Class Dojo Made Me a Better Teacher

Class Dojo.  I know, I know.  Everyone that uses Class Dojo has blogged about it, and if you're not using it, you're completely over hearing about how wonderful Class Dojo is.

I wanted to tell you how Class Dojo has made me a better teacher.

The thing about Class Dojo is that for it to work, kids have to be excited about earning points.  Which they can't be if you're only taking away points.  Class Dojo has pushed me to focus much more on positive behaviors much more than negative behaviors.  If I really want to punish my class, I can say something super mean like this:

"Oh, Sarah and Colin, I love how you came in and got started right away.  Go give yourself two points on Class Dojo!"

It tortures the kiddos who weren't working.  And I'm focusing on positive behavior.  Exactly what we need to be doing.  (And, bonus? No work for me.  The kids are all trained on how to use it, and I do nothing. )
Do I take away points?  Absolutely.  But it's been very effective to ignore some negative behaviors and instead reward positive behaviors.  I give points for lots of things and mix it up to keep them on their toes.  I give to individual students, tables, and the whole class.

Super messy table?  Give the clean table next to them a point.

Kids off task?  Give the table that's working a point.

Talkative student?  Give the quiet student sitting next to him or her a point.

Somebody not paying attention?  Give a student a point for modeling good listening skills.

Everybody turned in their homework? Point.

Another teacher mentions the class was great in the hallway? Point.
True Story:
My teaching partner and I had just had our classes switch.  We were standing between our classrooms having a quick conference on a student's behavior.
My partner with Moxie: (Insert puzzled look) "Why are your kids all running to get to their desks?"
Me: "Because they think they might get a point."

Focusing on negative behaviors is never going to get you that.

p.s. How cute are those little monster avatars from Class Dojo? They're so fun!

I've gotten several comments and e-mails asking about what I do with the points and how I manage it.  Every other Friday (probably most of you would be able to manage every Friday, but I found every two weeks works well for me) I pay out our Dojo points.  I was initially using those little carnival type tickets, but we were going through tons of them.  So now I give them "tens" tickets and they use the regular little carnival tickets for the ones.  (23 points-two tens tickets and 3 little ones tickets).

What do they use them for?
I have list of coupons they can purchase for privileges in our classroom: shoes off, furry friend, hat in class, cushy seat (cheap chair cushion from Walmart),  sit with a friend at lunch, etc.  They can also purchase a "fancy" pencil (just pencils I get from Dollar Tree).  The boys love the fancy pencils.  Didn't see that one coming.  Except for the pencils, all of this stuff is free for me and doesn't create a "will work for toys" mentality.

All You Need is Love Photo Challenge: They Beg to Practice Vocabulary

I survived Valentine's day!  I'm looking forward to 42 kids on the back half of sugar high tomorrow. Yeehaw!

Here’s what I'm in love with right now:

Oooooh.  MimioVote.  I love you so.

I'll be honest with you.  This has been in my room for awhile.  I just haven't had the time to fool with it.  But a few weeks ago, I finally opened her up.  My life has changed.  Why?

1.  The kids LOVE them.  Instant engagement.

2.  Better than a worksheet because I can respond to how much practice they need.  Get it quickly? Move on.  Otherwise, I can practice as long as I need until their scores look good.

3.  They will practice ANY boring skill and beg to practice that boring skill.  Every.  Single.  Day.

4.  Super easy, on the run use.  You can plan ahead, but there are tons of no prep, no planning ways to use this.  So far we've used it with:
•Plural nouns-I just called out a singular noun and they chose add -s, add -es, or irregular
•Vocabulary-I've had them vote for the correct word by giving them the definition, an antonym, and using it in a sentence.
•Homophones-I put the set of homophones on the board and just call out sentences so they can choose the correct spelling.

Here are a couple more shots:

Once I hit the button for their voting to end, the kids see a graph of their responses.  100%?  Point for the class on Class Dojo.  This keeps any little friends from thinking it's funny to purposefully vote incorrectly.

Not that anyone would ever do that.  ;)

Longest Writing Unit Ever

Yes, we're still writing our fiction stories.  We're moving sloooooooowly.  On purpose and in a good way.  We're happy writers right now.  Rushing through something new and challenging doesn't serve anybody well.

I wrote about our unit here and here.  We've finished our story plans and story blocking.  After developing our characters, we spent time developing our story plan.  I modeled one of my own and they also met to talk with their writing partners.  We took two or three days to do this.  I told you we were moving slowly.   This is my story that I modeled on using my Mimio board:

I cannot emphasize how important oral rehearsal (fancy Lucy Calkins talk for talking about your writing) has been for these kiddos.  Discussing their stories over and over and over has made them so real in their minds, that the transfer to writing them has been much smoother.  Teach Talk Write has been our theme through this entire unit.

After this step is where their stories usually turn really crummy.  We'd finish our plans, I'd tell them to write their story, and they'd mostly turn out pretty week.  The thing is, they never turned their plans into stories.  They just wrote a summary telling what happened instead of telling a story.  Sigh.

