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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Using Class Dojo to Motivate Your Students - Guest Post

I teach gifted students in grades K-5, and many of them, believe it or not, can be prone to avoiding challenging tasks. I recently posted about this on my blog, and included a video produced by Carol Dweck that highlights the importance of praising students for their hard work instead of for their intelligence. I decided to employ Class Dojo to help me with this.

Class Dojo is a free iOS application (and website - Android app soon to come) that can be used to reward students with points for positive behaviors. You can also subtract points for negative behaviors. I rarely use the subtraction feature, however, because I prefer the students to focus more on meeting my expectations rather than on how they can disappoint me.

You can use the website for Class Dojo to manage your classes. The mobile app allows you to award points "on the go" with your smartphone as you walk around the classroom. In addition, there is a "random" button that you can hit which will choose a student from your class, well, randomly.

At the beginning of the year, I established Class Dojo routines with all of my classes, and introduced my students to the class treasure box where they could "redeem" their points. In fact, this is usually the only "negative" behavior that is reflected on their reports and, of course, I explain to parents that it is not negative at all. This serves the dual purposes of reward and of privacy, in a way. If I display the class on our screen, it is not embarrassing for a student who only has 1 point, because it is assumed he or she has "spent" points on treasure box items.

With my 5th grade, I started something new that involves "Leveling Up." Based on the number of points they receive in certain categories, they can move to different levels of responsibility in my class - which also gives them extra privileges. Some of these privileges include: choosing where they would like to sit, getting a Glogster Edu account, checking out games for a week, checking out books from my class library, and getting a Weebly account. When students achieve certain milestones, they receive badges (that they designed) in Edmodo (where they can also earn points by doing optional assignments. Certain badge totals allow them to level up. You could also use the site Class Badges for this.

The most immediate effect that I have seen as a result of my use of Class Dojo has been the students' responses to my emphasis on working hard. A few weeks ago, I started to choose students randomly during class to get a "perseverance" point. I tell them that they won’t automatically get it just because their name was chosen. If I don’t feel they deserve it, I will choose someone else. To avoid embarrassing any specific people, I use my mobile app. If a name pops up of a distracted or discouraged student, I just say, “Oh, I’m sorry. This person needs to show me more effort. I guess I need to pick someone else.” Suddenly, students who were just gazing off into the distance become productive.

I am careful to not only award students points for getting things right or doing things perfectly. I frequently give them points for trying hard and taking risks . And I verbally praise them often so they realize these are my expectations.
click to view full size

This image shows the positive behavior traits my 5th graders should exhibit. (We are a “Leader in Me” school, so we use the 7 Habits to describe our behaviors. Students who show a good attitude and effort for difficult tasks are being “Proactive”.) With this targeted use of Class Dojo and Edmodo, I have seen a definite increase in effort from my students.

Terri Eichholz is a teacher of gifted and talented students in N.E.I.S.D. in San Antonio. She is the author of “Engage Their Minds”, a blog which provides “different ideas for different thinkers.” You can also find her at http://pinterest.com/terrieichholz/ and on Teachers Pay Teachers.

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