Every morning, I have three grades of children pile into my classroom, ready to learn and talk about how they can make a change in our school, our community, and our world. We call these groups our Community Groups, and we spend one half hour each morning working with these groups to teach character education.
We teach everything from problem-solving during times of conflict and how to deal with bigger problems to having a growth mindset when facing a challenge. A huge addition to our Community Groups has been watching the ClassDojo Big Ideas series! Each week, we focus on one video and really delve into the topic deeply — allowing the students to talk about the big ideas we saw and make connections to their own lives.
At the beginning of the week, we watch the ClassDojo video that emphasizes our focus of the week. In the following days, we may re-watch the video, read some short articles that help us dig in deeper, and discuss this focus a LOT. By doing this, kids are able to spend quite a bit of time thinking about connections between these character traits and their own lives, write about those connections, and share them with peers.
Recently, our groups watched the first video in ClassDojo’s Perseverance series. As we watched Mojo and Katie begin art class, and saw Katie find herself “in the dip” when she didn’t succeed right away, our groups talked about times they felt in the dip in school or at home, and what they could do to climb out.
At first, students could only relate this to the classroom — and we quickly saw a difference in students being kinder to one another, and using common vocabulary like, “in the dip,” and “having grit,” while working on tough assignments. But we wanted students to begin using these character traits outside of the classroom as well, to recess, lunch, or any other time our students are together. This is probably the hardest piece to implement into our Community Groups but we solved it with an incredibly simple solution! The Mojo plushie!
Our students love Mojo, and we knew that having the chance to have him visit our classrooms would motivate students to be kind and helpful towards themselves and one another. When classes bring these positive character traits outside the classroom — anything from helping clear of a table at the end of lunch to helping a younger student out — we recognize them by having Mojo visit their class for a week. The younger kids love having the plushie, while the older kids love striving to be the best!
Over the past two years, there has been a remarkable difference in the mindset of our students — they work collaboratively, problem-solve on their own during lunch and recess, and have more grit during challenging tasks than ever before. While working on longer math tasks with my fifth graders, I’ve heard them motivate one another by saying a student is just “in the dip,” and needs to try harder or try something different to understand the concepts! It has been such an honor to see these kids grow in not only their academics, but also as people that I am proud to have enter our world as adults when the time comes.
Really, what we are doing is simple: we are teaching our students how to be better people. For 30 minutes each morning, we take time away from Common Core standards and testing and plotting growth points; and instead, we come together as a community to talk about how we can become the types of people we want to see in our world.