Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Promethean Boards: Just The Basics

Now that the Promethean boards are installed throughout our school, it is recommended that you attend one of the District provided PD sessions on how to use them. However, this is not the only way to learn more about these Interactive White Boards. YouTube has TONS of tutorials on how to use the boards. Below you will be able to watch the basics of this technology. The possibilities for use of this technology in the classroom are endless, but hopefully, this will get you started. Leave a comment if you found this to be helpful.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Continuing the Conversation about Behavior: Class Dojo Review

As the new year approaches, I wanted to continue the conversation about behavior. Technology is coming into the building that will afford us with a variety of options for instructional delivery, but also for managing behaviors. The trend nationally is towards the implementation of positive behavioral supports. Class Dojo is an innovative way to do this in your classroom.

Create a Class:
Learn More: Download Handout

Note: This is a review of the Class Dojo system by Emma Gore-Lloyd. The opinions expressed here are her own and being shared for our staff to get a better understanding of this system.



Five- and six-year-olds are brilliant.  They are superbly imaginative, surprisingly funny, super motivated, sweetly praise-orientated, kind and loving towards their teacher, frequently demanding, incredibly noisy, irritatingly whiny, annoyingly uncooperative, a total pain.  That’s kind of how it went at first, before I got my point system involved, anyway.


I give and take away points for the basic things – being quiet and listening, sitting down or standing up as required, opening or closing books as required, putting hands up to talk, being a good citizen, etc. The students know what they are required to do because there are icons representing these things on the board at all times, they know what they mean, and I refer to them often.
I projected this onto the whiteboard and added or took away points using a board pen.
I project this onto the whiteboard and add or take away points using a board pen.
The  child or children with the highest number of points gets to sit with Dave, our tiny talking cuddly toy dog, at the end of the class. Anyone who has at least one point in each category column gets a sticker at the end of the lesson. This all works pretty well and the kids help me manage it. The only downside is how much of the board it takes up: nearly all of it. I’ve had at least couple of lessons where I wanted to use the board for something else and had to rub out all the points and record them elsewhere to put back later. So, having searched for alternatives, I decided to give Class Dojo a go.  This is the handout all about it they made available on their site, and below are some thoughts about using it from our kind of perspective:


If you click on the link above it will take you to a page where you can see a pretty young teacher in front of a blackboard. Apparently Cecily uses Class Dojo to build positive behaviour with her students. She might find that difficult with a blackboard because this is an online classroom management system which you need to be able to project onto a whiteboard to show your students their progress during class. It is possible to give students and also parents a log-in so that they can see their own (child’s) progress at home, but in my experience it works as an incentive if the children can see their points being added to or taken away.
It looks like Class Dojo was made with American class teachers in mind, but it can be adapted for our purposes too. Unfortunately, there’s no tour you can take on the homepage. You have to sign up before you can access it.


Once you sign up, you can make classes. Here’s what my home page looks like (check me out!)
My profile
When I signed up, I got a demo class to play about with. It was pretty easy to set up my class (the second on you can see) – you just have to add names and choose monster avatars:
My class of little monsters
My class of little monsters
Once you’ve created a class, you can do several things. You can record attendance, start a timer, and give points (awards). You can also change some things in the display settings, like how big the avatars are, or what awards are available.


Although we use paper registers at school, it can sometimes be hard to find time to fill it in when you’ve got 12 kids demanding attention. Doing it on Class Dojo has the benefit of being visible to the kids – it gets their attention when they come in, get their books out and sit down, just because they can see their name and their avatar. If someone comes in late, it is possible to change them from absent to present, and you’ve got the record available when the kids have gone home and you have time to fill in your register.


