Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Great mentor texts for teaching biographies and a sample lesson.....

I am just going to go ahead and admit it...I spend way too much time on social media. Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, even Facebook. But I truly wish we teachers could earn professional development  credits for being on social media because you know that is where we get the inspiration for our greatest lessons. Anytime I see this e-card, it always cracks me up.

Well today I was on Facebook and in my feed was a post from Penguin Books. Anyone that knows me, knows I am a sucker for books. I spend more money on books than I spend on my wardrobe! I just love me some books. Well I saw this.....and it made me just about start dancing and singing...which would have been weird because I was at Panera borrowing their free WiFi and getting some work done. I am pretty sure people would have looked at me sideways!

So it turns out these books are part of series by author Brad Meltzer and illustrator Chris Eliopoulos inspirations #OrdinaryPeopleChangeTheWorld picture book biography series.  Now I love a good biography, especially a picture book biography. So as soon as I saw these, I knew they would be perfect for my lessons in my biography unit.

I teach this genre pretty early in the year as a way to encourage my students to read more non-fiction texts and to expose them to people who have overcome challenges, make significant contributions to the world of literature, politics, sports, etc.  We re-visit biographies again in February when I do a unit on Black History. 

Even though I already have plenty of biographies in my classroom, and I even have biographies about all of these people, even Lucille Ball (she is one of my favorites!), I know my students would devour these books. 

Let me share a little about how I introduce my students to biographies. Typically I start out by asking my students what they know about biographies. There are always a few students that confuse biographies and autobiographies, so we discuss the similarities and differences between the two. I may even throw a Venn Diagram up on the Promethean board and fill it in as they share their ideas. After that, I will read a biography to the whole class. It is usually one from m David A. Adler's picture book biography series. One of my favorites is A Picure Book of Amelia Earhart. I will then introduce them to a graphic organizer so they can gather important information about the person in the biography. 

I found this one on Pinterest. You can get a FREE copy HERE on TpT.  

 I'll model how to find the important information from the book and enter into the graphic organizer. I'll even through in some irrelevant details to see if they can determine if it is important enough to include.   

Once we have done one together, I take them to the section of the class library where I keep my biographies. I have several students help me remove them form the shelf and we return to the carpet where I spread them out. I may even do a quick book talk on a few of them. Then I start "auctioning" them off to students to read and sue for their own biography. Since most are picture books, the students generally have them read that day or the next, then I have them stat completing the graphic organizer. Finally, I have them write a paragraph summarizing the book and the life of the person. 

This year I want to add a craftivity project to this unit. I saw this project on Pinterest and thought my 5th graders would love doing these.


I will definitely post here on my blog after we do this, and let you know how they turned out. 

So how do you teach biographies? I would love to here...leave me a comment. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Have you heard...Class Dojo has a great new feature.

This summer I have blogged a few times about Class Dojo. If you have not read my posts, check them out HERE and HERE.  Today Class Dojo officially launched a new version which includes an awesome new feature called "Groups" for awarding points to groups of students. Click here for more info on Groups. 

I heard about this feature a month or so ago on the Class Dojo Mentor Community Facebook page. I was so excited because I have my students working in groups a lot and this feature will allow me to award points to everyone in the groups more easily since I wont have to click on multiple students. 

Working in collaborative groups has always been tough for my 5th graders form year to year. There is always one student who wants to boss everyone else around one who is content to let others do the work and one who fusses with everyone else and just cant get along. I am hoping when I introduce Class Dojo to my new class of 5th graders in a few weeks, to encourage collaboration and teamwork right off the bat. 

One of the ways I am thinking about using this new feature is to put my class in tribes or teams to get them to compete against other teams for earning points. I currently give out prizes at the end of each 9 weeks for highest points (my 3 top students) earned, But now I may do top group for points earning too. 

Whether you are using Class Dojo or not, go over and check out this new feature. I would love to her what you think so leave me a comment below. Since I am part of the Class Dojo Mentor Community I would love to pass your comment on to the developers at Class Dojo also. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

I am back and rested and ready to roll!!

Well as you can see, I have been away for almost two weeks. Grad school research class was dominating my writing time.

So I celebrated the end of that class and turning in my research paper by heading to the beach with friends for a few days. My son is away at camp and my hubby was fine with having the house to himself for a few days.  The time away, the sun, a little wine and friends gave me a whole new look on life....

