Classroom Management – To Dojo or Not to Dojo…?

teacher and child

According to Margaret Wente in yesterday’s Globe and Mail, “Students need interaction, not app taps.” So true! There are plenty of ways to encourage respectful and appropriate classroom behaviour—and few, if any of these, involve apps.

Wente focused on “ClassDojo,” an app that she said “Allows teachers to add or subtract points for each student’s conduct throughout the day. …ClassDojo is supposed to be a motivational tool to help kids behave better.”

Although in all fairness I know very little about this particular technological tool, I agree with Wente. Many teachers have concerns about discipline, classroom management, and how to keep kids productively engaged. Rather than using electronic score sheets that compare and contrast students’ behaviour in an impersonal manner, why not use strategies that are predicated on a respectful classroom environment?

I’ve taught aspiring teachers at OISE/University of Toronto for more than a decade, and I’ve worked in the field of education for over 30 years, and I can assure you there are lots of strategies to facilitate respectful behaviour and a stimulating classroom dynamic without resorting to apps such as ClassDojo.

Here are seven fundamental ideas:

  • Set the stage for appropriate behaviour. Co-create classroom rules with solid rationales for constraints. Establish fair and realistic routines, expectations, and timelines. Determine what behaviour is and is not acceptable in relation to noise level, movement, talking, and so on.
  • Maintain decorum.  Don’t waste kids’ time. Make sure the learning is relevant. Welcome questions and mistakes so everyone learns to be respectful of one another as they learn. Stay calm. Demonstrate resolve.
  • Be preemptive. Plan well. Have instructional materials ready. Organization and clarity are important. Maintain a suitable pace. Target lessons for students working at different levels and with different areas of interest.
  • Encourage self-regulation. Model and teach self-regulation skills. This includes knowing when to step back or aside from a task, monitoring one’s attitude and temperament, and promoting productive collaboration.
  • Monitor students’ progress. Fine-tune or revise lessons as necessary. Invite inquiry. Allow children ample time to think, share, and consolidate ideas.When offering praise and feedback make sure it’s genuine, directed, effort-oriented, constructive, and concise. (What app does that?)
  • Patrol. Be alert and attuned to individuals. Move, assist, communicate, listen, and observe as you reinforce children’s learning.
  • Know yourself. Reflect upon the following questions: What’s your personal management style? (Authoritative? Flexible?) What sets you off?  What support mechanisms do you have in place when things go off the rails?

A well-managed classroom is one where students can succeed. If the learning environment is supportive (i.e., safe, respectful, reinforcing, motivating) and goals are fair (i.e., attainable, appropriate) this will have a positive effect on students’ self-efficacy, skill development, self-regulation, and behaviour. In order to keep kids engaged in classroom learning, tasks need to be manageable and relevant, and that’s the teacher’s responsibility. At the end of the day, however, students have to take ownership for their own behaviour—and their successes.

For more on this and other topics, see Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids

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