I resisted Class Dojo for a while. I wasn't really looking for any behaviour management help and I was a little wary of how public it is to the rest of the class. What made me try it? To be honest, pure curiosity. Everyone was talking about it and I couldn't really form an opinion without trying it. Now, I love it! There are different ways to use the features and to implement it into your classroom, so here's my guide to how I use it. It really works for me!
This is very important to me, I NEVER TAKE OFF POINTS. Ever. I am a firm believer in positive reinforcement. I've worked at schools with very challenging children filling classes of 33 and still wouldn't take off points. There are a few reasons for this, the main one being that the positive action is not negated by a negative action. They still did the positive thing. The second reason is that it is public. Positives should be public, negative should be private. I've tried and tested this and overall, behaviour improves every time.
What do I give points for?
On Dojo, you can choose the reasons for the points. Our school has 7 Cs the children work towards (collaboration, communication, commitment, confidence etc). They're a little like the 8 Personal Goals in the IPC. Mine are tied to those. Each time they demonstrate a skill, they get a point. I also have one for demonstrating Growth Mindset and sometimes add them for specific goals, eg. reading.
How do I manage the practicalities of giving the points?
I have the Dojo website up on the IWB most of the time. Either I give the points then, or let the children go up and put on their own. They love that!
What is the 'point' of the points?
I've heard lots of ideas on this one, the most popular seeming to be some kind of Dojo shop in school where children spend points. I don't believe in 'prizes' in the classroom. The reward in my class is very simple and very highly sought after: each week I post the 'winner' on the class story page. That's it! The parents all get to see who has earned the most points and I give a little insight into what they earned them for. They love it! Each week, I reset the points.
Team / Group Points
You can organise the children into teams or groups and award points to the whole team. Any given like this give each child a point and one for the team. Each week, we see which team has the most points and they are 'team of the week' the following week. Again, this has quite minimal benefit, but that doesn't seem to matter, which is kind of nice really. Team of the week might get to sit on the table when we read stories, customise their monster on Dojo, line up for lunch first, sit on a cushion... it really varies from class to class. I usually discuss it with them at the start of the year. Again, I reset the points each week.
Whole Class Points
There is a 'whole class' tally on the main page, which keeps track of the points accumulated overall. However, I don't use this. I have a 'student' (fake) whose name is Class. When the children do something well as a class, that fake student gets a point. This one I don't reset each week (you can 'select all' to reset them, then just untick this one). When they have 50, the children get to choose a treat. We've had lots of things, from pyjama parties to 'crafternoons'. At the moment, they're about 8 points away from their treat, which will be Muggle Quidditch! (I think I'm more excited than they are!!).
I asked parents for permission to post photographs of their children on the class story. All but one agreed and the one who didn't was happy for her child's work, hands, voice, back of head etc. to go on there. For group photos or those where she is in the background, I can easily pixelate her using an app. It is such a lovely way to keep parents in the loop. Parents can like and comment on pictures. I'm sure that some people will not be able to use this feature without it causing issues, but you can turn comments off if you like. I've never had an issue with it so far. There is also a School Story, on which you can post things of interest to all parents. What's nice is that you can also post to just a single child's story. I don't use this that often because I like to share with the class, but sometimes the children do presentations and you can put a short video of it on their story. The may not want this sharing with the whole class full of parents, but it's nice for theirs to see. Note: at the moment, you can only post one picture per post, so I use collage apps like Layout sometimes to post multiple pics at once.
Notices and requests
It's handy to be able to post reminders about non-uniform days, swimming kits etc. You can also post notices about homework, show auditions and anything else useful. Last week, I had a mini brainwave and it worked really well!! I realised that I can post requests and the parents can all see what the other responses are. For example, if you're having a class party and you don't want 30 bags of Doritos, you can post what you'd like and ask the parents to comment with what they are bringing to avoid duplicates. I used it for Science experiment bits last week and it worked a treat! (See pic).
Surprising Extra Features
When I signed up, I hadn't realised that Class Dojo has lots of other features too! There are some really useful tools, like a random student selector, a group maker and a noise metre (although the latter always suggests my class are screaming, even if the room is empty!). There is also music for focus or activity, which is great for when you just need something immediately without faffing around. I also love the still-developing Big Ideas section. This has some lovely videos and guided activities on Growth Mindset, Mindfulness, Perseverance, Empathy and Gratitude. My class LOVE the mindfulness section. We use the meditation and movement really often and it's a great start or end to our day.
I completely surprised myself. I love it! I am moving schools (and countries) in August and was delighted to find that my new school use it as a whole school. They've already added me to their account and it's great to be able to really get a flavour of the place already. I am looking forward to continuing to use it next year and would be very disappointed if I worked somewhere where they didn't want us to.
I'd love to hear your experiences of Class Dojo and any tips you have for making a success of it. Comment below or on Facebook.
So, this week I have been trying something new.
