Class Dojo - Awesome Classroom Management Tool

Hi, I’m Stacy from over at Funky Fresh Firsties {Hi, Stacy!} and I am so thrilled to have the chance to be a guest blogger while Rachel is away!  I wanted to do my post on a behavior management tool that I've used for 2 years now.  I have used Class Dojo in my 4th grade classroom as well as this year in 1st grade.  The results in both settings have been AMAZING to watch.  

Class Dojo is a web based classroom behavior management tool.  Teachers can sign up for a free account {who doesn’t love free, right?} and get started the very same day.  Once you have signed up for your account, you will load the students’ names online.  Each child will be assigned an avatar (monster themed) OR you now have the option to upload a picture or other icons for each child.  My kids really like the monster avatars so I left them, but I have a co-worker who uploaded pics of the kids and that has really worked well for her!  
The basic premise is that you can reward students’ good behavior by giving them points.  You can give them points for very specific behaviors that you (see the pic below).  Their points accumulate for as long as you like.  I let my points accumulate for the week and then the children with the most points on Friday get first pick for fun Friday centers.  They go all kinds of CRAZY to try to earn those points to get first pick.  Who knew?!?!!  If you choose, you can also dock students for negative behaviors.  Some teachers do positive and negative… some only want to record the positive. 
I believe that the Class Dojo works so well in my classroom because I have a SMART Board that all of the children can see and the impact is immediate.  I turn the sound on high.  When I reward a student with a point, their name/avatar pops up on the screen showing WHY they earned the point! 
WELL DONE, Ashauna!!!  +1 for teamwork
When I dock a student for a negative behavior, their name pops up on the screen and the speakers do a low sounding BONG!  These sounds are a HUGE motivator in my classroom!  A cool feature of this program is the app that I can run on my iPhone.  I usually have my phone with me and I can give/take points using the app.  I really like to pick out one or two students who are doing a great job during small groups and give them points.  The loud DING gets everyone’s attention.  Everyone gets a little more focused knowing that I am awarding points.  
With accountability being such a huge issue in the classroom, this program helps communication with parents (you can email them a student report OR print a report and send it home).  It also helps when tracking student behaviors for discipline referrals, etc.  
Overall, using Class Dojo is a huge benefit in my classroom.  The kids really like getting rewarded publicly and I like the ease of the program.  I hope that you will give it a try… I know you will love it, too!  Please stop by sometime and visit me.  You can find me at Funky Fresh Firsties. 
-Stacypost signature

Help Students Review with Colorful Sticky Note Tags

I love this guest post from Addie Williams and I know you will too!

My students often struggle reviewing for a test or other type of formal assessment.  I think they get overwhelmed with all of the information that they are required to know and therefore don't use their study time effectively.  This summer while browsing through an office supply store I saw a package of sticky notes with bright green, bright orange and bright pink stickies... I couldn't resist it and threw it in my basket.  I immediately knew what I was going to use them for - test prep!! 

When it's time for students to review for an upcoming test or assessment I ask them to "tag" their work or review package with a color that represents their learning. (With younger students I would probably only use the green and pink stickies.)
 Green = I understand this concept really well. 
Orange = I know the basics, but could use more review.
Pink = I need more practice and review.

Instead of a full sticky note (they can be expensive!) I give each student one sticky of each color and ask them to cut them into small strips.  They then have free reign to stick and tag their work as they see fit. 

I like this review activity for a number of reasons:

- It's a really powerful and visual tool for students to see their level of understanding. I've had students cover all of their work in bright pink stickies which sends a very strong message that they've got some work to do! 

- I like the kinesthetic nature of the activity - students get to take a break and cut their stickies and then they have to decide where they're going to put them.  The discussions that take place among the students is also valuable as they talk to each other about why they are putting a green sticky on one topic and a pink sticky on another. 

- As I wander through my classroom I get a fantastic snapshot of where the students are with their understanding.  If I see that many students have a high number of pink stickies I may decide to postpone the test and focus on more review.  I can also note where the majority of students are placeing their pink stickies and then focus my review time on those concepts.

