Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Tuesday Tech Tip: Class Dojo

I’ve always struggled with classroom management.  In fact, I used to joke that I was really good at getting students excited about learning, and really bad at getting kids to settle back down.  Over the years, I’ve tried everything!  I’ve used table points, classroom money, an OOPS book, sticker charts, writing the word R-E-C-E-S-S on the board and then erasing one letter each time students were misbehaving.  I’ve added extra time for fun activities, and taken that time away.  I’ve created prizes that I thought students would like.  The results were always the same: by Thanksgiving, I would forget to hold students accountable, often giving students extra chances, and students would lose interest in the management system.  By the end of the year, students would have learned all my loopholes and I would periodically turn into Mr. Strict, in a desperate attempt to regain control of my classroom.  

In the twelve years I spent in the classroom, I learned two things: (1) students getting excited about learning is not a classroom management problem; and (2) I needed to find a simple, better way to reward students for their behavior, encouraging students to be critical thinkers and holding them accountable to my high standards, while dissuading rare, inappropriate behavior.  Today’s Tech Tip concerns the latter: ClassDojo.

I have used ClassDojo regularly for the past five years.  In fact, I was one of the original teachers piloting the management system, becoming a Class Dojo Mentor for my school building and the Cherry Creek School District.  It is easy to set up, hold students accountable for behavior, encourage positive behaviors, and communicate what you are doing in the classroom.

So, let’s get started!  I’m a big proponent of finding other resources to help me as a teacher. Luckily, there are a TON of tutorial videos or step-by-step guides in order to help you set up Class Dojo for your own classroom.

Student Introduction to ClassDojo

When introducing any new classroom management system, it is important to establish the WHY and the HOW.  Why am I using ClassDojo?  I always tell students that, as their teacher, I am helping them become the best students possible, both academically and behaviorally.  ClassDojo allows me to help students be successful through various actions.  For example, to be a successful fifth-grader, I want students to actively listen, collaborate with others, think creatively, take risks, persists through learning activities, and work hard.  When I notice students doing any behavior I expect, I can award Dojo Points or Mojo!  Students LOVE receiving Mojo!  All students want to please their teachers and be successful students, so awarding Mojo is a great way to encourage students to behave well.  ClassDojo does a great job of introducing their management system to students.

Parent Communication

Parent communication is by far my most favorite feature!  Using Class Dojo's messaging app, I can let parents know exactly how their child is behaving all throughout the day.  In fact, it even time-stamps when I give out positive Mojo, so parents can see what time of day I am recognizing positive behavior.  Below, is a video of parent testimonials put out by ClassDojo.  I really feel that the sentiments expressed in the video accurately represent how my own parents felt throughout the school year.  The best part: parents get to hear all about the GOOD stuff, not just the negative emails and phone calls.


Teachers can create now create groups in ClassDojo.  This is a feature I sorely wanted when I first found ClassDojo.  Now, I can give groups of students points, instead of selecting individual students in order to award them the same Mojo. During the school year, I always had my students in table groups.  I wanted to encourage collaboration to solve real-world problems.  For example, I wanted students to remember that they would be working in teams. As an adult, have you ever worked in a team that didn’t get much done because someone dominated, and someone else didn’t participate at all? That never happened in our classroom thanks to ClassDojo!  Students operated like groups of student engineers: in a smooth, cooperative way. ClassDojo encouraged every student to want their team to be the very best in the class.  As a class, we were able to set guidelines for team behavior. We based these guidelines on behaviors we all wanted to see in other team members. Example Mojo points included: SHARING OF IDEAS, TAKE TURNS TALKING, TAKING WORK SERIOUSLY, and BEING POSITIVE. I was able to improve classroom participation 100%!

How to use Custom Avatars

When I first introduced ClassDojo, students were extremely excited to create their own monster avatar.  ClassDojo offers a ton of great, furry monsters and critters for students to choose from.  In fact, students can even use their own picture as their avatar.  Here is a quick video tutorial from one of my favorite classroom technology Bloggers, Richard Byrne.

How to Add a Behavior

I highly suggest creating behaviors with your students that you want to encourage throughout the year.  I always did this at the beginning of the year, but like any project, we were constantly refining throughout the school year.  We often revisited our behaviors to discuss if they were still of value to the students.  Even though ClassDojo focuses on positive Mojo, there will undoubtedly be a few students who want to test the rules.  I think involving students in creating the NEEDS WORK Dojo points is just as important.  What behaviors are we struggling with this week? Are these based on a single incident or do we need to watch for them throughout the upcoming weeks?  As a teacher, my class focused on different behaviors often, but these were some common ones: NO HOMEWORK, OFF TASK, NOT LISTENING, and UNORGANIZED.  You can also weight both positive and negative Dojo points, having COLLABORATION worth 5 Mojo points and NO HOMEWORK worth -3 Dojo points.

ClassDojo's Newest Feature: Class Story!

ClassDojo is constantly listening to teachers and working to improve their classroom management tool.  When teachers asked for ways to communicate pictures with parents, ClassDojo launched their Messenger App, which allowed teachers to message parents with text and pictures directly from their SMART phone or computer.

Now, I'm very excited to announce that coming soon, ClassDojo will launch their newest feature: Class Story!  As a ClassDojo Mentor, I've been able to play around with this newest feature, and I can promise that it will be even easier for teachers to share classroom updates, funny moments, and announcements with parents.  I loved being able to take a quick picture of a student collaborating with or helping out another student, and send that to their parents along with the student's COLLABORATION Mojo point.  That way, both parents and students had a visual of what it looked like to be successful in my classroom!
At the end of the week, parents are sent a report, indicating how their student behaved.  As a teacher, I could use this data to track various trends, such as when I am taking away points.  Is it right after lunch/recess?  End of the day?  ClassDojo allows me to generate a spreadsheet for analyzing my classroom management.  

Last Thoughts: What about the Secondary Grades & Adult Learners?

I loved using ClassDojo so much, that I helped integrate it throughout our elementary school.  Every grade level, every teacher, every classroom was using ClassDojo to encourage positive behaviors throughout the building.  The one question I always received, however, was what about older learners?  The great thing about ClassDojo is its adaptability for specific teachers and grade levels.  I've had great conversations with secondary teachers who use ClassDojo with their eighth-graders or their juniors/seniors to encourage the behaviors they want to see in their respective classrooms.  High school teachers can create Mojo points for behaviors specific to their content.

In fact, ClassDojo works well for adult learners, too!  For example, I'm currently using ClassDojo with our team of coaches.  It has been a great bonding tool, as well as for our own professional development.  Some of our Mojo include: FINDING A GREAT RESOURCE, TEAMWORK, and BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS.  

If you're a middle or high school teacher, and want to experiment with using ClassDojo, I suggest you subscribe to their YouTube channel.  There are countless videos from secondary teachers discussing how they use ClassDojo in their classrooms.  Don't forget to check out their Teacher Resources page! Need more ideas?  Here is a great set of videos: Ideas for the Classroom.

I used to joke that I always struggled with classroom management, but with ClassDojo, I finally made learning the central focus of my classroom, and not classroom management.

1 comment:

  1. I'm using Class Dojo every minute of every day this year, my categories reflect the character areas developed my Angela Duckworth and her organization Character Lab. It's going great so far and my students love getting the instant feedback on how they are doing in 7th grade!