Classroom management. Easily one of the most challenging parts of teaching. I found that now in my eleventh year, it still is something that I have to factor into my daily instruction. However, I have found that it now looks a bit different than it did when I first started teaching and the purpose has changed as well. To me, classroom management isn’t just about keeping kids from putting gum in another kids hair (true story), screaming inappropriate things across the room, not being quiet and not staying in their seat when asked. To me, classroom management is keeping the flow of the class go a way that meets my goals for the class and makes it the best possible learning environment as well hold the students accountable to be an active part of the classroom culture and their learning.
Enter, ClassDojo. I have used this classroom app this year and it has completely changed my Level 4 Spanish class. This class is made up of mostly Juniors with a sprinkling of Sophomores and Seniors. As you can imagine, Classroom Management for them isn’t about behavior. It’s about purpose. By Level 4, my expectation for the students is that they are actively participating in the class, present (not using their phones) and… using only Spanish with me and their classmates. This, at the beginning, was a challenge for them to say the least, but this app changed the feel of my class. I never lack participation, my students are mentally present and they are now an accountable community of learners.
The way the app works is you enter the kids names under a class. You then enter what are called skills, which are considered either negative or positive. You then assign a point value to the skills. Each week, my students have to earn 5 points. They have lots of ways they can earn their points, from me hearing them just conversing in Spanish, answering a question voluntarily, writing me an email, responding to my Twitter posts, writing a movie review, anything that gets them using unprompted Spanish . There are only two ways they can lose points. Having their phone out and using English. They have to work really hard to earn those 5 points so they are left to decide if taking their phone out is worth losing a point. I now have nearly zero phone use in this class and nearly 100% Spanish spoken.
Yes, they are motivated by the grade. They work hard to get their points for the week but you now what? My goal for my classroom management, and how I want my classroom to feel is being met. They aren’t stuck on their phones, they encourage each other to stay in Spanish, participation is overwhelming and they are using Spanish in and outside the classroom. Since I offer lots of ways for them to earn points, they are often approaching me with ideas to earn points. They are now posting their Instagram captions in Spanish, texting each other in Spanish and finding as many ways as they can incorporate the language into their lives to get those puntos. They are creating their own learning experiences.
During class time, I use the free ClassDojo app on my phone to track the points. It can also be done online. The students also download the app or go online and they can see their points throughout the week. It will also show them how they earned the point or how they lost it. You can also add a note or a picture to points given or taken away. On my end, I can select kids and apply points in groups or to individuals.
I have mentioned how I have used this in my content area but it really can apply to any content and any skill or behavior you want to encourage or discourage.
Their website has lots of ideas and also showcases other features of the app.
I can see using this app for Classroom Management in the traditional sense: positive and negative behavior, staying on task… but also for encouraging content learning, participation in their own learning, creating a positive classroom environment or whatever management looks like for you. You can decide what your classroom goals are and how this can help support those. I have only used this with my Level 4 class but now that I am used to it, I will likely incorporate it into my other classes next year. The skills for a lower level class will be different but the goal is the same; for the class to run in a way that meets my expectations and creates an enriching classroom experience with accountability, encouragement and community.