedures!"  But, I honestly didn't know better. When we know better, we do better.  I read amazing Kindergarten Blogs now and I am in "AH" of how seemless their classrooms run.  Mine was a wreck.  The good news...at the end of the year, I had 99% of my students reading on Grade Level.  I had the pleasure of teaching the same students in 3rd Grade & guess what?  The vast majority could READ ON GRADE LEVEL!  So, although my behavior management plan left something to be desired, my instruction was effective.  Maybe I wasn't so bad after all!  

This Little Piggy thinks reflection is possibly the most valuable teaching practice.    

7/06/2014

Blog Mini-Series: Behavior Management

Sunday = Relaxation Day/Laundry Day/Cleaning Day/Family Breakfast Day/Grocery Shopping Day.  But, we had a busy 4th Weekend, so we are putting everything else off and having a relaxing family day.

I decided I would blog daily for the month of July.  FAIL.  I already missed a day.  But in order to blog daily, I need topics!  So, this week I'm presenting a blog mini-series about different aspects of:

I'm going to cover a different topic every day (Mon. - Sat.).  The topics will ONLY include things I have personally learned about, tried &/or used.  Topics will include everything from behavior cards, clip charts, Class Dojo, Parent Communication, Student Engagement and Organization.  I hope you will reply and let me know your feelings about the things I'm posting about.  

This Little Piggy is reflecting all week long!

7/04/2014

Happy 4th

I just wanted to say Happy 4th!  My Reese's cookie cake was a huge hit!  I think I would make it much thinner next time.  What was your favorite dish??