Raise your hand if Class Dojo has changed your life! Class Dojo is by far one of my favorite tools to ever grace the teaching world.
First of all, I have to say one of my favorite parts about Class Dojo is the iPhone app because my aides can have it on their phone and log in. We are all able to provide positive and negative reinforcement to our students. My aides go to specials and lunch with my students so even when I am not with my class, my aides are able to provide the direct reinforcement. They can be consistent with or without me in the room and consistency goes a looong way with my kiddos!
In the past I have used a variety of classroom management techniques and nothing has ever been as motivating to my kids as Class Dojo. Class Dojo is ideal in a special education classroom because it incorporates the green and red reinforcement system which is a research based behavior intervention THAT WORKS!
Before diving in to my behavior management system, one thing I'll say is that this is what works for me. Later in this post you'll read about the million ways I have had to tweak my system to make it work for everyone. You have to know your kids and don't be afraid to try a few things to figure out what works. I am a weirdo and I actually love behavior. I think behavior makes the world go 'round and it's one of the reasons I love being a special education teacher. I find so much happiness in figuring out the psychological reasons behind why a child acts a certain way and then helping him overcome it. I always keep in mind the ABCs of Behavior:
- Antecedent- why is it happening?
- Behavior- what happened?
- Consequence- how did you respond to it?
EVERY behavior has an antecedent or a cause. Although it may not feel this way sometimes, no behavior ever just comes out of thin air. Children learn how to behave based on how you react to it. It is my own personal philosophy that my job is to help them learn how to control it themselves, not control it for them.
So here's how it looks in Room 13...In September I begin with my behavior punch cards to show my students the difference between green choices and red choices. I do this because it is more concrete and in their face and my babies are babies when they come to me so they need that in-your-face approach to learn the difference between a good choice and a bad choice. In the beginning I will give a green for ANYTHING. You picked up your pencil? You get a green! You had your eyes on me? You get a green! You came to school? You get a green! It's like Oprah Winfrey up in here.
(Hehe this was my first time making my own meme! I'm so cool.)
Once the kids start understanding the difference between a green choice and a red choice (usually after a few weeks) I take away the behavior cards and switch over to Class Dojo. I let the kids choose their own monster and off we go!
Incorporating a Traditional Color Chart
One of the things that took me a little time to figure out was incorporating my traditional color behavior chart. I didn't want to do away with it because I use that to communicate with parents and sometimes I like being dramatic and saying "Move all the way to pink!" or "MOVE STRAIGHT TO RED." There is just something so effective about a traditional color chart. Also, this is most likely the system that my students will use with other teachers in the future so I want them to be used to it. At the end of the day I put a colored star in my students' folders so their parents know what type of day we had. I also can't assumethat all parents will log into Class Dojo and I am a big believer in strong home-school communication, especially when it comes to behavior. So I came up with a system to incorporate Class Dojo with my color chart so we could have all hands on deck. Here is the information that I send home to parents to explain how it all unfolds in our classroom.
Periodically throughout the day I do what we call a Point Review so my kids have a way of checking in on their progress. We sing our Point Review Song, I put Class Dojo up on our InterWrite screen and I review how many green and red points each child has earned so far. If they have hit a milestone (10, 20 or 30 points) then they move their color up accordingly. If they have received 3 reds since our last point review, they move their color down. After a while the students get used to this and they get excited when they know they've hit a milestone. It sounds complicated but it doesn't take them long to figure out 10 greens = up a color, 3 reds = down a color.
Green to Red Ratio
Some people have asked me why it takes so many positives and so few negatives to move around our chart. My reasoning for that is simple. I am a huge believer in positive reinforcement vs. negative reinforcement. In my experience it goes much farther to give a child a green for something so small when I can see him starting to unravel, than to let him unravel and start giving out reds. I know my students well enough to sense when the wheels are starting to fall off their wagons, and that's usually my cue to start praising him/her for every little thing he is doing right, in hopes that he will feel successful and proud of his choices. I'd say 75% of the behavior that occurs in my classroom is attention seeking, so I try to beat them at their own game. :)
Of course, some days I have a child who simply needs reds because he blatantly dumps his milk on our classroom floor at breakfast or intentionally trips a friend in the hallway and there was no predicting or stopping that. Such is life.
Modifying the System
Of course, not every system works 100% of the time for 100% of the kids. Each year I have students who don't care about Class Dojo or it is too abstract for them. For kids like that, I either continue using the behavior tickets or I use a Tupperware cup with a hole in the top and give out green and red beads. Sometimes the concrete and tactile form of the system is more effective for students who aren't understanding that when I say "You just got a red" that you really did just get a red and you just can't see it because it's in my iPhone but you'll see it in 45 minutes when we do a Point Review and you'll be wishing you believed me when I said you got a red!... Does that make sense? The beauty of the green and red system is you can come up with tons of ways to keep track of behavior using the same language.
