Tuesday, July 7, 2015

ClassDojo in the Upper Elementary Grades

Let me start off by letting ya'll know that ClassDojo has not endorsed this post at all. I absolutely LOVE ClassDojo, and I'm excited to tell you all about how I use it in my upper elementary classroom!

There are so many ways for teachers to track behaviors, and most seem to be geared towards the primary grades. When I first entered teaching in 2011, I was placed in a 2nd grade position. I used the infamous clip chart. {I know, I know...2011 was not that long ago. But man, have we all come a long way in how digital files/projects/etc. look since Pinterest and TPT became big. Ha!} Clip chart effective for primary grades? Absolutely. Moving that clip or flipping that card...woo! Major effect on those young ones.

Well, primary grades are just not for me...so I moved up to 4th grade my second year teaching. I tried the clip chart for about two months and then found myself frustrated one day after school and literally tore it down. (Don't worry...the kids were gone.) I tried whole class rewards... individual rewards... classroom economy incentives... rewards cards... I was going out of my mind.

In the middle of the 2013-2014 school year, I discovered ClassDojo. {I'm sure I heard about it on Facebook or a teacher blog...I don't remember, specifically.} I tried using it a little throughout the year, but didn't keep up with it. Students really liked it, and parents liked the immediate feedback they could receive just by logging into the app or website.

My biggest issue? I had no idea how to make it all meaningful for students. Those who had parents that didn't sign up to check their behavior report didn't care about the whole thing. What did it matter to them? That summer I racked my brain to figure out how to make it all mean more for every single student. (I go into detail about that below...)

Flash forward to this past school year. I decided from day one that I would do my best to completely implement ClassDojo into my classroom. I sent home parent/student sign up codes for online use on the first day of school. I committed, because they had just introduced their built-in messenger, and parents were using that as their main source of communication with me -- especially those with children who were known as needing some work on their behaviors in the classroom. ;)

First of all -- you can use ClassDojo on your phone, tablet, or computer. {Apps and website.} I can use ClassDojo on my iPad. I can use it on my phone while out at recess to give/deduct points. I can login online when my iPad dies or we're using it for an audiobook. There's no excuse to not be able to access it. Despite what one of my new teammates would say. ;)

If you can get everyone on your team to commit to ClassDojo, you can share classes, which is perfect for period/subject rotations. Last year in 4th grade we shared our classes with each other so that we could give/deduct points. It's so nice because then you know exactly who was on-task (and who wasn't) when your class is elsewhere.

Everything is instant. Someone misbehaved in class? Parents know as soon as they check the app. Someone earned 5 points for being nominated as student of the month? Boom - parents know. Speaking of 5 points...you can weight certain behaviors as more points (up to 5). And of course, being student of the month is deserving of some hefty bonus points!

The built-in messenger feature is pretty convenient, too! Parents can check their child's report and quickly send you a message to ask questions about deductions or let you know how proud they are for points earned. You can also comment on points if you want to be specific and let parents know what happened. Perfect parent communication log, all right there within ClassDojo. {You can download messages or the whole communication log if you need to, as well!}

Students can login at home with their student code and customize their monster avatar. This is obviously the coolest part about it...for them.

So what to give/deduct points for? That's completely up to you. It's all customizable to your needs. Here's what I used last year...

Yes, I have a Dojo monster...because my students think it's hilarious to give/take points from me.

One of my classroom jobs is Dojo Officer. This person cannot take points away {unless they're taking away from me...}, but will do participation points for me while I teach and will walk around and give points during projects, assignments, etc. This is a highly coveted position in my classroom.

Making ClassDojo matter - regardless of whether or not a parent was tracking it at home - was tricky, but I decided to make their points "redeemable" at the end of each month. They caught on quickly and were all itching to get into that treasure box. {The image below shows my reward poster.} I tracked their points at the end of each month on a checklist in my planner so that I could reset their points immediately {in the rare case that I forgot / couldn't get to redemption time}. Plus, students thought it was pretty cool when they "beat" their points from the month prior. They would always ask what their "previous score" was...like it's a video game.