- When students take their work home for review and their parents ask about the sticky notes, they can have a valuable conversation about the importance of review and parents can better focus their help.

If you're not able to use sticky notes, you could ask students to tag their work with highlighters or pencil crayons.  I think it's important to use color, rather than symbols, as it has a much greater visual impact.  I've used this activity with students in many different grade levels and in many subject areas and it's always been a useful tool for me and my students.  I hope you find the chance to implement this strategy in your classroom sometime this year!

If you'd like a printable classroom poster to help your students with this strategy (both color and b/w versions included) you can download a FREE copy from my TpT Store by clicking HERE.

Happy Reviewing!
TpT Store - Addie Williams
Or visit me at my blog by clicking the link below! 

Great Guest Bloggers Coming Soon!

Hey everyone,

I have a special treat for all of you who read Minds in Bloom. I am taking a short blogging break, but have scheduled some amazing guest bloggers! There will be names you will recognize along with a few new faces. I am so impressed with the posts they submitted and I know you will be too. Some of the topics they will be writing on include classroom management, reading strategies, word roots and more.

Please make them feel welcome by commenting on their posts, sharing on Pinterest and other social networks, and visiting their blogs and stores.

So be sure to check back often. The first guest post will be up tomorrow!

Happy Teaching,

Super Sentences Task Cards

Seriously, would you read this post if it started out like this?

Students should write good sentences. They should use good words. They should write long sentences.

Clearly, learning to expand sentences and choose more precise words in an important part of becoming a good writer. Not only that, these skills are also part of the Language Common Core Standards. That is why I created three sets of task cards to help students develop this skill. The sets vary by grade level, but there is some overlap, so you will want to choose the set(s) that work best for your students.

Before letting your students loose with these cards, be sure they have had some practice expanding sentences. One easy way to do this is to write a simple sentence on the board and work together as a class to add elements to the sentence to expand it. You may also want to practice replacing some verbs and adjectives with more precise words. Students can follow along on individual white boards (which works especially well for this since they are easy to erase). A second step can be to have students edit the sentence on their own and then share their sentences. It is fun to see the different ways the sentence can be changed.

The first set is for grades 1-2 (although it could be useful in third as well). The sentences are simple and there are blanks that show the students where the words should be added or red to show which word should be changed. There are two different student answer sheets for different grade levels as well as three challenge cards to extend the activity.

The second set is for grades 2-4. I actually made this set first, but then had requests for the other grade levels and so made those too. This is similar to the first set, except that the students do not have blanks to tell them where to add the extra words and they are required to do more to change each sentence. Further, as can be seen in the picture below, you can differentiate using Challenge Card 1 to add a prepositional phrase to each answer. Two other challenge cards are also included.

The third set is for grades 4-8. I thought Super Sentences was a little babyish for middle school, so I changed the name to Sentence Stretchers. In some ways, this is my favorite set because it is totally open-ended. Students can add and replace to their hearts content, which is sure to lead to some really creative and fun sentences! Further, this set also comes with three challenge cards. The first one, as you can see below requires students to create compound sentences.

Each set comes with teacher instructions, 32 task cards, 3 challenge cards, student answer sheets, and answer keys. All that for just $2.75!

Never used Task Cards before? Totally Task Cards will tell you everything you need to know!

100th Day Challenge Freebie (For Big Kids)

I know the 100th Day of School is a big deal for many primary classes. They get to count 100 things, make 100 things, eat 100 things and who knows what else. Now those of you who teach the upper grades can join the fun! This 100th Day of School Challenge printable will get your kids thinking in all kinds of ways. It requires a combination of creative writing, critical thinking, math, and research to complete. Use at a center, as homework or with the whole class.

The Power of Random Reward in Your Classroom

Random reward is a huge motivator. It's why many adults play slot machines and why many children with inconsistent parents whine endlessly (because every so often, the parents gives in and they get what they want). If you reward a given behavior every time, your students are likely to get bored. Further, since you are rewarding often, the reward itself is probably not all that exciting.

