Classroom Management : From a Pocket Chart to an iPad

I remember when I first started teaching...  I bought a Behavior Management Pocket Chart (click to view) and used the card system.  Students misbehaved and moved colors.  I wrote their colors in their agenda and most parents signed.

I used this system for about two years...  I then started searching online and saw that other teachers were using something called a clip chart.  I liked this so much better.  The idea is that each student starts on green and has the opportunity to move up or down depending on their choices.  I liked this so much better, because I could reward and draw attention to the students making good choices.  I made my own and loved it!  Click here to download a Free Behavior Chart :).

Then one day I came across something called Class Dojo.  I tried it one year when it was fairly new and still had many bugs and issues.  It seemed like more of a hassle than a help, so I decided to stick to my clip chart.  I sadly forgot about Class Dojo until this year!  One of my fellow teacher friends brought up the topic and my first thought was 'I bet they have worked out all the bugs!'.  I set up a class and have been using it ever since.  I'd like to take the time to give a little overview on how I use Class Dojo in my classroom.

One of the first things I do when I enter my classroom is check that the AC is on (i'm in a portable), change the date, log in my laptop & desktop, turn on the projector, and now RESET the ClassDojo points on my iPad :)  This is much easier than writing down the colors and putting all the clips back on green.

After reseting the points, I take attendance on the ClassDojo app - this takes a matter of seconds.

Now that it is ready, I am ready to give/take away points.  Below is what my choices look like.  I decided to keep them very, very simple.

I only have 2 choices for positive - Morning work (if students complete work and read when done) and Staying on Task (anything else that is positive).  You can add as many as you want, but I find that having less choices was easier for me.

I have 3 choices for negative - No homework, this is added when I do random homework checks, Off Task, and Talking out of turn.  If there is something else that requires more detail, I can send a private message to a parent.

I find that students LOVE ClassDojo.  There are two different sounds - a positive sound when I give a point and a negative sound when I take a point away.  I give/take away points using my iPad, so students can hear the sounds.  I don't always tell them who received a point, but they all straighten up hoping they are next.  I never point out who I take a point away from, but they pretty much know who they are since they are not on task or talking out of turn.

One great feature of ClassDojo is that you can send messages to every parent at the same time, or you can send private individual messages.

On Fridays, I use the reports to decide who goes to Treasure Box first.  I usually have a couple of larger items and let the students with the top points pick first.  I don't always do treasure box - sometimes popsicles or a fun activity at the end of the day is their reward, but having this feature available is very convenient.

Overall, I enjoy using ClassDojo in my classroom better than any other behavior system.  It saves me so much time and keeps all the information well organized for me :) :)

Do you use ClassDojo in your classroom?  If so, please share any information that you have found helpful!  If you would like to learn more - Click here to visit the website!

Thank you for reading!

Making Timed Math Tests Engaging and Meaningful

I remember back in the day when I would sit quietly with folders on my desk to block my "neighbor" from looking at my paper.  My teacher would distribute the multiplication timed tests and start the clock for a minute.  I'd race to get as many problems correct as I could, but honestly, I've never been very fast at solving multiplication facts, despite my ability to answer them correctly.  On a good day, I could get through most of the problems, but the rest were left on the page unanswered.

So, now I'm obviously a teacher.  My first year of teaching, I did the timed tests the same way.  I would project a countdown timer on the board, set it for a minute, and allowed the students to start.  As a teacher, when observing my students as they worked, I noticed that many students didn't even finish the first few problems.  How would they ever finish the rest?  Now, it was probably unlikely that they would take this paper home and have parents require them to finish the problems.  No matter how many times I request parents to help their children learn their facts with flashcards I send home, very few actually do.  It's just not high on their priority list in the evenings.

Well, I think I figured out a way where students could answer all, if not most of the problems while having a bit of fun with it.

First, I project a stopwatch on my whiteboard.  Now, this may look different to you.  It's set at 0:00.  This is where my timed tests differ from others.  My students count HOW LONG it takes them to complete all 50 problem...not HOW MANY problems they can complete in a minute.

Then, I will pass out a timed test with 50 problems.   I typically use the website, because it really allows me to customize the tests (number of problems and the values of the multiplicands).  Students put their name on top of the paper and put their paper upside down until I say, "start."  At the beginning of the year, I tend to make the multiplication problems on the page easier and progress to more difficult ones in the future.

Now, as students finish their tests, they are to look up to the whiteboard and record the time in which they finished on top of their paper.

Once I see that all (or most) students are finished, I stop the clock.  Students take out a red pen and we correct the answers together.  At the end, the students write how many they answered correctly on top of the paper.

After we correct the problems together, students take out a record sheet I give them.  In their math notebooks, the students are to record which multiplication facts we covered (2s, 3s, 4s, etc.), how many problems they answered correctly, and their time.  They are always excited to see their improvements in both their number correct and their time.

Overall, I believe this method helps all students, not just those struggling to complete the problems in a predetermined amount of time.  Students who are fluent in their facts are encouraged to beat their time each day.  I also offer a challenge for those really fast students.  I complete this page with them (to create an answer key) and if anyone can beat my time, they win a prize. It's never happened, but a few students have been rewarded for coming REALLY close!  :)

If students finish quickly, I usually let them finish up other work that needs to be completed, write in their journal, or read a book.

I hope this provides you with a new idea for practicing facts in your class.  It has worked wonders for me and students are actually excited because they are so competitive and love to beat their prior times.

How do you practice math facts with your class?  We'd love to hear your ideas!