At my school, we use the Maths No Problem scheme. For those of you who haven’t come across it, this is a Singapore Maths scheme that uses equipment, textbooks and workbooks. The lessons start with an ‘In Focus’ task, in which the children discuss approaches to a problem and then share their ideas.
To prepare for this, I have recently started giving the children ten minutes with the textbook at the end of each day. They ‘pre-study’ the lesson. They just take some time to look at it. They think about it. They can discuss it with their partner. Many of them flick back to the previous day’s lesson and begin to make links between their learning. Today, one pair even asked me if they could grab the equipment to start to make tenths and hundredths.
Only a few days in, this is already proving to be a very useful ten minutes. When I start the Maths lesson the next day, many of the children already have ideas or questions about the topic. They have begun to think about the Maths involved.
It is also encouraging independence. The children are learning to be less reliant. They are using study skills and reading skills along with the visuals in the book. I think that as we go on, I will be able to accelerate through some of the lessons, allowing more time for using the Maths Journals, which are used for deepening understanding, explaining different methods and reasoning.
My tips on how to implement this
(...so far! I'm sure that I'll have far more to add to this once I've been doing it for a while!)
Plans to expand!
So, obviously time is an issue here, but I'd like to roll this out across more of the curriculum. My plan is to give them some notes to study before some topics. We have LearnPads, so I'm going to put some presentations, notes and maybe even video clips (we have headphones!) on there about grammar topics, Science units etc. It's very similar to what we did for revision before the exams, but kind of in reverse. I think it might have a bigger impact than revising, but we'll see.
If you've done anything like this, please do comment and let me know any ideas or tips! Thanks!
Don't forget to comment and share if you like this or have anything to add (or if you spot one of my frequent typos!).
We've all been there: you share the WALT. You do the input where you carefully demonstrate and explain the learning. Of course, you don't just talk at the children anymore: you use mini-whiteboards to check understanding and you've asked them to talk to their partner at least twice. You then explain the activity (or activities, with 3-way differentiation) in enough detail that they don't ask you 48 questions before they start. Then you set them off on their task. Then they ask you 48 questions. By the time they actually start, the lesson is almost over so the activity is really rushed and there's no time for reflection or sharing. The result: they've done a bit of learning, but had no chance to secure their knowledge or explore the concept further. Plus, they're probably bored. All that planning was a waste.
But how can we avoid this?
As you'll guess from my page title, I like to talk. A lot. So I've spent a significant amount of time battling this problem and I've come up with 5 go-to ways to avoid it!
1. Start with an investigation
This one is easy really. Don't 'teach' them anything. Let them learn it.
For example, next week we are learning about speech marks. They're a pain in the bum to teach and there are so many rules! So, I'm just going to begin the lesson with the question How do we use speech marks? Then, I'm going to give the children some books and let them come up with a set of rules (presented however they like - see point 2). Then at the end, we'll come back and discuss.
There are some real benefits to this:
2. Allow choice of presentation - this means NO WORKSHEETS!
Teachers hate this: giving the children free-reign?? How will I mark it? They might be messy!
IT DOESN'T MATTER! Just teach them the concept, then give them a quick overview of the activity and off they go.
Example: sorting regular and irregular verbs.
They don't need a sheet for this, that you have to make, print, trim and they have to glue in. They also don't need you to tell them to draw a table or Venn diagram. Neither do they need you to show them 5 different ways they could present this. Just tell them to organise the words into regular and irregular. I give only 2 criteria: it must be neat and clear. That's it. You want to see if they know the difference between regular and irregular verbs. Some will do a table, others will fold their page in half, some will write regular verbs in blue and irregular verbs in orange. So you can spend the time teaching them what regular and irregular verbs are but not waste time on the activity instructions.
This works for lots of different activities. Most, in fact.
In addition to reducing your input time, this strategy also has 3 other key benefits:
3. Limit differentiation by activity
I VERY rarely set different activities or different sheets (I don't like sheets much) for different children. I don't like capping their learning, I don't like singling children out. I don't like spending my evenings thinking of 3 different ways to do an activity.
It takes forever to explain all the different activities and answer questions about each.
I tend to differentiate by support, expectation, outcome, questioning, peer support. Saves a ton of explanation time and your 'talking time' can be focussed on actually teaching the concept.
4. Just display instructions
Another very simple one. Don't talk at all. Display the instructions for a task and let them go. You can answer questions and troubleshoot as they go, but encourage them to have a go first. This relies on them being secure in the knowledge that they won't 'get in trouble' for doing it wrong - an atmosphere you need to foster over time. This one works best if they either have prior knowledge or if they are doing an investigation (see point 1).
Another option here is to display the task and instructions but don't ask them to start. Ask them to discuss it with their team and decide what to do. Then they could ask a couple of questions before getting going.
So, there you have it: my top tips to being a slightly less talkative teacher! I'd love to hear your suggestions in the comments below!
Hi! I'm Mrs P: passionate primary school teacher!