Sunday, April 29, 2012

ClassDojo to the Rescue!

Although I had promised, promised myself that I would do absolutely no school work over Spring Break - I just couldn't help myself. By Thursday I was searching the web for some fresh classroom management ideas and found ClassDojo - a classroom tool that helps track and manage behaviors in real-time with a computer or smartphone. After thoroughly checking out the site, I was chomping at the bit to get started Monday morning! Doesn't this look cool?

To start off, here are

The Top 5 Reasons Why I Love ClassDojo!

  1. Flexibility - I love that you can adjust your target behaviors as often as needed, adding or subtracting items. My previous clipboard sheets were not easy to change - stagnant. Now students can change their avatar to any image, the points they earn can work toward any reward, and I just LOVE that there's an app that allows me to use my iPhone as a remote so I can add points from anywhere - the hall, library, outside, etc.
  2. Fun - The avatars are super cute and colorful little monsters and critters. My students are eager to answer questions and show positive behaviors when they can jump up to award themselves a point on the Promethean board and hear the little "ding!". 
  3. Free - It doesn't cost a penny. Nice! 
  4. Features for Parents  - It's really easy to e-mail parents colorful reports with a detailed pie chart indicating each point awarded during a particular date range.
  5. Feedback and Company Responsiveness - Reps from the company take suggestions from users to improve the site and you can vote on the ones you want to see implemented first. Their response time is excellent, too. I had a question about adjusting avatar sizes, and I received an e-mail back from Kalen within 20 minutes - wow!                      
Our team has a particularly tough group this year with some intense conflicts with each other - we have four students with behavior intervention plans and several more who need a lot of coaxing just to get along and get through the day.  For the first 3/4 of the school year, I used a clipboard system with students earning infractions for such things as being late, unprepared, disrespectful, etc..

It was a bit cumbersome to calculate at the end of each week, and frankly getting stale. The kids literally cheered when I told them to throw away their clipboard charts - ha!

 Here is how I introduced ClassDojo:

  • I set up their classes ahead of time with every student's avatar set to the most boring. This poor guy:
  • I gave them a tour of the site and let them award points to "students" in the Demo Class. They really got a kick out of marking Justin Bieber Late or Disrespectful. :-)
  • I showed them our class, and announced our contest to earn the right to change their avatar - the kids were super excited to do this - and still are after two weeks! (Over 90% of my students have changed theirs and are still working toward earning more points.)
  • We had a class meeting to discuss which positive and negative behaviors they wanted to include. I listed all their suggestions and then we voted on the top 5 for each.
  • I started awarding points!
  • After two weeks, I sent parents our first reports.

Here is a picture of the whole class report for my morning class:

The poster for our Avatar Competition

Thanks to Kalen at ClassDojo for sharing this idea and template!

Overall - I think it's a terrific tool. Once my students hear those little dings and know that I'm noticing their positive, on-task behaviors, it's amazing to see how quickly they refocus! Do you use ClassDojo or are you thinking about trying it? I'd love to hear from you! 

**Coming Soon: Our Penny War, The City of Ember activities, and Freebie Friday!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

State Test Scoring!

Recently I was one of the very lucky teachers who participated in scoring the 6th Grade English Language Arts Test for New York State. (Woo-hoo!) This is my 8th time scoring and here is my recommended "Scoring Survival Kit":
  • Coffee and Water
  • Chewing Gum
  • Mints
  • Hard Candy
  • Aspirin
  • Highlighters
  • Mini Sticky Notes
  • Pencils
Although the day was very long, and the intense focus was draining (hence the aspirin), I was still impressed and gratified to see how seriously every educator took this responsibility.  The morning training was rigorous with ample practice to "calibrate" our mindset to the new rubrics and the specific set of questions at hand. Every exam had a minimum of four different sets of eyes on it with teachers carefully consulting over tricky responses.  Dare I even say that I enjoyed it?  Well....not quite.

At least we did not have to deal with a "PineappleGate" like the 8th grade. Do pineapples have sleeves?  I'm not so sure now.....

If you have not heard the news out of New York - one of the ELA passages on the 8th grade exam was removed because some considered the text and questions silly and "ambigous". (It was about a talking pineapple challenging a hare to a race.) If you want to read more, here is a fairly clear summary.  And here is the passage and questions.


THIS is what $32 million dollars buys?

Coming Soon - ClassDojo and our Penny War!
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