Thinking About Classroom Dojo – Why Not Just Tase Your Kids Instead?

DOjo

I think this is one of the most important issues in education today, and one that needs to be talked about.  As the new school year is beginning, it is critical to have good classroom management.  Classroom Dojo is not that.

Before I begin, I admit that I have never used Classroom Dojo.  I understand that that does not make me an expert.  But I never will.  Here is why:

Classroom Dojo offers a system where students’ behavior can be monitored throughout the day. Teachers can use an ipad, Smartphone, or computer and continuously adjust a student’s behavior points.  If someone is off task, the teacher can take points away.  If they begin to focus, they get points and move up.  By the end of the day, in theory, you have a measure of how good (or bad) the student’s behavior was.

dojo 2The students’ points can be projected on to an interactive whiteboard, so students can actually see how they are being rated – judged – at any given time.  And all the other students can see everyone as well.

First, public displays of student behavior is nothing more than public shaming.  All children in the classroom are aware of what is going on – the kids know when someone is not behaving well.  However, by using a public symbol, whether it be a color card, a stop light, a clip, or a Dojo monster with points, it becomes a public display.  It also becomes a conversation at home around the dinner table.  “Johnny was on red today.  Abby lost points today.”  etc.  There is ample evidence that public shaming is not motivating, and does not encourage long term change.

Imagine: Ben is sitting at his desk, working on writing.  His neighbor pokes him and does an arm pit fart, and both kids laugh.  Then the teacher moves both of their points down.  ZAP!  Kayla is frustrated with her reading, and puts her head down on her desk, and her points go down.  ZAP!  A whole group of kids are playing at the sink and making soap castles, so the teacher moves the class points down.  ZAP, ZAP, ZAP. No doubt some kids straighten up with the zaps.  If someone were tasing me, I sure would.  But I wouldn’t like that person very much.  And I wouldn’t want to go back.  And I would spend a whole lot of time thinking about how not to get zapped, rather than my reading, writing, science, and math work.  Just don’t zap me again.

This is an excerpt from one of the testimonials on the Class Dojo website: “If the class is getting a little noisy, or if a group of students are getting off task, I just start handing out some positive and negative points, and sure enough students refocus and get right back to work.”  Basically, I just start zapping the kids, and they get back to work.

I want you to think about what a system like Classroom Dojo is really doing to students’ focus and engagement.  If you are a kid that is generally a hard working, motivated learner, you now become a hard working, motivated “behavor.”  Your attention is continuously being drawn away from your work to notice how you are doing on your points, or how someone else is doing.  Even if the points are not being changed regularly, your attention is now divided.  I would have been one of those kids.  I would have been very concerned about ensuring that my points stayed where I wanted them, and I would have been checking often to see how I was doing – pulling my thinking and attention away from learning.

If you are a child who is usually on task and doing well, but sometimes slips up, your mistakes are now made BIGGER.  Your occasional goof ups become public errors, and they suddenly become a much bigger deal.

If you are a child that is often getting into trouble, your troubles are there for everyone to see.  You get a continuous reminder of your failures.

Everyone has bad days sometimes.  Let’s imagine that it is not your best day, or worse, it is a terrible day. Everything seems to be going wrong.  We all have those experiences.  If you are in a classroom where that is understood, and your teacher and peers accept you with an attitude of forgiveness and a fresh start, your next day can be good.  You know you can go back to school and try again.  However, if you are in a classroom where your failures are publicly displayed, you are likely to return to school anxious.  You are embarrassed and fearful of having the same bad day again.  I know that if my mistakes were shown for all to see, I would try to fake sick before going back to school.

The bigger issue here is the issue of reward and punishment systems.  ClassDojo is just a smart business idea that picked up on a trend in teaching.  It is certainly not the only example of this type of system.  It is true that reward and punishment systems work quickly.  You will often see fast results, and kids will get on track.  The problem is, the good behavior is short term, or is completely dependent upon a continued reward. Students begin to concentrate more on the reward than anything else, and if the reward is removed, the behavior goes back to what it was before – or worse.  Rewards and punishments actually trigger activity in the addiction center of the brain. Think about that for a minute – we are encouraging our kids to become addicted to reward – praise, stickers, candy, class parties, etc.  This does not build self motivated learners.  It builds addicts.

