Monday, August 11, 2014

An App a Day: Class Dojo

There's been a lot of talk in the education community lately about the "gamification" of education as well as talk about whether or not rewards have a place in the classroom. There was even an article about it in this month's NEA Today Magazine. I've thought about this a lot this summer. Here's my take. There are some must-haves when it comes to behavior management. The first is clear, consistent expectations. If you haven't clearly defined what you expect, kids don't know how to meet your expectations. The next is to have a system of consequences. Teachers have to decide what behaviors they consider low-level and how they'll deal with those, and what behaviors warrant a more involved response and how they will handle those. For example, in my class a talk out is a low level behavior and is dealt with by making eye contact with the student, holding my finger over my lips, and raising my hand in the air ~ a non-verbal reminder to raise their hand. Then I make them wait for one other person to have a turn, then I call on them. Higher level behaviors, such as throwing things, negative self-talk, or a melt down earn a larger response from me. What I mean is, this one's going to take more of my time and energy. But, I know me and my mouth tends to move faster than my brain, so I have some scripted responses that I have memorized to help me in situations like this otherwise I'm likely to say something that will escalate rather than de-escalate the situation. (My best friend is an absolute genius when dealing with situations like this, so I got smart and listened to her, then wrote down what she said and memorized it! Now I use her words because they're way better than mine!) If a kid is melting down, I use the broken record technique and repeat what I want the child to do. "It sounds like this is a rough time right now. Head over to the break spot and I'll come talk to you soon so we can work it out." I just read a blog where one of the commenters called it the "Hokey Pokey Spot" since that's where the kids "turned themselves around". Love it! Totally stealing it this year!

The last thing I think is essential in classroom management is to provide feedback. You get what you pay attention to, so if you only give feedback to the negative, you'll only get negative. My HUGE goal this year (it's going to be in my official teacher goals for our evaluations this year) is to give non-judgmental feedback. This one is going to be HARD!!!!! I am so used to starting my praise with "I like the way..." But this year I'm really going to work on naming the behavior and providing evidence. So instead of "I like the way you worked hard on that assignment", I'd say, "You showed persistence when you tried that math problem three times before getting it right." Then I have to refrain from adding, "Good job!" I do think there is a place for simple praise, but I tend to do it ALL the time. Yikes! So, whatever it takes to focus on the positive, I say go for it. Then you shift, change, refine, and adapt because as you change your own habits, kids' habits will change as well.

That being said, Class Dojo may or may not have a spot in my room this year. I haven't decided yet. I really like to ensure I'm keeping a 3:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions with kids, so it's a good way to track that, but if I switch to specific feedback, I'm thinking of using it to track who I've given feedback to and who I've missed and tracking whether I gave corrective feedback or praise feedback. much to think about.

That being said, here's how I used Dojo last year with good results:

I have a hand signal system with my class so I can give behavior feedback more privately than calling out someone's name. A thumbs up to the student means they've earned a point and a thumbs down means they've lost one. Kids know that if they've lost a point, I'll be watching to see if they fix up the behavior to earn that point back. The kids absolutely love earning Dojo points!

Here's what I love:

1) So easy to load kids in! It automatically assigns kids their own monster. It lists kids in alphabetical order, but the Class Dojo developers have said they're working on letting you set it up by seating arrangement. That would be amazing! You just type in the name, hit enter and it automatically creates the student's account and you're ready to add the next one. You can also upload from a school roster or copy and paste in a list!

2) You can customize behaviors! You can have just one behavior or a list of 12, it's up to you! You can also make certain behaviors worth more. I recommend choosing general ones that you feel will be most important. I like to use behaviors that mean something to our class, so they may change year after year.
3) Assigning points is relatively quick. If you're on an iPad or your phone, simply tap the student's name, select the positive or negative tab, tap the behavior, and you're done! If have the sound turned on, the kids hear the ping  or "womp" that lets them know points are happening.

5) See their points right away! Only their point totals will show up on the mobile version, but if you're on your computer, you can set it to show both their positive and negative points. I use a management system based on three strikes earning a consequence, so I can't wait for the Dojo team to make it possible to see negative points on my iPad! I strive to keep the 3:1 ratio of interactions in my room (3 positives for every negative), so being able to see those negatives reminds me that I "owe" it to that student to catch them doing the right thing 3 times. They say you get what you pay attention to, so I try very hard to aim for the positive! This is a constant work in progress for me, and each day I strive to do better.

Some have asked if I ever show kids the screen below with the points on it. The answer is no. I feel it's not fair to those who struggle with behavior. There's only one time I publicly share kids' points which is at the end of the day when we are celebrating each other. Even then I don't show them this screen. Instead I use a positive-only clip chart where kids move their monsters up based on how many points they have. Check back tomorrow when I talk more about that!

6) Point and click reports! Check how many positives vs. negatives you've assigned to the class or for each student. Print them out for parent reports and report cards. Think about how easy the behavior part of your report card becomes when you can see the exact behaviors students are exhibiting!

7) SHARE! You can invite other teachers to share your class. I had 2 Instructional Assistants who had iPads and were able to give kids points during small groups (note that we had over 800 positives in 4 weeks! It was an amazing summer!). If you send kids to PE, music, or art and that teachers wants to use Dojo, they can be added to your class and all the points stay in one place!

You can also give parents a log-in code and they can check in on how their students are doing. I honestly haven't been brave enough to try this yet :)

So, they've earned the what? Tomorrow I'll share my Dojo point tracker and reward cards. Thanks for sticking with me and we'll see you tomorrow!


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