Thinking Teaching Creating

Thoughts, Tips, Ideas, and Projects from a Creative Teacher Mama

I Dislike ClassDojo – And What I Do Instead

I’ve gotten a lot of responses to my earlier post about how I Dislike ClassDojo.  Some have been explanation of how a teacher uses this tool in an effective way.  Others have wondered why I have singled out this tool and defended their use of it.  Still others have asked what I do instead.  Do I use reinforcement and consequences for behaviors?  How do I use them?

What I do is loosely based off of Love and Logic.  Here’s a poster of Love and Logic rules I found posted at TeachThought.com

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As far as reinforcements, I give positive verbal feedback all the time, but I don’t have a prize box or give special treats or parties or anything like that.  I’m of the opinion that there are certain things that are necessary and expected in polite and productive society, and you do them because it’s the right thing to do, not because you’re getting something special for it.  Think about it, as an adult, there aren’t many situations in which you get something extra just for doing what you were supposed to do, are there?

What about consequences?  Well, before I talk about consequences, I want to talk a moment about the intention behind the behaviors.  From what I’ve noticed, there are a few reasons why kids tend to do things that we’d rather they didn’t do:

  • They didn’t know it was a problem.
  • There was a misunderstanding.
  • Something else in their life has caused stress, anger, or sadness that makes dealing with difficult situations appropriately much harder then normal.
  • It was an impulsive response.
  • They’re testing their boundaries.
  • It was done maliciously.

Now, how I do things isn’t perfect, but my first step is to talk with the student and try to get a sense of the motivation behind their behavior.

  • If they didn’t know it was a problem or there was a misunderstanding, we talk through it, and that’s typically the end of it.  Some misunderstandings require a little more problem solving.  (One time last year a student asked if he could lick another child’s candy, and the candy owner misheard him.  He thought the kid asked to look at his candy.  Now, I don’t know who would want to let someone lick their candy, but I’m not six years old either.  The candy licking student replaced the candy with something from his Halloween stash the next day, and he had to throw away the candy he licked lest he think that was an acceptable way to get someone else’s snack.)
  • If it was impulsive (sometimes exasperated by other life events), we talk about ways to take a moment and consider your actions before actually doing or saying something.  Depending upon what they did, some sort or retribution may be in order.
  • For boundary testing and maliciousness, I give logical consequences to set the tone that such behavior will not be tolerated.

I also keep lots of records.  I have a notebook tabbed with student names, and make a quick note whenever we have one of these little talks about their choices.  If there is a consequence of any kind, I also record that.  I keep careful documentation for several reasons.  One reason is that I don’t want a student trying to pull the wool over my eyes.  I’ve overhead kindergarteners talking about how they work their teacher’s behavior system (a clip chart) so that they always end the day on a good note; they just do something good at the end of the day and it reverses any bad choices from the morning.  The “I didn’t know that was a problem” reason only works ONCE for a behavior.  If we talked about it in January and you do it again in February, well, you actually DID know it was a problem.  While I know everyone forgets, I think it’s less likely for a child to forget when we’ve had a one-on-one conversation about why that particular behavior is not acceptable than if we talk about it as a class.

I also keep documentation to see if something seems to be a bad habit or recurring issue.  If a behavior is repeated after we have had logical consequences because it was seemingly to test boundaries or to be malicious, I’ll often pull out a book with a similar problem and that student and I will talk about how things played out in the book, and how their problem was similar.  Sometimes this slightly removed perspective can be helpful in seeing their problem the way others see it.  If it’s an impulse control issue that seems to be a bad habit, we work out a way to help the student to notice the warning signs, and reduce or stop the behavior over time.  The plan we come up with would be dependent upon the problem and the student.

There are non-negotiable behaviors at every school, typically the types of things that would be illegal if an adult did them, that can’t be handled in this manner, but I’ve had success with handling most situations in this manner.

As far as notifying parents goes, I don’t tell them about every single tiny thing.  My rule of thumb is if we didn’t need to do anything more than talk about it, we handled it in the classroom and it wasn’t a big enough deal to write home about.  Any issue that resulted in some sort of consequence is something parents should be informed of, and I typically include the number of times that type of problem has occurred when I write about it so parents can make informed decisions about how they talk with their child at home.  I tell parents this at the beginning of the year, and have yet to have a parent who wants to know about every time I speak to their child.

