NINETY-THREE

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THIS IS A CAKE.  I know it looks a little crazy.  My cakes usually taste pretty good, but I never took decorating classes.  By the way, my secret to yummy cakes fall into two categories:  adding a package of instant pudding and/or adding a 1/2 cup of applesauce.  Both keep the cake extra moist and yummy.  Lemon cake = lemon pudding, chocolate cake = chocolate pudding.  I use vanilla pudding on a lot of other flavors but apple sauce works great for spice cakes, strawberry flavored cakes, and butterscotch cakes.

But I digress.

I made this particular strange looking cake for my good pals at Class Dojo.  They are amazing hard-working people who are determined to spread the positive and empower teachers to build a positive community in their classrooms.  They are all kinds of awesome.  Teachers may know what I am talking about, and if your child's teacher uses it, you might have heard of it.  I have been using Class Dojo with my classes for about four years now, and I puffy-heart love my dojosquad. 

They are really all about building a positive classroom environment.  They created an app that allows teacher to recognize and encourage skills.  Each kid in class has a little monster avatar that can earn dojo points.  You can custom design the skills you are working on and even select how much each skill is worth.

Right now, my reading students are working on building up their Lion Focus -- their ability to pay attention to detail the way a lion pays attention to its prey.  Whenever I see a student or a group of students with lion focus, I can give them points.  

My reading class already met their first points goal.  They earned 3,000 points (collectively) and so I made them cupcakes.  Their next goal is to get to 5,000 points at which point we will hold a prize box raffle.  They are pretty excited.  They are up to almost 4,000 already.  I love seeing a class working towards a corporate goal that they set themselves.  We have a special category called RN Perfection -- this is when every kid in class has a completed RN (Reading Notebook).  They get double points when they achieve RN Perfection which is just every kid in class getting their reading homework done.  I've seen kids running down their classmates before school and at recess.  "Did you do your homework, dude?  You've still got time.  You want me to help you?"  It is a beautiful thing.  Two boys in my class who hadn't been doing ANY homework, are now reading for 20 minutes every day.  I love this because reading is such an essential factor in a child's future success!  (They also get TRIPLE POINTS if I don't do MY reading homework!  That's right, I do the homework too!)

I also love the way that students become involved in creating our skills.  We self-assess frequently and then create categories for skills that we need to work on.  For example, some of my students thought that we needed to focus on encouraging everyone to demonstrate greater manners when holding group discussions.  So they created a category for Taking Turns When Talking.  They also found it to be a high priority skill so it is worth 3 points.  

My favorite story about students creating their own skills category happened last year.  One of my students is a selective mute.  This means that although they want to speak, they can't always do it.  One day when she responded quickly to a question, her classmate said, "You should give her points for that. Hey, let's make a category called Brave Points!"  So we did.  We gave brave points to whoever did something that was challenging for them.  I loved that people could earn brave points for different things. The students recognized that what might be challenging to one student, might not be challenging to another.  The really cool part is about a week after this, the same student -- my selective mute drew a kind of amazing picture.  We had just watched Dr. Kings' "I Have a Dream Speech", when she showed me a picture.  It was someone standing in front of a bank of microphones.  They were poised to speak before a very large audience.  "Is that Dr. King?"  I asked her.  "No."  She said, softly.  "That's me."  

The folks at Class Dojo recognize that the classroom is a community.  All communities require determined focus so that they can grow and flourish.  Not only did they create an app that can encourage that growth, but they also created these ADORABLE videos that teach about Growth Mindset and Empathy!  They are really awesome.  Little Mojo has to learn how important it is to not feel like a failure when he makes mistake, but to learn from them!  He has taught us to say, "I just haven't learned this yet!  Give me time and I will!"  It might seem like a small thing, but it really shifts the way you see the world and yourself.

The latest series of videos takes Mojo on an adventure as a first time director.  He allows the stress of the situation to overwhelm him, and he treats the monsters around them harshly because of it.  He then has to learn about the MAZE which is a place we can all get trapped in when our emotions overpower us.  I loved teaching my students about the important of not only trying to see something from another monster's (or person's) point of view, but also the importance of the simple act of stopping to breathe before speaking or dealing with emotions.  Breathing can feed your stress filled brain, which gets deprived of oxygen under stress, and can allow you the space and time to deal with your stressors.  What a great lesson to learn while you are still in grade school.

If you are a teacher, you should REALLY check out Class Dojo, and if you aren't a teacher, you should ask your child's teacher if they have ever thought about using it.  It has so many more things to offer than I can even write about in this little blog, but if you have any QUESTIONS feel free to contact me!  

et's celebrate the good, have compassion for one another, and try new things like a brave little monster!

--Jen