We are delighted to announce the newest members of our ClassDojo Community team, Ciara Brennan and Nigel Lane!
We are thrilled to announce the newest members of the ClassDojo Community team: Clare Lotriet, Mark Anderson and Julian Wood!
As humans, we thrive on relationships and connecting with one another. Whether it be in the classroom as a student or a teacher, if people are working together then they can achieve far more than if they were to do so individually.
As part of introducing ClassDojo to my students this year, we decided that we should set a class goal. As a team, the class would need to earn 2000 ClassDojo points in order to earn a class achievement award. This has really added to the excitement of each student earning individual points — students are delighted to watch one another succeed! Daily, students are asking what the class total is, and they even take a few moments to work out how many more points they need and how many each student would need to earn (a little bonus maths lesson!) to reach their goal.
My students have quickly evolved into a fantastic team, working together towards a common goal. Unfortunately, from time to time some students do lose points (which is the case for some when homework is due). However, when this occurs, these students have a positive support system behind them. Their classmates will say, “WE can get those points back!“. They truly have come together as a class, encouraging one another day in and day out. I am so proud of the positive and supportive relationships that are being built in my classroom. So, thank you to ClassDojo for promoting positive teamwork in my classroom. I’d love to hear how others are using ClassDojo to encourage teamwork in your classroom 🙂
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Recently I had the pleasure of taking part in a I&RS (Intervention and Referral Services) meeting for a struggling student. Basically a team of teachers, parents, administrators, guidance counselors, child study team members, and others convened to problem solve student deficiencies. Many ideas were shared and an action plan was developed. The passion in the room was truly remarkable, especially the professional manner in which our staff conducted themselves. Each member of the committee took the “whatever it takes” approach in order to put this child in a position to succeed. In fact, throughout the school year other technology based strategies were utilized for other students as well.
Below you will find a sampling of strategies that were recommended for various students throughout the school year in order for them to be in a position to succeed with the help of technology…..
- Teachers can leverage the power of ClassDojo to track student performance and behavior. This great tool can be very beneficial for students and parents in terms of communication, transparency, and buy-in.
- Encourage student to utilize their personal computer in the school setting for organization and curation purposes. Often students feel more comfortable using their own device as they make sense of their learning.
- Utilized the Dragon Dictation App so that the student can highlight their oral abilities on paper and/or computer screen.
- Increase mental agility at home while at the same time providing breaks with the Pomodoro Timer App.
- Focus on increasing typing speed using a program called EduTyping. This program can be utilized at home and in school.
- Provide student with alternative assessment opportunities to show what they know on a given topic. For example, use the Audioboo podcasting app for a project in language arts.
Leveraging the power of technology and available web applications to promote the success of students is critical in the year 2014. Identifying student strengths in order to overcome weaknesses is important if schools are to put students in a position to be successful. As I said before, the strategies above are just a sampling of what was recommended. It’s truly amazing to see passionate school stakeholders collaborate and problem solve together. There is no doubt that struggling students will do a complete turn around and begin enjoying school once again.
I substituted for a year after I graduated from my teaching program, and it was the hardest thing I ever did. I was working in a district with 28 schools (my home district has 6) sprawled throughout eight cities. Everything was unpredictable. Most of the time, I had no idea where the school was, unless I had been there enough times to remember the side gate into the parking lot where I was not allowed to park. Sometimes, I got called to sub for the morning, then requested for an afternoon job at a school an hour away that started 45 minutes after the morning class ended, leaving me negative 15 minutes for lunch.
A sub’s life is frantic, so I implore teachers out there to be kind to subs, which basically means: Please leave instructions. Please. Subs want to be helpful (and sane). Having been in many classrooms where the kids had to teach me how to teach them, or I had to come up with my own lessons based on what the kids told me they were learning – here is, from a sub’s experience, how a teacher can get the most out of a substitute’s day’s work while keeping the sub sane:
1. Simplify. If there is something important or complex you were planning to teach on that day and you need to be out, don’t have us teach it, because the sub will not know what you want, and the kids will not get what you want out of it. There’s always the chance that you may get a fantastic master teacher who has taught this very lesson for 30 years (it could happen), but most likely not. Unless it’s absolutely necessary that the big lesson happens on that day, save it for when you can share it with the kids.