Now imagine replacing the guaranteed reward with a random one. Students never know which time they perform the desired behavior will result in a reward. Further, the reward will be valued more because it is not constantly given. Here are some ideas for trying random reward in your classroom:
  • At a time when your class is getting a little squirrely, wander around with stickers, good-behavior certificates, candy, or whatever you are using and quietly place one on the desks of students who are on task. You could say something like, "Thank you for working quietly." It won't be long until your classroom is silent and everyone is on task. 

  • Every so often when your entire class has done something good (walked quietly back from a specialist, kept the noise level down when you were working with a small group etc.). Say something like, "Wow, I was so impressed with the way you.______, that I can't help but give you five extra minutes of recess today (or whatever your reward is)" 

  • I got this idea from Stephanie at Primary Possibilities and I think it is totally brilliant. Basically, you pick a Secret Student at the start of the day and put his or her name on a certificate like the one pictured below (which you can get for free by clicking here). Don't tell your students who the Secret Student is. At the end of the day, if the student had a good day, reveal his or her name to the class. He or she gets to take the certificate (and possibly a small prize) home. If not, don't reveal the child's name, just say that the Secret Student was not having a great day but maybe tomorrow will be better. You can learn more about how to do Secret Student and see some great pictures on the original post here.  

  • A mini-version of Secret Student would be to have your students' names on Popsicle sticks and to draw one or two out randomly throughout the day. If the student you draw is on task, they get a small reward. If not you just put the stick back without saying anything. 

When not to use Random Reward
I know that many teachers are fond of raffles, but I am not, especially in the younger grades. Usually, the way this works is that kids get tickets for good behavior that they put into a container and at the end of the day or the week the teacher draws one or more names and those kids get a special reward. Lady Luck is fickle and I have noticed that she often passes by the kids with lots of tickets in favor of the kid who only has one or two in the bin. This can be hard for little ones to deal with. Also, since the raffle takes place at a different time than the original good behaviors, there isn't really a direct link, making the whole system less effective.

Also remember that random reward can work to your disadvantage if you are inconsistent in your discipline. Don't train your students to repeat a bad behavior because they sometimes get away with it.

Looking for more classroom management? You can find 300+ ideas here.

How do you use random reward in your classroom? Please share with a comment. 

Free Task Card Tracking Spreadsheet

My Journey to 5th Grade
A few weeks ago, Julie from My Journey to 5th Grade sent me an email asking if she could create an Excel spreadsheet of all of my task cards. She wanted to use it to keep track of which cards she had already bought and which ones she might want to buy, and she thought that other teachers might find it useful. Of course, I was thrilled and honored that another seller would do that. Not only did she make the spreadsheet, she has also said that she would be willing to keep it updated. How cool is that?

You can read her post and download the spreadsheet here. While you are there, be sure and have a look around and become a follower. She has some terrific ideas. You might also want to take a peek at her TpT Store. She has these great Common Core I Can  Statements for math at each grade level. The bright colors and kid-friendly language would make them ideal for bulletin boards.

31 Terrific Ways to Use Task Cards with Your Students


Lately, a lot of teachers have been asking me about how they can use task cards with their students. One of the things I love about task cards is that they are a very versatile teaching tool - there are tons of ways to use them! So, I decided to do a round up of all of the ways I know to use task cards. I hope that you will find some ideas to try. And by the way, if you have never tried task cards, here are some you can try for free!

  1. Whole class game: Scoot.

  2. At a literacy center

  3. At stations that kids rotate through

  4. For fast finishers

  5. For extra practice on a targeted skill - could send home for homework.

  6. In a scavenger hunt - hide cards around the room, kids look around the room for the cards with clipboards and answer sheets.

  7. Whole class game: Quiz, Quiz, Trade.

  8. With Jenga: number the Jenga blocks. Students take turns drawing blocks, another student in the group finds the correct card (by the number) and reads it to the first student to answer. Would work well to have cards on a ring for this.

  9. With almost any simple board game such as Checkers, Chinese Checkers, Connect Four etc. Student must answer task card correctly before taking turn. Wrong answer = no turn.

  10. With these three free game boards

  11. As a random activity. Print on paper and roll up into scrolls, fold and put into plastic eggs, prize containers, etc. Students draw randomly. Would be good for longer, open-ended cards.