So now I am ready to take on the world. We go back to school in a few weeks and I really have to wrap my head around my TO DO list. I met with my principal yesterday and  found out I am not moving a portable this fall so I am excited about that. Plus it forced me to do some cleaning and purging that will definitely benefit me when school starts back up. 

We also talked about our big DC Field trip next spring. I have been wanting to do this trip with our fifth graders for a long time and it looks like it is really going to happen. We still have a few hurdles to jump but I am excited to be able to give them this opportunity to see our Nationals Capital. Many of our students have never been out of Greenville so this is going to be awesome!

Finally, I have been pinning ideas for next school year like crazy on Pinterest. If you are not already following me over on Pinterest...HERE  is the link.   I have quite a few school related boards and one specifically for the upcoming school year. Check them out!  I need to go look at what I have pinned and start organizing some ideas and get working on some projects before we go back. I have bot decided on a theme, learning toward not doing one. I definitely want to do these classroom handbooks  I saw over on Mrs. D's Corner for Meet the Teacher night. BTW- Mrs. D has an awesome blog. I get lots of great ideas form her and she is currently participating in a very cool book blog linky that I am thinking about doing also. Check out her blog!!! And if you want to get on the picture below to go to her TpT site and grab it (its FREEEEEEEEE!). Don;t forget to leave her some love on her TpT site to thank her!

I also need to get my laptop organized and of course I need to go some shopping. I have picked up a few things at the Dollar Tree but I need to hit Staples and Office Dept and start getting some real school supplies like Sharpies and notebooks and paper. Nothing gets me more excited than seeing these start popping up everywhere!

Well, that is all for now! Thanks for stopping by! Fee free to leave me a comment below and let me know hat is happening over at your blog!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Have you hugged your school media specialist today???

Okay, I am admit this right off the bat...I am writing this blog post for purely selfish see, soon, very soon (provided I can finish this research proposal, and survive my internship) I too can be called a school librarian! I am in the process of completing my Masters in Library and Information Science (MLIS) at the University of South Carolina (go Gamecocks!)

I was actually inspired to write this blog post by two things I read on social media today...the first was an NPR segment titled "When America's Librarians Went to War" about how librarians helped with soldier morale during both World Wars (who knew, certainly not me!!!). You can read the article HERE. The other was a tweet by Steven W. Anderson about a blog post he wrote titled "Why Librarians Are Awesome." You can read his post HERE (and I highly recommend that you follow him on Twitter, if you don't already! He is @web20classroom).

Both posts got me thinking about the important role librarians play in learning. Anderson make a great point by saying "The library is an extension of your classroom and the librarian can be an extension of you." It got me wondering how teachers view the media specialist in their building and his/her role in leaching students in the building. I know in my building each students goes to the library for a 40 minute block once a week. To me that never seems like enough time for the students to engage with the media specialist nor enough time for the media specialist to get to know the child, their reading profile and to help them get engaged in reading. I also know that at some schools in our district students don't even get that 40 minutes. If we are only sending our students to the library to check out books, we are truly under-utilizing one of the most valuable human resources in the building--the school media specialist/librarian.

More and more school library media specialists are being pulled in different directions. Due to budget cuts they are asked to move beyond traditional librarian roles and do more with technology both in their lessons and in the classroom. And much of that is functioning as the technology troubleshooter when things break down. In some cases, schools are phasing out the media specialist all together and instead putting a parent volunteer in the library to assist with book check out.

I write all this to get you to rally around your school media specialist. Celebrate them, appreciate them...for goodness sake..give them a hug, and let them know that you understand their importance, you appreciate all they are doing and that you value them. Invite them into your classroom. Ask them to collaborate with you on  a lesson or even a whole unit. Let your administrators know how crucial they are to the success of your students learning. 

And if you are interested in following some awesome librarians on social media, here are a few I follow on Twitter--

Here is  a great info graphic I came across on Matthew Winner's blog! This just says it all....

Saturday, July 4, 2015

What if.....

I came across this picture on Instagram the other day and it really inspired me. I have followed George Couros on Twitter for a while. I think he is a visionary and he really has some great ideas.... This is from a session he did at ISTE2015 this week. He said some amazing things about thinking locally (rather than globally like we have been told for so long!) He also said this...."Sometimes by focusing solely on the greatness outside of your school, we can sometimes belittle the efforts of those that we work with everyday." Powerful stuff!!!