But their is a fix!  After writing our story plans, we filled out one for Tacky the Penguin.  I told the kids we were going to look at how Helen Lester turned that plan into an actually story, and then I read the book again.  Only this time, I didn't read what was there.  I basically just told the summary of the story.

The kids all but booed me.  They did tell me it was terrible and one even told me it was a fail.  Wink, wink, kids, that was the whole point.

Enter our last and final prewriting step: Story Blocking
The kids had to plan three or four actions for each part of their story plan.  What has going to HAPPEN to show your reader the idea you want them to have?

Feel free not to judge my handwriting.  I didn't prewrite this, so I was writing quickly while teaching.

This is hard, y'all.  We didn't rush it.  You can do hard things if you don't try to do them all at once.  I modeled, they talked, then wrote.  We spread this out over four days.

Now it's time to move onto writing our stories.  Finally!  And you know what?  It's going to be a breeze.  They have thought about this story, talked about this story, and planned this story in such detail that the words will come easily.  This writing teacher couldn't be happier about that.

You can download blank versions of the story plan here and the story blocking page here.  For the story blocking page, I printed it on legal sized paper and enlarged it to 11x17 to give the kiddos plenty of room.  Be warned: Google Docs hates legal size.  It will print a mini version unless adjust your print settings to legal.

5 on the 5th

It's a new month, so time for a new 5 on the 5th!  I started this series last month as a way of highlighting all the great ideas out there in blogland.  I'm sharing ideas I've used, plan on using, or are just plan awesome.  5 on the 5th even has its own Pinterest Board.  You can follow it here.

And in no certain order, here are some fab finds I came across this month . . . .

It cold.  It's raining.  For some of you, it's even snowing.  That leads to one thing-indoor recess.  A teacher's nightmare-kids trapped inside all day with no chance to run off all that extra energy.  Amber at Adventures of a Third Grade Teacher shared some tips for surviving.  She also shared a super duper Pinterest board she created to get her kids up and moving.  We did the Gummy Bear song today as a brain break.  I thought they were going to die from happiness.  Perfect for indoor recess or any wiggly day!

Okay, Shawna at The Picture Book Teacher's Edition is just ridiculous.  The basic premise of her blog is that she reviews picture books.  Easy peasy, right?  Um, no.  You get a review and then an amazing list of suggestion for every strategy and skill you can think of.  Asking questions, author's point of view, author's purpose, b/m/e, cause and effect, character analysis, classify and categorize, compare and contrast, you getting the idea here?

She also sometimes includes activities she's created to go along with it.  This blog is a must go to resource for every teacher.

Corrina at Mrs. Allen's 5th Grade Files shared an awesome upper grade reading activity.  Teaching important details + having engaged students = almost impossible.  It involved having her students pretend they were robbing a house.  Oh yeah, they were engaged.  Visit her blog to read about this activity and the super fab book of more super fab ideas that it came from.  Makes me wish my students were a little bit older.  Just for this lesson though.

Mandy at Mandy's Tips for Teachers shared a really cool website called Pebble Go.  Appropriate non-fiction content for K-3 students?  Apparently not impossible.  Go to Mandy's blog to read more.  Then go visit Pebble Go.  You can be assured I will be begging my principal for this.

Brandi at My Teacher Friend had a really great word activity.  Her students make posters getting rid of boring words and words that could replace it.  Been there, done that, right?  Wrong.  Go visit her blog to see her creative take on it.

Happy February everybody!

Monday Made It

Well, this month's Monday Made It is not NEARLY as epic as the last one where I shared my super lovely office remake.  I'm still in love with it though.  See:

It still looks like this, too, except for one more fabulous addition:

It's the Hayden chair in concrete from World Market.  The legs are lighter in real life.  It's actually a dining room chair.  But it's a perfect desk chair.  It's my little bloggy throne, y'all.  I love it.  I first fell in love with this chair when I saw it here at The Lettered Cottage.

How gorgeous is that chair?  Except it's linen.  And you know how easy it is to clean linen?  I have two kids and pets.  I have no business with linen furniture.

At the time of purchase I was a teensy bit sad to pass up the linen one, but as soon as I got home, I knew this was the chair of my dreams.  The grey and yellow are perfect together.  And about two days after I got it, my daughter managed to splash Powerade on it.  Total freak accident.  Enter Magic Eraser.  My decision to avoid linen was confirmed.

Um, so I guess my first Monday Made It was a purchase I made?  Moving on.

I know most of you ladies (maybe a few gents?) don't celebrate Mardi Gras.  But I'm from Baton Rouge.  I love Mardi Gras.  I made these prints to put in frames to jazz up my Mardi Gras decorations.  That's right.  While the rest of you are putting out pink and red hearts, I'm putting up purple, green, and gold.

You're welcome to download them here.  1, 2, &3 are 8x10s, 4 is 5x7, and 5 is 4x6.

Now, get on over to Fourth Grade Frolics and see what everybody else has been busy with.