One thing that I often hear when discussing the topic is the issue of pay.  “You get paid for your job, don’t you?  You wouldn’t do it for free?  What is the difference with rewarding children?”  Yes, I do get paid for my job.  I would get paid exactly the same amount for my job if I did not stay up late working on lesson plans, or if I did not research and read articles on how to improve my practice.  I would get paid the same amount even if I did not go to the store to pick up materials for my class, spending my own money on the supplies.  I would get paid the same amount if I used worksheets instead of interactive lessons, or if I simply didn’t go the extra mile.  But I do those things.  Not because of any sort of monetary compensation.  I do those things because I believe they are the right thing to do.  I do those things because I am self motivated to be the best teacher I know how to be, and to continuously work to improve.  Reward and money aren’t motivating me to go the extra mile.  An internal drive is.  I want to build that internal drive in our students.

Another thing I hear is, “My students love Class Dojo (insert other system here.)”  However, when they get down to what about it the kids love, the argument breaks down.

  • They love the avatars.  Great – use RazKids and give them avatars there to encourage reading.  Don’t use Dojo just because of the cute monsters.
  • They love the rewards.  Well who wouldn’t?  We all love candy.  But again, rewards don’t build learners.
  • They love what their parents say.  Aka, they love praise.  Of course they do.  But we need to be careful about using praise as a reward.  And of course, not all the kids love what their parents say…

I don’t want to criticize a method without offering anything as a solution, so here we go.  I think the most important thing a teacher can do is build relationships with their students, and build a classroom community where respect and contributions are valued and expected.  I think we need to use careful language with students that encourages positive behavior and builds identities for students as contributing members of the class.  I think we need to teach students that feelings, good and bad, are normal and ok. They can handle these feelings appropriately and safely, and they can set goals to improve.

Here are a few suggestions for things to read that offer ideas and alternatives to reward and punishment systems.  First, here are some other bloggers talking about this same thing:

Next, here are some excellent books that get very in depth in discussing the research and application of teaching with “systems”:

  • Conscious Discipline by Dr. Becky Bailey
  • Choice Words by Peter Johnston

Finally, here are some of my previous posts that offer other angles on this topic, including ideas for alternatives:

Teaching without tricks, or virtual tasers, or marbles in a jar, or color cards, is harder.  It takes longer.  It is not easy.  But teachers are up to the job.  Building children that are self motivated, that do the right thing simply because it is the right thing, and that treat others with patience and respect is a long, complicated job.  So let’s start doing it properly, because they are worth it.

94 Responses to Thinking About Classroom Dojo – Why Not Just Tase Your Kids Instead?

  1. Therese August 31, 2013 at 7:13 pm #

    I couldn’t agree with you more!thank you south for this well thought out and articulate post

    • Karen Langdon August 31, 2013 at 9:08 pm #

      So glad to connect with others who are looking for something better for our kids!

  2. Erin Lyons August 31, 2013 at 8:31 pm #

    What a terrifying way to spend your day as a child, always on the watch for getting zapped, and how awful to turn a teacher into a zapper. No thanks. Blech.

    • Karen Langdon August 31, 2013 at 9:08 pm #

      Exactly. Not pleasant for either side.

  3. Ann Barkel August 31, 2013 at 9:58 pm #

    Class Dojo does not have to be “public”, or displayed on the Smartboard for all to see. My Smartboard has more important things to show. In fact, my Class Dojo is more for me to monitor and allow parents to be aware and converse with their child. Plus, in order to be research based, shouldnt any “negative” or reminder be in the ratio of 1:3? Therfore this system means you look for the GOOD more than the bad.
    Icertainly agree that relationships are the most important factor. But in this digital, video game age where our kids come as poor listeners and often feel entitled to things, Class Dojo works for me. I do not give prizes or awards. But my reward comes when I hear, “Oops. That was blurting out.” :-)

    • Karen Langdon August 31, 2013 at 11:08 pm #

      I am glad to hear that Class Dojo is not always displayed publicly! And of course, looking for the good is critical. I think we just need to be careful about how we teach (or train) our students. If they are learning the appropriate ways to act, and are building intrinsic motivation to act in those ways, they are on the right path. I am concerned that excessive praise and criticism puts children in the position of constantly being judged – for good or bad. I would like to see a shift to helping them reflect on their actions themselves and consider how their choices impact both them and others. I think this type of thinking is lost when the teacher is always deeming an action to be good or bad for them.