You can award points to one, some or all students.  You can award positive or negative points. One problem here is the limited variety of icons to represent the awards. Here’s the best I could find:
award points
positive points
The icons are much better for negative awards:
negative points
negative points


In Display Settings, you can decide whether you would like to see a sum of points (the positive minus the negative) or the total positive points and total negative points for each student. I’ve got mine set to the former so that anyone with less than 4 points doesn’t get a sticker at the end of the lesson. (One thing I don’t like is that you can’t see immediately where they got or didn’t get the points, eg. if they did everything else right but they constantly talked without raising their hand, that would mean no sticker in my whiteboard regime, but would probably mean they get one with this system. I tried using the positive and negative totals and saying no stickers for anyone who has negative points, but that turned out to be more of a faff because I prefer to give the kids an opportunity to improve their behaviour and you can’t take away a negative point.)
separate totals
separate totals
combined total
combined total
To remove all the points at the end of class, you can reset the bubbles, and then it’s ready to use again in the next class.


All of that can be done in the Classroom tab. In the Reports tab, you can see what points you’ve given today, this week, this month, etc in a donut chart.  On the left you can choose whether you want to see data for the whole class or for individual students. This could come in handy for report writing or parents evening.
So, to sum up, here are the advantages and disadvantages of using Class Dojo as I see it:
  • It’s on-line rather than on-the-board, so you can switch back and forth from it to use the board for other things without losing data.
  • You can record attendance and fill in your register later. No more scratching your head trying to remember if Carmen was absent that day or just arrived late!
  • The kids seem to like the monster avatars.
  • You can see the points you’ve given a student over a term to help you write reports or talk to parents about their child.
  • The children enjoy seeing their points added to on the board.
  • It’s on-line, so you need a computer and projector or IWB.
  • The behaviours that you can award points for are customisable but the icons are not, and they’re strangely limited.*
  • I miss having the behaviour icons permanently on the board. I find it’s very effective to point at the sit down arrow, for example, or the listen icon.
  • In Classroom mode, you can see the total points, but you can’t see what the points were awarded for.
I was going to stop using it with my class because I missed the permanently visible behaviour icons too much. But they liked it and persuaded me to keep going. Perhaps it’s working because I’ve already trained them using the visible icons on the board and they know very well what’s expected of them. I don’t know if I would use it with a new class unless I also had some visible behaviour icons to refer to in conjunction with it.  Do you think you would use it?
*I’ve sent them an email suggesting some other icons. Let’s see…

An Interesting Take on Behavior Charts


The day starts out fine, you had your breakfast, you had your tea, you feel prepared, happy even.  You are off to school and ready to teach.  At the morning staff meeting you get so excited over an idea you lean over to your colleague to whisper in their ear.   After all, they really need to hear this.  “Mrs. Ripp, please move your clip.”  Shocked, you look around and feel every set of eyes on you.  You stand up, walk to the front, move your clip from the top of the chart to yellow or whatever other step down there is.  Quietly you sit down, gone is your motivation for the day, you know it can only get worse from here.
Ridiculous right?  After all, how many times as adults are we asked to move our name, our clip, our stick, or even write our name on the board so others can see we are misbehaving?  We don’t, and we wouldn’t if we were told to, after all, we demand respect, we demand common courtesy, we expect to be treated like, well, adults.  So us, moving sticks, yeah right…
Search for “Classroom behavior charts” on Pinterest and prepare to be astounded.  Sure, you will see the classic stop light charts, but now a new type of chart has emerged.  The cute classroom behavior chart, filled with flowers, butterflies, and smiley faces.  As if this innocent looking chart could never damage a child, as if something with polka-dots could ever be bad.   And sure, must of them have more than three steps to move down, but the idea is still the same; a public behavior chart display will ensure students behave better.  Why?  Because they don’t want the humiliation that goes along with moving ones name.  Nothing beats shaming a child into behaving.
image from pinterest
The saddest thing for me is that I used to do it.  I used to be the queen of moved sticks, checkmarks, and names on the board.  I used to be the queen of public displays heralding accomplishments and shaming students.  I stopped when I realized that all I did was create a classroom divided, a classroom that consisted of the students who were good and the students who were bad.  I didn’t even have to tell my students out-loud who the “bad” kids were, they simply looked at our chart and then drew their own conclusions.  And then as kids tend to do, they would tell their parents just who had misbehaved and been on red or yellow for the day. Word got around and parents would make comments whenever they visited our room of just how tough it must be to teach such and such.  I couldn’t understand why they would say that until I realized it stared me in the face.  My punishment/behavior system announced proudly to anyone who the bad kids were, so of course, parents knew it too. So I took it down and never looked back.  No more public humiliation in my classroom ever again.
We may say that we do it for the good of the child.  We may say that it helps us control our classrooms.  We may say that public behavior charts have worked in our classrooms.  I know I used to.  And yet, have we thought of how the students feel about them?  Have we thought about the stigma we create?  Have we thought about the role we force students into and then are surprised when they continue to play it?
The fastest way to convince a child they are bad is to tell them in front of their peers.  So if that is what we are trying to accomplish, then by all means, display the cute behavior charts. Frame them in smiley faces, hearts or whatever other pinterest idea you stumble upon.  Start everyone in the middle so the divide becomes even more apparent when some children move up and others move down.  Hang those banners of accomplishment, make sure not everyone is on there.  Make sure everybody has been ranked and that everybody knows who is good and who is bad.  Create a classroom where students actions are not questioned, nor discussed, but simply punished.  And then tell them loudly and proudly to move their clip.  After all, if the whole class doesn’t know someone is misbehaving then how will they ever change?

