Thinking Teaching Creating

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

I Dislike ClassDojo

Look around Twitter, teacher’s blogs, and technology conferences and everyone is aflutter about how wonderful ClassDojo is.

Here’s the thing though; ClassDojo is just a high-tech behavior chart.

It has the ability to add points for behaviors you want to reinforce, and take away points for behaviors you want to stop, and gives you percentage graphs of “good” and “bad” behaviors.  It’a flashy behavior chart that does some math with the data you plug in.

I’m not a huge fan of giving rewards or punishments.  Both are their own brand of bribery, and students should do what is expected of them because it’s the right thing to do.  Not because they earn a sticker if they do, and they lose some of their recess if they don’t.

If you’re wondering how to get your class to behave, here are some better solutions than a behavior chart like ClassDojo:

  • Build relationships with your students.  If they know you care and really want to help, you will have earned their respect and they’ll be that much more willing to do what you ask or expect of them.
  • Be crystal clear about your expectations (even better if you gave valid reasons behind them), and stick to them.  Enforce your expectations, every time, by repeating the procedure until it is done correctly.  Expect it to take a lot of extra time upfront, but it will save tons of time all year once your class knows you will not accept less than their best.
  • Talk to your students about their choices when their behavior is unacceptable.  Try to get a sense of their motivation behind the behavior.  Was it just that they didn’t realize they were doing something they shouldn’t?  Were they testing boundaries?  Was it an impulsive response?  Was it malicious? (It happens, but in my experience, most kids don’t do many things maliciously.)  Use their motivation to guide you on how to handle the issue.  Talking about why something is unacceptable may be all a student needs.  For an impulsive response, helping to show a student how to take a moment and consider actions before doing something they may regret can be helpful.  Some situations may require some kind of consequence, and when that happens I prefer logical consequences (read my post about how classroom management has evolved for me over the years here.)
  • Remember that you are teaching human beings.  No one is perfect, and kids have had much less time to figure out what to do to be successful than you have.

You don’t have to take my word for it though, here are some other teachers who have blogged about firing their behavior chart and how it’s gone for them:

Miss Night at Miss Night’s Marbles

Matt Gomez wrote about his Reward Free Year

Edited To Add: I’ve gotten a lot of feedback on Twitter for this post.  Some has been in agreement, some has been other educators telling me about how they use ClassDojo for tracking all kinds of things without using it as a behavior plan.  I agree that with a little creativity, this tool can be used effectively for other things.  My issue with it is the intended purpose and how it seems that the majority of teachers use this tool: as a digital behavior chart.  If you have a different use for it, I’d love to hear about it!

Read my follow-up post: I Dislike ClassDojo – And What I Do Instead

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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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