I have always been one to share the good, bad and ugly of what goes on in my classroom. I think we need to share with each other if we want to learn form each other. It is so easy to go into your classroom, close the door and never let anyone know what it is that you are doing in there. I try and learn from others and if there is something I am doing that is working, I have a tendency to share it with my PLN first (on Facebook, by email, on Twitter)...and I need to do more sharing within my building.  

Sometimes we get so busy, we don't seem to have time to stop in the hallway and share with each other what went well today. We are more inclined to vent about what went wrong, or complain about all the work we have to get done.  But what if we took a minute or two before we went home for the day (or even once we got home) and shared something great that happened in our classroom that day?  And what if we took another few minutes to read all the tweets form our colleagues each evening? I would love to have the teachers in my building all tweeting with one another about what is going on in their classrooms. I think it would not only help us learn form one another, I think it would do wonders for community building in our school. We could look for ways to collaborate, share ideas, share successes and failures and encourage each other. 

I shared this with my principal this afternoon and I plan on having a conversation with her to see how we can make this happen. And here is the BIG takeaway...what if the parents of our students started following that hashtag on Twitter...imagine what they could discover about what their students are learning everyday, and what amazing educators are teaching their children!

What do you all think????

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


I'm back! It has been  week, I know but this last week of my 4 week grad class has kicked my booty!

So I am excited that today is the first of July..not only because it means that the 4th is right around the corner, but also because it means that Farley over at "Oh Boy Fourth Grade" is doing her monthly Currently. She is SOOOO creative. And I love how REAL she is!. Anyway, read my Currently, and if you are interested in linking up and meeting some great new bloggers, head over to Farley's blog.

It is so quiet here....listening to pure, beautiful silence! Last night my son had 2 friends spend the night last night. They had been in the river all evening so they were tired but 3 boys as opposed to 1 boy made our house a little noisier last night and this morning. But they are headed to the lake for the day so my house is once again quiet. Good  thing because i have a lot of work to do!

We taped the Womens World Cup game last night since we were going to be at a friend's house on the river. I am loving that they beat Germany 2-0 and are going to the finals! We got home about 9:30 and I watched it with the boys. We already knew the result but it was great to see Team USA in action. My son is a bit of a soccer freak so he was going absolutely nuts each time they scored.

I am taking two grad classes this summer towards my Masters in Library and Information Science. Both classes are 4 weeks long and pretty intense. The first one ended yesterday but I still have to write and submit a final paper by July 13th for that class. It is a 15 page research proposal and I am having a hard time getting started. I actually need to have it written by the 11th because I leave for the beach on the 12th. I need to stop thinking about this paper, and just write it!

I admire all these bloggers who also create and share such amazing products on Teachers Pay Teachers. I have really been wanting to open my own tPt store for several years but since I started grad school, I really have not had the time. I have lots of ideas for fun and exciting products, just don't have time to sit down and create....but the desire is there...just need to turn it into reality. 

As I mentioned before, I am moving rooms this year. Our school has grown so much that we have added 2 portable classrooms and me and my BTF are the lucky ducks (hint of sarcasm there) who get to move into the new portables.  I have boxed up some of my stuff but have so much more to do. The portables are supposed to be delivered sometime this month so I am anxious to get in and see how much space I have, the layout and such and get going. I have dreams about once a week about this move so I am needing  to get in there and get going on it or I'll be haunted by this all summer! 

Finally, my All Star--what I am great at. This is something everyone says about me....I can be counted on. I am the first to arrive to set up and the last to leave after things are cleaned up, if you have a project, task etc. that needs to be done, I am your person! I am DEPENDABLE. I am not sure it is my all-star power, but it is something that sort of defines me. 

Well, thanks for reading....and thanks for stopping by my blog. If you want to do a "CURRENTLY" of you own (its so fun!), don't forget to head to Farley's blog. Oh, and don;t forget to red her Rule of Three and follow it forward!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Do you do a room theme???

Each year I seem to spend more and more money coming up with a cute theme for my classroom. One yer I did frogs, another pirates, and yet another I did a movie/popcorn theme. Coming up with cutesy ideas each year is last year I just decided to go with bright colors and added some cute polka dot border.  