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Evolution of Management in My Classroom

I just finished my tenth year of teaching in June, and I’ve been reflecting on how much things have changed since I entered my first classroom all those years ago.  One way I’ve changed a lot is in terms of classroom management.  Early on, I used to have the pocket chart with all those colored papers and one-size-fits-all consequences.  When a more logical consequence stared me in the face, I used it, but I dabbled in giving more logical consequences, and those are the ones I’ve found to be the most effective when one is necessary.

A few years ago, I was still using the same consequences across the board, but ditched my behavior chart for a notebook.  My consequences were in increments of 5 minutes of walking laps (walking a portion or all of recess was pretty much the standard consequence at that school at the time), and each time a student broke a rule that day, it added 5 more minutes of walking laps.  If they got to a certain point in a single day, they went to the principal.  There were one or two kids who carefully walked that line where they took things as far as they could without going to the principal, yet I felt ridiculous saying a student needed to go to the principal for the types of things for which they earned consequences.  It was disruptive, attention-seeking behavior, but nothing heinous or harmful to others.

After the experience with students very clearly working the system, I changed from keeping track of the issues of the day to whether an issue was something that occurred over and over again.  I used the same 5 minutes per offense, but if a student was disruptive to the point of earning a consequence, it was 5 minutes of walking laps the first time.  If it happened again a week later, 10 minutes of walking during recess.  At the start of each quarter, I wiped the slate clean for behavior, just as we do in the gradebook.  This worked a little better for some students, but others ended up walking nearly all of every recess every day, especially if it was near the end of a quarter.  I needed something different.

This past year I’ve used logical consequences paired with bibliotherapy.  I spent a lot of time at the beginning of the year (with reviews as needed) laying the groundwork for why rules are in place and how breaking them affects others.  When a problem arises, I had a private chat with that student about what they were doing, and why it can’t continue.  If that type of problem continued anyway, they earned a logical consequence and I notified their parents of that.  If it persisted, we moved on to bibliotherapy to help the student see how things played out for a character in a similar situation, and connected it to themselves.  The repetition of that type of problem could occur at any point over the course of a marking period.

There are still some changes I want to make for the coming year.  I want to do a better job documenting when the “friendly reminder” conversations occur, and whether it seemed that the student just didn’t realize what they were doing, didn’t know it was a problem, or knew, but chose to do it anyway.  I think that will be helpful in determining how to proceed.  Last year I had a lot of talks with students where I attempted to determine their motivation behind the behavior.  Unfortunately that is sometimes a difficult thing to figure out, but knowing whether a student did something because they didn’t realize it was a problem, because they were in a bad mood and that made it harder to control themselves, or they just didn’t care that it broke a rule often determined my response, but I didn’t always keep a record of it.  I also want to add a student-goal setting piece to this, but I’m not sure at what point to do it.  My initial thought is that if the problem occurs again after the bibliotherapy, that’s the time to recognize that this particular behavior is a habit.  I am also trying to decide whether resetting everything at the beginning of a new marking period is the best way to go.  On one hand, everything else resets at that point, and if a student struggles with a particular habit, making a goal and a plan to change that habit is going to be the best way to work with that student.  On the other hand, it isn’t exactly fair if a student has the same behavior issue 2 days in a row, but they happen to be the last day of the marking period and the first day of the new one, so they have a chat with me about it 2 days in a row when other students with less fortunate timing would have had a logical consequence on day two.  I think that if I’m going to reset everything, doing so after winter break is probably the best time to do it.  When we return to school in January, we always review rules and procedures because of the long break.  While it does not signify the end of a marking period for my school, I keep data, and can use the information from the correct dates before and after winter break to determine their behavior grade.

Overall, I’m hopeful that most issues can be resolved through discussion of rules and why are there, and private chats with students to help them see if something needs to change and why.  I like having a plan of action for how to handle it if a student repeatedly breaks a rule, but I’d rather not need to use them.

How do you manage your classroom?  How has that changed over the years?

 

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