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July 17, 2019

Back to School: Behavior and Motivation

Back to school means starting from the ground floor... again... It's a good thing for a refresh, but it's also draining as ever.  Let's just keep it real.  On the first or second day of school my class brainstorms this anchor chart.  We first talk about what we want our classroom to look like and what we want it to sound like.  They brainstorm in their groups, and then we share out and write it all down.  We look at all our brainstorms and it always boils down to respect... every year it always boils down to that one word.  Respect for yourself, respect for others, respect for our school...  So with that in mind, we write on this chart exactly what it means to Work Hard and Be Kind - practical, real-life examples.  

Then I tell them how I'm going to monitor their progress.  (Now most of these things I started back in fourth grade and moved it up with me.  When it's something that works, you don't change it... you just modify it to keep it the motivation fresh.)

Color Teams - it's our way to monitor group work.  Color teams are their table groups.  I have their color names on the board, and they can earn points for their team through teamwork, participation, etc.  It's a competition between the teams, and every week it resets.  "Winning" team(s) - because they can tie - win a prize on Friday afternoons.  It's something of my own choosing.  Maybe a reward card, or a piece of candy, or a new pencil... I mix it up.  
 Class Dojo is our independent motivation.  I have it set up with positive points (and some consequences as well).  The kids get reward cards when they reach certain milestones.  I log in first thing in the morning, and it's on a tab all day long.

For whole class motivation, I use Teacher vs. Student points on the corner of my board (similar to Whole Brain Teaching).  I've done it for years.  The ENTIRE class exceeding expectations and they get a point.  The moments that students as a group are not making good choices (could definitely improve) they start to spell out RECESS.  I used to just do a tally mark in 4th, but these 5th graders need to know their consequence.  In 6th grade they spell out ESSAY (5 letters), spelling our RECESS (6 letters) gives them more chances to turn it around.  What I've noticed over the years, is that if they have to serve it one time - just one time - then they never all want to lose it again.  Yep - ALL of them lose recess, they would have to stay inside with me and write me a letter of what they were doing to contribute to the letters, and what they promise to do in the future so it doesn't happen again.  Switching back to positive - the Student points add up to Fun Friday minutes - STEM time or a class game, an extra art project...  It's called motivation.

So, that's what I do in a nutshell.  Hope it helps someone.  

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