I read about the 100 Points Club on FlapJack Educational Resources' blog and decided my high rollers needed a place to show off. I downloaded the {FREE} clip art from ClassDojo's website and setup the images in the Silhouette software, printed them on cardstock, then had my Cameo cut them out. I laminated them, too. {Tedious work...but I didn't let the kids keep them at the end of the year since it was such a debacle doing it.} They're so flippin' cute!

So once they earned 100 points {total}, they got to choose a monster and I wrote their name on it in wet erase marker. They just thought they were so cool when they got to choose their monster for the 100 Points Club. 

I created a FREE ClassDojo Rewards Pack and uploaded it to Teachers Pay Teachers yesterday. I've included some of the resources I talked about in this post within the pack.


Friday, June 26, 2015

What Are You Reading?: Professional Reading


I have a lot of reading to get done in the next two months! I've opted to read my PD, rather than attend any (besides the TPT conference)!

Setting Limits in the Classroom by Robert J. Mackenzie and Lisa Stanzione
I started this book last summer and never finished it. Since I was made the team lead for my school's behavior committee, I thought it'd be good to read this book to get ideas for my teacher PD that I'm leading in August. Lots of good ideas, especially for upper elementary!

Never Work Harder Than Your Students by Robyn R. Jackson
I just started this book on my flight back from Pennsylvania last week, but I absolutely love it so far! It's been on my "to read" list forever, and now I'm finally diving in.

Unshakeable by Angela Watson 
This book is one that I'm participating in a book club for, so I haven't started it yet. My plan is to read a chapter each day before we discuss it. Anyone can join in! So if you're interested, join the Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/UnshakeableSummerBC/

The Essential 55 by Ron Clark
This book is truly inspiring (as is every book Ron Clark has written). I plan to use some of the Essential 55 in my classroom this year, but I don't think I could handle all 55. Rule 6: Say "thank you" when given something. (That one is my favorite - simple, yet powerful.) You can easily Google what all 55 are, but the stories that Clark tells to go along with each rule are inspiring and really help you understand how it looks in the classroom and why it's important. I highly recommend this book!

The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller
This book is an excellent read for an upper elementary / middle school teacher. Getting students to branch out in their reading (other genres) is something that I had struggled with. Miller introduced the 40 Book Challenge in her book, and it completely transformed my reading homework for my (4th grade) students last year. They grumbled when I introduced the 40BC to them at the beginning of the year. I was the worst teacher for requiring them to read poetry and award winners. But by the end of the year, students and parents were thanking me for the challenge because it opened their eyes to new books/genres/series. Win! Miller has many excellent ideas on how to ignite a natural love for reading within students.

Guided Math by Laney Sammons
I have always struggled with teaching math. How do I make it more engaging? How do I get my students to understand the importance / real world connection of learning this topic? How do I help those who just don't get it? How do I make sure my math block is used to its full potential every single day? Guided Math helped answer all of those questions - and more. After reading this book and implementing Sammons' ideas into my math block, students were finally engaged during math. I was able to differentiate (easily), get in the dreaded math fact practice (in a fun way), have students practice previously taught concepts (think spiraling), and meet with my students to make sure they all understood.

The following books are all on my "to read" list.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

TpT Seller Challenge Week 2: Dare to Dream

This week, our challenge is to blog about your dreams. What pushes you to basically work two jobs every day? Do you have any end goals for your TPT journey?

I absolutely love being a TPT seller! Not just because it's a fun side job, but also because of the networking that I get to partake in on a daily basis with other teachers around the world.

Selling on TPT is helping me with my dreams, at a much more consistent rate than I'd be able to achieve otherwise.

1. Student Loans - With my TPT earnings I'm able to make extra payments on my student loans to get them taken care of faster. I'm so grateful for this. Being single and living on my own (without a roommate), I'm paying all of my bills 100% myself. Being able to pay extra on my student loans is a blessing.

2. Travel - My family lives in Pennsylvania...all of my family does. It's much easier for me to go back to PA to visit my family, than it is for all of them to come visit me. Because of TPT, I'm able to go home twice a year (Christmas and summer) and spend time with those back East.

3. Back to School - Eventually (hopefully in the next 5 years) I'd like to go back to school for my master's degree. I know that I'll be able to fund my education with my TPT earnings, rather than taking out additional student loans.

Truly, I am so very grateful for Teachers Pay Teachers and for all of my amazing customers! Being a TPT seller makes being single much more manageable, too. ;)