      • Brad Glover October 28, 2013 at 11:37 am #

        Not only that, but the notifications for class dojo can be changed so that negative behaviors are not shown. I don’t display it publicly in my classroom either way, but we have found in immensely helpful at replacing our classroom currency system. I think your second paragraph really sums it up when it comes to you and this article. You have never even tried the app, therefore I don’t see why you’re passing judgment on it. I certainly hope you are teaching your students better behaviors than that.

    • Kpd September 9, 2013 at 10:59 am #

      I totally agree!! The way I have incorporated class dojo has NOT been to shame or publically humiliate! My students understand and have agreed upon certain rules and expectations and if they do not adhere then like we agreed I give or take away… Privately! At the end of the school day I write the amount if points earned and the parents are able to monitor according to my points system, whether their child has had an ok, great, or fantastic day! This program still must be used with other behavioral resources. But to say that you will never use it because it shames, or creates diverted focus, is your opinion. It’s not because its not a useful program. What the focus of your writing should be is how teachers use and implement it into their behavior management. The way I use it looks totally different then the way several of my colleagues use the program.

      • Kiplin September 10, 2013 at 6:27 pm #

        Just started using it in a challenging school with children who absolutely love it!

        It puts learning in a video game. If it captivates and engages young minds in the 21st century all the better..

        I’ve given out 99% positive in two days. I don’t show or play sounds of negative awards. Everyone does see who’s in front, but they all know who the best behaved and on task children are in the class (as with any group reward system).

        You sound so typical of the Luddite professionals I meet who have been too long in the job, hate change, are paranoid about technology and wish everything could go back to when ‘they were a girl..’ :)

        From someone who uses it with children who love it (and for whom it motivates good learning) I think like many thinks, teaching ‘fads’ are all about the application, not the theory..

        Kiplin

        • Karen Langdon September 10, 2013 at 7:47 pm #

          Well, I have to disagree, and stand by my belief that the theory is really important. Teaching fads may have value, but not because they are popular. The value has to be in what they are. I never argued that Class Dojo works, or that kids may like parts of it – I just believe that it is not in the best interest of our children. Kids like lots of things that may not be good for them.

  4. Cheri August 31, 2013 at 10:04 pm #

    I agree with you. My thinking has evolved on this, and I categorize dojo with clip charts, as negative management strategies. Better to manage behavior privately.

    • Karen Langdon August 31, 2013 at 11:04 pm #

      It is so important to be willing to allow our thinking to evolve. It really is a learning process!

  5. Ragena August 31, 2013 at 10:08 pm #

    This is a very well written article and spot on. As I was read it, I was thinking that you would love Dr. Becky Bailey and Conscious Discipline. I was thrilled when I got to end of the article and saw that you referenced her. I am a preschool teacher and I feel that my life changed the first time I was introduced to Conscious Discipline. I have now read most of Dr. Becky’s books and implemented CD in my classroom and I can say that I have a much much better classroom and the children who now go through my classroom are better prepared to go on to kindergarten equipped with the social-emotional skills to be successful. While it did take a while to implement all of her wonderful ideas and it does take a very concerted effort every day, it has truly made my life easier. I no longer have to be constantly flipping cards or whatever system I was using that school year…it just wore me out and and made the children dependent on my constant feedback. I would love to see every educator in the country using conscious discipline. I believe that we would have young adults graduating high school ready to be contributing members of society. Thank You for the excellent article!

    • Karen Langdon August 31, 2013 at 11:03 pm #

      I love the phrase “equipped with the social-emotional skills to be successful” in your comment! That really is what we should be aiming for! Responding to a point system, color cards, or clip charts is not providing children with the tools necessary to manage themselves and their relationships in the real world. We need to teach them real world ways of calming themselves, interacting with others, and working as part of a functioning team. Conscious Discipline offers a great blueprint of how to do that – I am so glad your preschool is using it! What fortunate students you have. :)

  6. Pati August 31, 2013 at 10:11 pm #

    I’ve been teaching for nearly 20 years, so I’ve been through the years of passing out first candy, then stickers and stamps, etc. to bribe children. It got to the point where I had students literally say, ‘What do I get if I do this?’