  12. As morning work - Display card on document camera for everyone to complete first thing in the morning.

  13. As an activity for students to do while you are meeting with small groups.

  14. With whiteboards - teacher displays card on document camera, students answer on individual whiteboards - great for short answer or multiple choice. Another option for multiple choice is to have kids answer in sign language letters.

  15. As assessment - just use a few cards to see if a student understands the concept.

  16. In partners - partners take turns reading cards to each other and answering.

  17. In small groups - great for challenging cards that need discussion.

  18. As seat work - cards are in baggies that students take back to their seats to work on. Could have a check-out system.

  19. With Sticky Hands...seriously, kids love this!

  20. Along the wall: Post a set (or part of a set) in a long row across a wall on Monday. A clothesline and clothespins would work well for this. Give students answer sheets. They know they have until Friday to get the answer sheet filled out. 

  21. Hedbanz Spin-off: Give each kid a card attached to a headband (could make from construction paper). Students have answer sheets and wander around the room reading each other's cards and answering. Could have each students name on the the answer sheet instead of a card number - that would work especially well if you are going to correct as a group after the game.

  22. Short answer or multiple choice will work well in almost any quiz game such as PowerPoint Jeopardy (or for the low-tech version, use a pocket chart).

  23. Open-ended task cards make great journal or discussion prompts.

  24. As a quick review for a concept you taught a few months back.

  25. Alternative to self-checking multiple choice cards with an answer key: use a hole-punch to poke holes through the cards where the letters for each answer are. On the back, use a bright-colored Sharpie to outline the hole of the correct answer. Students read the card and answer by poking a golf-tee through the hole. Then they flip the card over to see if they are correct. 

  26. Allow students to use dry-erase pens to answer directly on laminated cards, check answer, then erase.

  27. Allow students to answer on a computer or Ipad. 

  28. Put a few sets in your Sub Tub - Sub can use them in a game or with whiteboards. Fun activity for her, valuable learning or review for students and almost no prep for you!

  29. Good activity to use with parent volunteers quizzing one student who needs extra help or working with a small group. 

  30. If you don't have time to cut and laminate, put whole pages of uncut cards in plastic page protectors. Could then put them into a binder. Kids can just flip through the pages to answer several cards at at time. Not pretty - but quick and effective.

  31. Mini-photo albums are also a great alternative to laminating. 
Other Resources:
  • Task Cards on TpT: Task card section of my Teachers Pay Teachers Store. These ones are free.
  • Totally Task Cards: A website I created that is devoted to task cards.
  • Task Card Catalog: All of my task cards listed alphabetically by subject on a google spreadsheet (with links). 
Got more ideas to add? Please share with a comment.

Teaching Contractions

For words that are supposed to make things easier, contractions can make things a whole lot harder until your students understand how to use and spell them properly. Here are some ideas that can help.

Be sure your students know what a contraction actually is. The word, "contract" meas to make something smaller - and that is exactly what a contraction does. Explain the the apostrophe takes the place of the letters that disappear when two words are made into a contraction. It also helps make sure they know that the first word doesn't change.

Consider making a poster for the wall showing common contractions and their two-word partners.

Try making large letter cards for students to hold (and also an apostrophe card). Have students come to the front of the room and give them each a letter to display two words to be made into a contraction, such as "DID NOT." Give another student the apostrophe card. Then choose a director. the director's job is to remove students(s) who are not needed and add the apostrophe in the correct place to form the contraction. Try with several different words.

Play Contraction Action: Make pairs of cards with contractions and the matching two-words. Distribute cards to students randomly. Then say, "Contraction Action!" and let them find their contraction partners.Once they are paired, they hold their cards up together to make little tent. When everyone has found his or her partner, start a new round by having kids move about the room switching cards with each other as they go by each other so that kids have switched their cards several times before you say, "Contraction Action!" again.

Have students go on a Contraction Hunt. This can be done around the classroom or at desks using a book. Students write down every contraction they find along with the two-word version.

