ClassDojo – Training Character Building at the High School Level – and Training Yourself To Teach It

  • A student sees a classmate who is lost or confused. Without being asked, he offers assistance.
  • A student runs into a problem in a lab, and instead of immediately putting up her hand, she attempts to solve the problem on her own.
  • A student has a setback on a quiz, but rather than give up, concluding that the class is dumb and the quizzes are impossible, she comes in for extra coaching.

Much has been written about traits like “Grit,” “Resilience,” and the ability to delay gratification – and the linking of these traits to long term success.

Imagine being able to communicate and give feedback on character traits like these, traits that we may wish students would learn – but because students are not tested on them, we often intend to build these traits in students but we are not consistent or explicit on how, when, and where these skills are addressed. We may hit our goals in this regard, but intending to teach something is a little like how I write my signature: I scribble something while I think about my name.

This works for signing checks. This is not, however, good pedagogy.

One Small But Very Big Step

While ClassDojo cannot teach these skills, it can train you to constantly be aware of them – a kind of pedagogical string around your finger. You see the badges when you open ClassDojo, and you get in the “habit of mind” to write opportunities for character development into your Class Norms, your assessments, and even your lesson plans.

For example:

Class Norm: On the first day of class, instead of only talking about your bathroom policy and your late work policy, talk about the power of independence in problem solving. Show students ClassDojo, and talk about times when a student might earn the badge: “Attempt to solve problem before asking for help.”

Lesson Planning: When you write up a lesson and prepare the worksheet, handout, or document, add a section about ways students can earn ClassDojo badges. For example, be explicit, in a lesson on reducing fractions, that some students will have trouble with the exercises. Students who are stuck can put a small flag – a checker, for example – on their desk. If you see a student with a checker, you may leave your desk to assist him or her, and earn the badge: “Assists others who need help.”

Assessment: In a complex, multi-stage project, you may write into the guidelines for the project that set-back may happen: the research may prove inconclusive. The interviewee might flake. Explicitly include a section on what proactivity means: seeing the problem before it escalates. Students who stumble but address the problem before it becomes a bigger problem can earn the badge: “Proactive in handling crises.”

ClassDojo will help you give feedback on these traits, but just as importantly, it’s a step in committing to teach them.

Please share below some of the character traits you would like to see students develop – and a situation where you might anticipate awarding a badge for that trait!