As I start my planning for the upcoming school year (yes I know it is still 7 weeks away but flying by....) I am starting to look as I go to Target, Hobby Lobby and Staples, for  ideas on how I will decorate my room. I am moving into a portable, so I have no idea about bulletin boards or walls, windows, etc.  I am thinking I will probably stick with the bright colors. I have already bought a few of these chairs in hot pink....but i am thinking about going back and getting one more in lime green. 
I love brightly colored accents like the colos in this bin

But I am also loving the whole chevron theme (has that been overdone???). I know I have seen some cool stuff on TpT and Pinterest for Chevrons.

HELP!!  I love this stuff too...and I just can;t decide......

One thing I do know....I am buying this giant clothespin...

and loading up on lots of Washi Tape....

And everything else will fall into place.....

So what about you....what theme do you do?

Monday, June 22, 2015

All time favorite read- alouds!

As of tomorrow we are officially only 2 weeks into summer but it already feels like it is flying by. Can you believe that next weekend is 4th of July?!?!?!?

So I have already begun planning for the upcoming school year.. I started mapping out my long range plans, I am making lists. and pinning so many cool ideas. As part of my planning, I am going to set a schedule for my read alouds. I have my favorites I read every year, but this year I want to add a few new ones. I am going to share my "staples" and I would love for you to share the read alouds you have done in the past that you love, in the comments below, as I am always looking to add new books to our rotation.

So here are the ones I pretty much do each year:

1. How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor-
I love this book for a number of reasons: first, it has a strong female character that struggles with making some tough decisions that young kids should not have to make. However, she has a lot of grit and is a likable character. This book is a great jumping off points for many discussions about whether or no it is okay to do something wrong even if you are doing it for the right reasons. It also deals with divorce, homelessness, and friendships. 

2. The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies-
I came across this book at a book fair a few years ago and grabbed it because it had great vocabulary and some connections to math. However, it also has a great story about relationships and responsibility, and family. It is the first in a series of great books about Evan and Jessie, brother and sister who start a battle to see who can sell the most lemonade and make the most money before school starts. 

3.  Wonder by R.J. Palacio-
A few years ago this book was on out SC Childrens Book Award/Battle of the Books list and all my students were reading it. I finally picked it up last summer and read it in one sitting. I fell in love with the main character August and figured that this book would be a great book to start the year out, and talk about how we are all different, and that is a good thing, and also to start one of many discussions about how we should treat each other.  It will be on my read aloud list for the coming school year too....

4. The Watsons Go To Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis-
One of my all time favorite read alouds. I use this book a little differently. We read this book as part shared reading, and part read aloud, and I even assign a chapter or two for students to read at home. We end with a viewing of the movie and then do a discussion and some type of reflection. I tie it in with our Civil Rights unit in Social Studies. My students love this book and most of my students have read Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis as well. 

5. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein-
I read this book a few summers ago and added it as a class  read aloud last year for the first time. A few of my students had already read it, but they were great not to share the surprises, and plot twists and turns with their classmates. This book reminds me of several others, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Gollywhopper Games, both books i have used for read alouds in the past. This is a fun, easy read that usually had them begging for "just one more page."

I typically get through a book a month (or at least that is my goal). So here are some of my standard read alouds. What are yours? Please share in the comments below. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

IN SEARCH OF.....a better way to teach spelling.....

I will be working on LRPs (Long Range Plans) next week. As I was doing a little reflecting the other day on what worked well last year, and what didn't, I kept thinking about Spelling. I teach 5th grade and our 5th graders seem to come to us without great spelling skills. I have debated the reasons with colleagues and  we think at least in part, this is due to the fact that we do not teach spelling like we  used to. Growing up I remember getting our new spelling lists on Monday and having spelling homework each night (one night it was write the words five time each, the next night we wrote sentences), and then of course there was the pre-test on Thursday and the big spelling test on Friday. Pretty standard!

I think I am a pretty good speller, but occasionally even I have to look a words up when writing (thank goodness for spellcheck!).  I know the vowel patterns, and the special rules  and their exceptions. However, I find that my student do not know the patterns and rules and they are not really good spellers. I struggle to make it interesting, but in the grand scheme of things, namely my already packed, I can;t devote a ton of time each week to spelling instruction.