PS:  As Patrick’s comment wonders, what are the alternatives?  I have blogged extensively about what to do instead, just click the links highlighted in the post or go to this page 
PPS:  More thoughts on this have been posted tonight 
I am a passionate  teacher in Wisconsin, USA,  who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now from Powerful Learning Press.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” can be pre-ordered from Corwin Press now.  Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


Please see the weekly briefing below regarding the FSA (Florida Standards Assessments).

Briefing ID #: 15862
ALL SCHOOL PRINCIPALS: ITS - Information regarding the Online Portal and Resources for the Florida Standards Assessments
Category: For Your Information
Audience: All Principals/APs
Post Date:Jul 03, 2014
Due Date:n/a
Meeting Date:n/a
Master Calendar:n/a
To notify principals and assistant principals with information regarding the Florida Standards Assessments (FSA) online portal as well as the release of some FSA resources.
  • The Florida Department of Education has released information on the new FSA online portal available at   Districts, schools, students, parents, and the general public can access this site for information on the new assessments. 
  • In addition, this portal will serve as the primary location for schools and district administrators to access resources for test administration and to conduct activities related to computer-based testing (CBT), test management and reporting.
    • TIDE is American Institutes for Research (AIR’s) online test management system and Online Reporting System (ORS) is AIR’s test results delivery system.  Both sites will require a username and password.  More information regarding these systems will be provided in early fall. 
  • The memorandum by the Commissioner of Education may be found at this LINK outlining the following resources now available on the portal:
    • Training Tests are intended to provide students, parents, and educators with an opportunity to become familiar with the item types and functionality of the new CBT platform produced by AIR.
      • Sample items for different grade levels and subject areas are available for the following: 
        • Grades 4-11 FSA English Language Arts (ELA) Writing Component  
        • Grades 3-11 FSA ELA (Reading, Language, and Listening)
        • Grades 3-8 FSA Mathematics
        • FSA End-of-Course (EOC) Mathematics
      • Please note the following important information regarding the training tests:
        • The new platform allows users to select new features such as color contrast/print size, zoom, and audio that were previously only available as an accommodation for students with disabilities on the FCAT and EOC assessments.
        • CBT accommodations, such as text to speech for students with disabilities, are not available on these training tests at this time. Information on the CBT accommodations will be provided when it becomes available.
        • Assessments for students in Grades 3 and 4 will be paper-based in 2014, 2015, however sample tests are provided for these grades as well which illustrate the types of items that will be available once each assessment moves to online delivery (please refer to the attached CBT transition chart). 
        • The ratio/percentage of items of each item type in the training tests is NOT representative of the ratio/percentage of items of each that will appear in the operational tests.
    • DRAFT Test Design Summary/Blueprints provide more detailed information about the assessments, including the percentage of items in each content category, cognitive complexity and appropriate number of test items.
    • DRAFT Test Item Specifications guide the development of statewide assessment items and define the content and format of the test items for each grade level and subject.