2. Bullet point. It’s much, much easier for a sub to read the lesson plan while teaching when it’s formatted vertically, versus giant paragraphs resembling a dissertation. We can easily check off what we’ve done and spot the next step.
3. Host. Have a conversation with the students the day before about expectations, being welcoming to a new person, and also appoint a few students who have shown responsibility during the week to be the sub’s helpers. This is also a good opportunity for students to try to earn this privilege, and it minimizes kids influencing each other to take advantage of the sub because there will always point people.
4. Routines. Tell the sub what the class’s routines and customs are, such as clapping 3 times to get their attention, or that everyone’s books need to be open to the right page before starting. This reduces chaos and gives the sub more authority in front of the kids.
5. Feedback. Leave a note at the end of the instructions asking the sub to write a few sentences of feedback about the day. I always did when I subbed anyway, pointing out the kids who showed exceptional effort and respect, and anything special that happened in the day. This way, you also get the sub’s name and can request him or her again if you feel it was a successful day. Good subs who know your class are hard to come by!
A few weeks ago someone came up to me and told me how he just accepted his first speaking gig. He was a bit overwhelmed by it all, and knowing I do a lot of presenting, asked me for a few tips. I gave him a few and have since been thinking about things I’ve learned in my first couple years of presenting at conferences.
1. Invest in a remote and a quality dongle. The only thing more frustrating than being in a conference session with someone who doesn’t have proper equipment, is being the presenter without the proper equipment. Most rooms come set up with a VGA cable, but most non-Windows computers will need a dongle adapter. Don’t pinch pennies here and buy the cheapest one. I speak from experience when I say it’s embarrassing when they stop working in the middle of a session. I also recommend a presenter remote so that you’re not bound to your computer. They’re relatively inexpensive and add a lot of fluidity to your presentation.
2. Act like you own the place! One of the many lessons my dad has taught me is to “act like you own the place, and no one will say anything.” When I present I have to believe in my ability and my authority. When I believe in it, everyone else does too. Because, as Taylor Mali reminds us, “it’s not enough to question authority; you must speak with it too.”
3. Use less words and more pictures. Resources like Haiku Deck make it easy for people to create beautiful presentations. Although it’s important to speak compelling things, it’s ineffective to put these long, beautiful sentences on a slide deck. Stick to photos that illustrate the power of what you’re speaking.
4. Manage your time wisely. Plan out how much time you’ll spend on each point. When you’re just starting out, practice your presentation. It’s always frustrating for conference attendees (who have paid for the conference) to attend sessions that are way over or under the allotted time or are filled with unnecessary information.
5. Don’t rely on the internet. I have yet to be to a tech conference where the internet works perfectly all the time. Be prepared to give your presentation without internet. Download your presentation and any necessary videos. Present like it’s 1995.
Sometimes, students will resist because something is immoral or unethical. As a first year teacher, a student called me out for mocking a regional accent. I was defensive at first, but she was absolutely right.
But sometimes, students resist because that’s what they do.
In some cases (like class policies), as long as the policies are thoughtful, your best bet is to listen and then use some sort of formula like, “Unfortunately, a hall pass is not a choice. Please use it.”
In other cases, however, student resistance can undermine a learning goal: suddenly, you’re locked in a battle with a student about a concept that is not the point of a lesson.
Here are three classic examples of how to defuse student resistance. All three draw from a simple fable: a tree and a reed argue about their relative strength – but when the storm winds come, the stubborn, brittle tree is uprooted. The reed bends with the wind.
Pre-warning, affirming, joining – and redirecting:
The scenario: you are studying a story where a character exhibits behaviors, traits, or values the students will find objectionable, but it’s beyond the scope of that class to get distracted by those objections.
The solution: warn the students before they read that they will not like some of the things they see. Tell them that their objections are founded and justified. Join with them in agreeing that the behaviors are problematic.
Then, say, “However, we’re going to put those objections in the parking lot. We may get around to them. But we may not. Our goal is not going to be taking Character X to task for how he acts, which is pretty bad, we have to admit. But our goal in this particular class is to look at the circumstances that led him to those behaviors.”