Let me give you a little background, then I will tell you what I found that changed my way of thinking about teaching Spelling. Our schools uses a program galled Words Their Way for spelling  instructions. I have a love-hate relationship with this program for several reasons. First let me say, it is a GREAT program, researched based, well written, etc. What drives me cray is the amount of prep-time I have to do to get my kids ready to START learning their new words each week. And oh yeah, the fact that because the program is differentiated (which is not BAD at all), it usually means I have 4-5 different groups of kids each week working off 4-5 different lists. So that means, yep, you guessed it, 4-5 tests every Friday! Now you see where the hate part comes in. I have found a few really cool ways to manage it (which I will share in a later post), but it is still a chore. 
Words Their Way is a Pearson product (no I am not getting any endorsement money here). If you are interested in reading out more about it click HERE

So anyway, last week I was looking for some resources on Pinterest to help me implement the WTW Spelling program and I cam across a blog called "The Measured Mom:Tools for Teaching". It is written by a homeschool mom, and she has some great posts about how to make spelling more relevant to students and you guessed it, she uses Words Their Way. On her website she has a great series on Word Study. There are 5 parts to the series, and she also has FREE downloadable lessons and resources. As I read each part of the Word Study series last week, I discovered many great ideas that I plan to implement this Fall when I teach spelling. She even has a Pinterest board filled with great ideas...check it out HERE

So if you are looking for something to help boost your spelling instruction, check out The Measured Mom's website and resources. If you already use Words Their Way and you are looking for some fun and exciting new word work ideas, check out my Pinterest board HERE

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Summer Bucket List 2015

I was visiting my friend The Teachers Loop over on her blog this morning and I cam across a post she did about her Summer Bucket List. She got the idea from two of my favorite bloggers --Natalie and Rachelle from  What the Teacher Wants! So I just had to link up and participate in this awesome Linky!

As teachers, summer is sacred. Despite what our non-teacher friend think, our summers are not spent lounging by the pool, drinking umbrella drinks and working on our tan. 

Summers are spent in professional development classes, and planning for the upcoming school year. We do manage to eek out some time for ourselves and our families but much of our time is spent working on things for the upcoming year.  

I love this linky because it really forced me to put the ideas that have been swirling in my head since school ended down on "paper" and we all know once it is written down we are obligated to follow through, lol!  So here is my Summer Bucket List....

I am lucky to work with some very creative teachers who come up with some create ideas for teaching without forcing our students to keep their head in the textbook. One of my fellow 5th grade teachers made and shared some great PowerPoints to go along with our Social Studies curriculum. I love my Promethean Board  and last summer I went to the class to become a Promethean Master Educator. During the class I started the time-consuming process of converting our Social Studies Powerpoints into Promethean flipcharts. Goal #1 this summer is to finally FINISH them so they are ready for our team to use this Fall. 

I also want to get a jump on the school year by writing my plans for the first few weeks. In September i start an internship for my MLIS program and I will be away form my classroom 2 days a week for 10 weeks to work in a Middle School library. During that time my class will have a long-term sub. I figure I can stay two weeks ahead of schedule if I get a jump on next years plan during the summer. 

Lastly, for my school list, I am working with 2 other teachers to write a proposal for our principal to do a big field trip to Washington, D.C. next year. We want to get it wrapped up so we can present it to the parents at Meet the Teacher in August. We also have to start writing grants and plan fundraisers, etc. It is going to be exciting because our school has not done a big trip like this in 10 years and our students rarely get an opportunity like this so we want to make sure we make it happen!

I am currently take an intense 4 week class for grad school that requires a ton of reading. That limits how much reading for fun I can do. However I love to read and I jut cant abandon it while I take this class. I have a huge pile of books I want to read, plus more on my Kindle. So I have set a goal for myself to read one book a week. It is a lofty goals and so far I have done most of my reading late at night (which means more than likely I fall asleep with a book in my hands), but it is worth it as I read some fun new books I can share with my class this Fall, and learn new and exciting things I can implement in my classroom, not to mention, read a few just for fun!!

Summer is a great time to get my eating and exercise routines back on track. I have packed on more than a few unwanted pounds and if I don;t set a goal, I may pack on even more. So as part of my bucket list, I want to lose 20 pounds this summer before I go back. I would love to lose more, and I need to but I figure if I can take the first 20 off this summer, I can work on continuing the healthy eating and exercise once school starts again. Fingers crossed....