Here is another idea about doing "contraction surgery." The post also includes a contraction song.

Contractions practice is perfect for centers. Here are some ideas:
  • Contraction Concentration - Write contractions and their corresponding two-words on cards and have students put them face down and then try to match them as they play. 
  • Any kind of matching game - ice cream cones and scoops, polar bears and Ice bergs, top and bottom halves of hearts etc. Contractions on one half, two word phrases on the other. After they match them, they can write them on an answer sheet and/or use the contractions in sentences.
  • You can also use Contraction Task Cards...and of course I have some if you would like to take a look: 

Do you have ideas to add? Please share with a comment. 

35 Uses for Post It Notes in the Classroom

Who doesn't love Post Its (which is actually a brand name...sticky notes is the generic)? They come in several sizes, many colors and best of all....they stick! I always put Post Its on my student supply list because they are just so handy. Here are some nifty things you can do with Post Its:
  1. As a bookmark (duh)
  2. Reading response while reading: interesting words, favorite parts, questions, inferences, connections etc.
  3. Use in class polls: Write the poll with the options on the whiteboard. Students put their names on Post Its and stick them to the area where they want to vote.
  4. Instant mood survey: Students have three colors to display on one corner of their desks, green (I'm feeling great), yellow (things are okay), red (I am not doing well). It will help you to know who to call on, who to give a break to, and who might need some extra attention, all without the student having to say anything. 
  5. For brainstorming. Write the topic on the board and have student write their ideas on Post Its and stick them under the topic. Good also for pre-reading or pre-unit questions.
  6. Mapping out the plot of a story. One sentence per Post It.
  7. Informal time lines.
  8. On parent material, such as permission slips that you need to be read. Have the student write, "Read Me" in big letters on a brightly colored Post It. Use sparingly or it will get ignored.
  9. On students: math facts, site words, etc. Students must greet each other by the answer. Fun to do for a day. 
  10. Customize them with your own message. Here is a free printing template.
  11. Use to write comments and grades on student projects that you cannot write directly on.
  12. Temporary labels (for file folders, parts of the room for a game, books etc.)
  13. Post It Planner, here is a blog post on how.
  14. Post It Lesson Plan Book, here is a blog post on how.
  15. Idea an idea (for a lesson, TpT product, teaching strategy etc.) put it on a Post It and put it on the Idea Board. Take them off as you do them.
  16. Reminders (another duh)
  17. Use part of a pad of Post Its to make a flip-book.
  18. Notes to students, "Thanks for working quietly," "See me at recess." "Shhhhh" etc.
  19. Notes students write to each other - just make sure they keep it positive.
  20. Instant name tags
  21. To make a seating chart (one name per Post It - arrange and rearrange as needed)
  22. One word: Flush! 
  23. Two words: Seat Down
  24. Three words: Wash Your Hands
  25. To create class graphs
  26. Student-created calendar pieces. Each student gets to create one number for the month.
  27. Scavenger/treasure hunts (write the clues on Post Its)
  28. Any kind of collaborative list: great books, fun places go visit, types of dinosaurs, equations that equal 10 etc. 
  29. Make a memory wall at the end of the year. Here is a post on how.
  30. For summarizing. Start with a big Post It, then go to a medium sized one, then a small one. Here is a picture of how that works.
  31. Labels for piles of paper, "To grade," "Monday Homework," "Send Home," etc. 
  32. Hidden Math: Here is a fun game. Number Post-Its and put a different math fact on each one. Hide around the room (easy 'cause they are sticky!). Give kids a numbered answer sheet and clip boards. See if they can find and solve all of the problems. 
  33. Quick observational notes: Keep stickies in a folder. Jot down notes about individual students as needed throughout the day. Later transfer to more permanent records.
  34. Labels for in-progress science experiments
  35. Have students write down questions they need answered - sometimes it is not the right time to ask. If they write them down, they can ask at a more appropriate time without forgetting. 
Other Cool Post It Stuff
Here is my Post It Pinterest Board with more ideas.

Here are some Post It Note things I saw on Amazon:

What do YOU do with Post Its? Please share with a comment.

Teaching Resources

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