If a student, mid-discussion objects to Character X’s behavior, reaffirm:
“Exactly, and that’s what I meant when I said that there were problematic things about that Character. I wish we had a whole class to dig into that, but I’m afraid it’s beyond the scope of this lesson. So, back we go to the historical circumstances.”
Set up the resistance as a straw-man and then “pretend” the best:
The scenario: a new policy in the school has raised student ire. You feel that students have complained enough about the unfairness of the new policy. You want them to reflect on the potential benefit of the new policy and not turn your allotted five minutes into more griping.
The solution: in your question or prompt, suggest exactly what the students are likely to have concluded, and then redirect:
“The new policy is either total hoo-hah, designed to put you into a prison for your minds, or perhaps it speaks to a conflict of two real values that we can probably agree are both important. For the moment, let’s just pretend that the rule is not designed simply to take away your rights and make you miserable. What might have been the intent of the principle when she composed the new policy?”
Affirm frustration, relieve the student of needing to argue further, and offer a new option:
The scenario: a student has missed a deadline and has a lousy grade as a result. She has come to argue with you about the grade. You want her to stop fixating on the grade and think constructively about the future.
The solution: meet the student where she is, and paint the picture about what’s coming down the road.
You: Look, tell me if I’m not getting you. You felt like you put in a ton of work on this step of the project and the deadline ruined your grade, right?
You: And it’s a bummer because why should the deadline affect the grade for the product, right?
You: So look, on the one hand, I don’t expect you to agree with the late-policy of this class. That’s not your job as a student. You being upset about it makes total sense. If I were you, I’d probably be upset, too. But my job is to have policies that are fair and consistent. That’s what I’m expected to do as a teacher, and the policy can’t change. And we may not see eye to eye on that, and we’re going to need to be okay with that. But more importantly, my job is to help you move past this setback and plan for how the next phase of the project is going to well, and make sure it’s a huge success.
I was at a frozen yogurt bar the other day, empty cup in hand, and I happened to see the sign “Teacher Appreciation Day: Free Yogurts of Any Size with ID Card.” Score! A free yogurt meant that I had nothing to lose if I didn’t order the usual. The possibilities swarmed me. I now had the opportunity to choose something I might not have otherwise bought. Which way was I going to go? Fruity? Chocolaty? No. BOTH. This was my chance–my opportunity to build something great. Unfortunately, with a line building up behind me, I rushed. I overdid it on the toppings, my layering was all wrong, and it wasn’t tasty. My expectations of a totally delicious fro-yo were soured by my lack of planning, the feeling of being rushed, and a little greed to want it all.
As teachers, we all have visions of high expectations for our students, but are we taking the time to think about what ingredients we should choose without overloading our students and ourselves with a sub-par flavor of success? Do we feel rushed by the new standards to make these students great? How can we take small, uncomplicated steps to create high-achieving students that surpass our expectations?
The answer isn’t all that simple, as any teacher might tell you, but here are some sure places to start setting and supporting high expectations.
1. Greet all students at the door with a handshake
Start this day one. You won’t know their names, and there may be a small build-up in the hallway, but don’t worry. Stand tall, smile, and shake every one of your students’ hands. Show them that this is the business of learning, and you’re serious about it. Once you start to know their names, include them in your daily greeting. Tell them they played a great game Friday night, you were impressed with their test score, they have cute shoes on. This is a time to set the tone as professional and welcoming, that it’s a safe place to push their thinking.
2. Use their time wisely, and tell them that’s what you’re doing.
Be as efficient as possible. How do you pass out papers? Create a system. How do you get into groups? Drill them and practice so its under 10 seconds (totally possible, with practice and a competitive vibe). How quickly do they start working? Put a warm-up, drill, or do-now on the board ,so they can begin as soon as they sit down. With all of these things, be sure to tell them that you’re not interested in wasting their time; you’ve got information that’s really important for them, and you won’t compromise that.
3. Pre-Assess before blindly teaching curriculum.
Pre-assessments allow me to see what to review and where to build. This is such a simple step of which many teachers don’t take advantage, and we can easily make the mistake of re-teaching information that students already learned. For example, I need to trust that the teachers before me taught the students how to use commas correctly, so I can build off of that knowledge. I don’t need to waste class time re-teaching commas usage unless my pre-assessment tells me it needs reviewing. Even then, it probably wouldn’t need to be a class-wide endeavour. A challenging curriculum shows the students you think they’re capable of it. When you repeat information, those that learned it have the chance to zone out.