Lastly, for my personal list, we have a 2 year old Dell laptop that we share as a family. About a week ago, we found a really good deal at Best Buy on another laptop which we purchased for our son who is starting HS this fall. The first thing I did was move all his Minecraft and music files onto his new laptop. In the process, I decided to go ahead and clean up unwanted files and such off the Dell that my husband and I would share. We want to purchase a MAC by the end of the year but for now, ol' Bessie (my husband's nickname for the laptop---long story) will have to suffice so I want to clean up this one and back-up files and pictures (we have thousands of the latter, and I bought a special storage flash rive for those). 

Due to grad school, my husband recent surgery and some other unexpected situations, we are not doing a big vacation this summer. Instead, I want to do some day trips once my husband is strong enough. We love Asheville and the mountains and we have some great lakes around here so beginning in July I want to do 2-3 day trips. We have even talked about doing a day trip to Atlanta to go to a Braves game or visit the Georgia Aquarium.

Since I will be headed back to school August 11th, and my husband will return to work at the end of August, I want to plan a surprise trip the first week of August to the outer Banks and Virginia so we can visit friends and family. OBX holds special memories for our family and we have not been in a few years (it is a LONG drive from where we live).  My husband has several close friends in Virginia that he rarely sees. AS he has been recuperating form his open-heart surgery, they have called and checked in on him. I think this trip will be just what he needs before returning to work. Hope fully I can pull it off without him finding out about it until right before we leave. 

Finally, my son, who loves the water, has been wanting to go to the U.S. National Whitewater Center in N.C. for several years. He is going to be fairly busy this summer with Scouts and church but I think he will love a day trip up there to kayak, zip line and raft. They even offer paddle board lessons which I know he would really enjoy.

SO there you have Summer Bucket List for 2015. This has planted a seed that maybe I will host a Back to School Bucket List linky in August. I'll keep you posted. In the mean time, if you want to create your own Summer Bucket List, head on over to What the Teacher Wants and grab the template and go......just don't forget to link up back on their blog when you re done. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

More about Class Dojo....

How I use Class Dojo

Well after yesterday's post, several followers asked me to share a little about how I use Class Dojo in the classroom. I will be completely honest, each year I have done things a little differently. However, I can honestly say that this past year, I felt I was the most successful in using it than I had ever been. I am going t credit that success to two things: my involvement in the Class Dojo Mentor Communicant on Facebook AND my students. 

I have learned so much being a part of the Class Dojo Mentor is a safe place for sharing ideas, asking question and talking freely about what works and what doesn't work. There is a true sense of community too and it is not just among the mentors. The creators and developers at Class Dojo regularly ask for our advice on things and share potential new mods. 

My students also played a part in the success of Class Dojo in my classroom. Each yer the group of students who walk though are door in the Fall are different, and using Dojo to its fullest really depends on whether you have buy in from the students and also how you find ways to make it meaningful to them. Do not expect to roll it out on Day 1 and everyone to be on board. Ease into it, give them an over view of what it is and how you would like to use it, and also share the WHY. Give them an opportunity to ask questions and be receptive to their feedback. Also be may take some tweaking to get it fully up an running. 

I know one of the challenges I faced int he beginning was remembering to open the app up in the morning. Sometimes it was not until lunch time that I remembered i had not given any points out. My solution to this was 1) make it part of my morning routine. As soon as I logged onto my computer each morning, I opened my email and I opened Class Dojo.  And 2) I appointed a student as my Dojo Assistant. If  I had not given out any points by the time we came back from Related Arts (my students soon became familiar with the "ding" of positive points) this student would go take one of the Dojo Monsters I had laminated an turned into magnets that I keep on my board, and place it on my computer. After a while all I needed to do was see that student get up and head to the board and that was all it took to remind me to get Class Dojo running and give some points. 