Here are a few ways I intervene and modify the system for my tricky kids while still using the green and red system consistently.
-Get Started Card: I had a student this year who liked to waste time at the beginning of all of his centers. He would take out all of his crayons and line them up on the table in alphabetical order. He would fiddle with his glue stick cap...anything. I created a card that had 5 green dots on a strip of velcro. Each time he got to a new center he had the opportunity to earn 5 greens. For each time a teacher or aide had to tell him to get started, he lost a green. It did not take him long to be trained not to waste time. Over time, I decreased the number of greens to 3, then 2, then 1 in order to decrease the number of adult prompts he was receiving to stay on task. This is also a way to use the green & red system without actually using it, because although he felt as if he was "losing greens", he really just wasn't earning them because this was a behavior I was trying to help him manage himself and teaching him to shape. He didn't want to waste time and he wasn't being defiant, he just couldn't snap out of it without a little support. This system helped him be more aware of where his mind was wandering and start recognizing that he was wasting time.
-Three Strikes Card: I use my three strikes card for students who need the more concrete, in-your-face intervention to know that I am serious about negative behavior. For most of my students I can simply say "Do you think you need a red?" or even shoot them that "Oh no you didn't..." teacher look and they understand that was their fair warning. For others, I could give that look 100 times and they would give me the "Oh yes I did!" look right back. For those tricky friends I use a card that has three red velcro strips on it. When all three of the strips are peeled off the card, they reveal a picture of a child in timeout. Sometimes this means the child really goes to an immediate timeout, sometimes it means that this child earns a red on Class Dojo, it just varies child by child, stage by stage.
-Who Cares Card: I have a lot of students who want to earn greens and move their colors up because they have an understanding that it makes me happy, them happy and their parents happy. These are the kids who are devastated by sitting out of the playground for 5 minutes. These kids are easy. Then there are the kids who would sit out from the playground the whole time and never care, and therefore the system is failing them. I have even had kids who prefer to sit out, whether it be because of social anxiety or sheer laziness. For these kids, I make a Who Cares visual, which is really just pictures of things they do love in a green column and then those same things crossed out in the red column. The idea is that I always have a visual reminder to bust out and say "Look what can happen if you earn greens!" and "Look what you'll lose if you earn reds.." Parents can be super helpful in this area because you can get ideas from them about some things that the child is willing to work for.
-Make It Personal: When I am dealing with a child with very specific, repeat behaviors, I will take a photo of him doing the negative behavior that I am trying to correct. For example, if the child puts his head down on the table during work time, I will take a photo of him working hard with his head up and a photo of him with his head down. I'll take those two photos and put one on a green card and one on a red card so I can show him a picture of his ideal behavior when he is making a bad choice.
-Behavior Menus: Some kids just want a little control (I get it, I too am a control freak). Usually these are the kids who resist authority or are maybe bringing some baggage from home that makes them fight back a little harder when it comes to managing their behavior. These are usually the kids who actually do know right from wrong but choose wrong (see above about 75% of behavior is attention seeking). These are usually the kids who don't have a ton of home support and so they don't really care what color they go home on, they know they will just watch TV all night either way (sad, but true). For these kids, I make a behavior menu. I interview them and ask what kinds of things they would want to earn during the school day. We come up with lots of different ideas and then I make a menu for them to "spend" their points on. Here are some examples:
- Playing catch with our phys. ed teacher - 30 greens
- Ice cream treat in the cafeteria- 30 greens
- Sitting in the teacher's chair- 20 greens
- Reading a book with a friend in the hallway- 20 greens
...and so on. You get the point. Since there is minimum intrinsic motivation (whether it be due to oppositional tendencies or lack of home support), this gives some extrinsic motivation that can be very intriguing to a child who just wants some QT with adults or to feel really special.
Data & Progress Monitoring
From a special educator's point of view, Class Dojo is also an easy and effective way to progress monitor a child's behavior and social/emotional goals. Class Dojo's website allows you to print reports of the child's behavior in a pie chart or an Excel spreadsheet. You can view their day, week, month or year. Since you can customize the categories that you give points for, I customize our categories to fit some of the things that I need to be keeping track of. For example, if one of my students has an IEP goal to decrease the number of times he screams inside, I can keep track of that on Class Dojo and they will spit out an easy-peasy spreadsheet with all of my progress monitoring on it! How cool is that?!
Here is an example of my custom categories for my students' behaviors:
Here is an example of the pie chart:
If you're already using Class Dojo, you are nodding your head at this point in agreement to how awesome it is. If you haven't used it, what are you waiting for?!
This post is not sponsored by Class Dojo, it's just a good old-fashioned raving review of a great resource!