4. Call on whomever you want whenever you want.
You are in charge of the class, and you need to check for understanding. The students need to know that they can be called on at any time. Some teachers use popsicle sticks with names written on them, some teachers just call, but the important thing is the element of surprise. They need to feel a little pressured to pay attention at all times. This may seem awkward at first, but the students will eventually get used to it.
Note- if you draw name sticks as a method, don’t put them in a discard pile. Put them back in with the rest. This avoids students being “off the hook” once they have answered, allowing them to get back to that doodle they started in health class.
5. Expect the right answer
Let’s say a student gives you an answer that’s perfectly wrong. My response used to be “Hm, Fiona, I see why you’re saying that, but you’re not quite there.” I didn’t want to hurt Fiona’s feelings. I have since learned, through using the above steps to create a safe place for my students to express their ideas, that wrong is wrong, and I don’t want to take the time to sugar-coat it. It’s not being mean; it’s saying “That’s incorrect. Can someone help Fiona?” Let someone help, and then have Fiona repeat the correct answer, so the last thing she remembers is being right (and hopefully the right answer!). This is faster than the other response and builds an atmosphere that it’s okay to be incorrect at first, but the student is eventually responsible for being right.
Take some time this summer to think about what steps you can take to make sure kids reach those high expectations you have for them. Then go reward yourself with a delicious frozen yogurt!
Most parents will tell you that homework time is the most dreaded part of each day, and I think many students would agree. Although, there always seems to be one or two families who request more homework for their child. So how much homework is the right amount? The answer is not simple, and differs depending on what age range you are working with, but there is some pretty compelling research out there showing that homework may be a lot less necessary than we once thought.
The whole idea of ten minutes of work per grade level, meaning ten minutes of homework in kindergarten and fifty minutes in fifth grade, is such an arbitrary construct, it amazes me that schools still follow this model. I’ve also heard teachers claim that homework is necessary so that students can learn the study habits they will need for the higher grade levels and college. I kind of get this, but only if the homework is very purposeful and relevant. Giving kids an hour of tedious busy work will only make them hate school, and they probably won’t learn much. Lastly, the argument that skills taught in the classroom need to be reinforced outside of school always seems to come up when defending homework. Again, this makes some sense, but only if assignments are specifically targeted to a student’s specific needs.
So what is the best approach to homework? Well, it depends. Research states that homework does not have much of an impact on academic achievement until middle, or even high school, so teachers at these levels should be assigning something, but elementary teachers really don’t need to. The type of homework being assigned is critical. If you do not have the time to assign meaningful and relevant work, it’s better to not assign anything at all. Homework that is personalized based on a student’s specific needs, or interests can be a useful tool, but otherwise, I’d just say no to homework.
As a science teacher, I am always trying to find ways to cross-collaborate with other teachers to make my curriculum more meaningful. During my physiology unit I tend to pair up with the P.E. teacher for a project. During physics I team up with the math teacher. Cross-collaboration allows students to see connections between subjects, making content richer and more relevant to their lives. However, it can be difficult to assess cross-collaborative projects when you don’t necessarily see how students are making use of their time in the other classes. The solution? ClassDojo Shared Classes!
Sharing classes on ClassDojo is very simple. On your home screen you will see each of your classes. In the top corner of each class you will want to click on a small triangle, which will open up a drop-down menu. Click “Share!” You’ve got it from there. Shared Classes allows multiple teachers to have access to one class, both contributing points to students and messaging with parents. You might implement shared classes year-round or if you are more hesitant, a cross-collaboration project is a great way to try it out for a shorter period of time.
When starting a project I like to make sure all points have been cleared, then I share the class with collaborating teacher. Customize feedback points depending on the type of project. I tend to give students points every day for “productivity” and “teamwork”, which are a certain percentage of their final project grade. Once the project comes to an end, points given in-class can be used as part of students’ final assessment. Sharing classes holds students accountable for their behavior and work ethic in all classes involved. Cross-collaborative projects are the perfect opportunity to take Shared Classes for a spin, and hopefully will lead to better teaching and learning!
Happy sharing! 🙂