Variety if the spice of life...or so they say. This is really true for Class Dojo. I 
tried to keep it new and exciting for my students by adding new rewards each 9 weeks, changing up the way we tracked points and also to set the goals a little higher each 9 weeks.
So let me break those down a bit:
Rewards: start small and give them choices. In the beginning it was a new bookmark, a  homework pass or a new pencil with a cool eraser. As the year went on, I increased the value of the prizes as out goal increased. I let me students suggests things for Dojo prizes sometime, and sometimes I used cool things I had found at the Dollar Store, or Target Dollar Spot or cheap books I bought from Scholastic.
Tracking Points: In the beginning, I used a punch card like the one here. Students would get a punch for each day they met their goal. Then once the punch card was full, they got to choose a reward. In the beginning the goal was low so it was easier to attain. I used a bar graph tracker another 9 weeks, and the last 9 weeks, we ran weekly competitions so I did not reset the points all week in the program. Whether you use the program to track points, or give the students that responsibility, change it up so it doesn't get boring.
Setting Goals: I did this with my students each 9 weeks. At the beginning of the year when you are introducing it, allow students to give input on what they think our initial goal should be. Each 9 weeks, have a discussion with students and share data with them from the previous 9 weeks. Help them to come up with a class goal based on their ideas and the data. This coming school year I am goign to guide students to set personal goals in Class Dojo. I think this will help them have more ownership i their behavior.

Some other things I think are important to share are the behaviors I track (and give both positive and negative points for, using Class Dojo to communicate with parents, data and privacy.
Behaviors: If you are familiar with Class Dojo, you know you have the capability to give positive an negative points. Some teacher choose to give only positive points. I give both. Some of the things I give positive points for are: Agenda signed, Great Hallway Behavior, Great Morning Routine, On Task, Paying Attention, Raising Hand, helping others, etc. During a period of the year when we were having a lot of non-illness related absences, I started giving a point to everyone if we had 100% attendance. I also gave positive points for having homework turned in. I love that I can add behaviors as the year goes on, and remove ones that I am not using or that I do not use. As far as the things I give negative points for: blurting out, talking during instruction or in the hallway, not turning in homework or incomplete homework (I did not do this until I had talked to the student and determined if there was a valid reason for homework not being complete), being off task, out of their chair without permission, lying and disrespect.
Using Dojo to improve home-to-school communication:  First of all, I love the Dojo Messenger feature. I had a fair amount of parents sign up for it last year. But this year, I am going to push it even harder from day 1. Since I get my roster before our school wide "Meet the Teacher" event. I am going to set my class up and print out the parent invites, along with a letter explaining how to sign up for Messenger. I considered using Remind 101 app too but I think what Messenger offers is way more effective for communicating with parents. I can send individual messages, broadcast messages, share photos, etc. I love it. And let's face it, any way you can get to easily communicate with parents, go for it!
Data: The Class Dojo program give you so much data that is useful in behavior interventions, IEP meetings, and parent teacher conferences. If I have a student that I am referring to our school Behavior Intervention team, I run a report for the past several weeks and bring it to the meeting. This is a tangible documentation about specific issues we are addressing. It is so valuable to those making decisions about what interventions to try. In our district we hold parent-teacher conferences in mid-October. That is about 6-7 weeks into the school year. If there are patterns of behavior that I am concerned about and want to discuss with the parent I print out reports for the time period leading up to the conference and share that with the parent. Most of the time if they have not signed up to monitor form home, I make a second attempt to get them signed up. I do the same for conferences later in the year. This makes it easier to present the issues to the parent and discuss when you have tangible data to share with them. Your administrator will love the data also! At least mine does!!
Privacy: This has been a hot button topic in my school and even in the CD mentor community. Here is my take on it...our job as educators is to help encourage our students to be better learners and people. I do not see a problem with showing point totals to the whole class. I don;t keep it up on my Promethean Board all day, but I do put it up right before lunch (mid-point of our day) and at the end of the day. I have never had a student get embarrassed that others can see their points. Although Class Dojo has the option of displaying both positive and negative points together, I only show their overall total. Let's face it, kids know who is getting negative points because they see their classmates doing things they should not be doing and they know what it sounds like when I give out a negative point.  I do not discuss a students points with anyone but them (and their parents). Students can log on form home and see only their points (same for parents--they only see their students point totals).

Finally, if you decide to implement Class Dojo, one of the first things you will want to do is sign up for Dojo of course, and check out all the great teacher resources Class Dojo has to offer from parent letters to videos on getting started to awesome classroom decorations.  Then head over to Teacher Pay Teachers and check out all the great resources there (some of them are completely FREE!). Just enter Class Dojo in the search bar and voila...last time I checked there were over 500 resources dedicated to Class Dojo. There are also some great tutorials and videos on YouTube.

Let me tell are going to love it! And soon you will be convincing your fellow teachers to jump on the Class Dojo bandwagon!