    My parents were of the ‘the reward is a good education’ mind set, so I’ve always had problems with the idea of bribing kids to do their job. Early on in my career, I had administrators tell me I needed to give more positive reinforcement to my kids. (…and they were right…)

    I also agree with you regarding the emphasis on ‘color change’ to evaluate a child’s day. When the first thing that a parent asks their active 5-year old boy about their day is, ‘What color are you on?’ the answer can be pretty depressing to both of them.

    Other questions with this issue…
    What about schools/grade levels that require a uniform classroom policy?
    My school, has a color-system for discipline that we HAVE to adhere to. It starts with an “OK” color and goes down from there. I’ve ‘modified’ mine to include two colors that go up, to give recognition to kids who are doing the right thing, setting a good example, showing good citizenship, etc. No one else on campus seems interested in doing this, though, and it is not always easy to be the one teacher who says, ‘I’m going to do this a slightly different way than everyone else,’ let alone do get into a political battle to use a completely different system. Anyone else with this sort of problem?

    I have to say that I agree with you about class dojo; though more from the time/maintenance issue really. I think that it sounds good to people who are not actually working in a classroom day-to-day. My son’s middle school is adopting it as a campus this year. I’m looking forward to seeing it in action from the parent’s point of view. (…and my son had better be getting at least one mark from each of his seven teachers every day, or I’ll be calling the school to find out why they are not actively monitoring his classroom behavior…;) )

    I’ve had students that require multiple ‘check-in’ points throughout the day because of frequent infractions or behavior improvement plans. You’re right in saying that it gives hard data on time/activity/emotion. But, it does add to my day to keep up with just one or two data charts. Class dojo seems to want me to spend more time with the chart than with the child. (I have visions of me trying to pull up one child’s avatar and add or subtract points while three other students are starting a game of tag by the water fountain because my focus is on my tablet.) It’s a no-win situation. If I’m going to take time away from instruction due to behavior, I’d rather start a simple learning game and pull the child from the group for a quiet conversation.

    Well, this turned into a much longer post than I thought it would, but it’s an issue I’ve been working with for years…as have we all. Thank you for sharing your point of view and ideas for something more student-centered!

    • Karen Langdon August 31, 2013 at 11:00 pm #

      I applaud you for choosing to amend the required management system! It is certainly difficult to go against the grain, and it takes time to change a school culture, but it can be done. For example, when I started teaching in my school seven years ago, having kids stand on the wall at recess for bad behavior was standard. Every day there was a wall of kids out there, missing out of play, publicly. After we began to do more study as a school, both about the shame this causes, as well as the negative consequences of withholding recess, I am very happy to say that this simply does not happen anymore. If a student is being unsafe on the playground they may need to stand next to the teacher for a few minutes (with the understanding that they need to stand there so the teacher can keep them safe), but no one is standing against the wall in shame or missing recess for an infraction hours earlier.

      I see behavior charts as going along a similar path in my school. I did use sticker charts in my earlier years. Now, with more experience and knowledge under my belt, I am able to explain why I do not use them, and why I believe they will not help students. I still get asked every year by parents if I should/would use one, but because I can explain why I believe them to be ineffective, I am able to help them along in their understanding as well.

      Your efforts in altering the color system is an important step, and I hope and believe that if people like you take the time to explain your thinking, more educators and administrators will change their thinking as well.

      I do agree that some students need individual check ins and debriefs throughout the day. That is completely different than a reward/punishment system that is meant to fit all students.

  7. Deniece August 31, 2013 at 10:21 pm #

    I have never used Class Dojo, but I am looking at using it this year. I have used clipcharts in the past and they have been successful. I will be honest, I have taught in a variety of districts, each servicing a different population. When teaching Middle School, I never had a discipline plan. I honestly, never needed one. I had small class sizes (never over 15) and a Principal who was a strong disciplinarian so I had very few behavior problems.

    Now I teach elementary school and I had multiple classroom evals where I was marked down for “wasting instructional time” talking to my Kinder students about behavior/choices. I consulted my mentor teacher and was advised to use the color card system. The next eval’s score went way up due to this and of course there was a comment about using instructional time wisely. The next year, my school instituted the color-coded clip chart. It simply didn’t work for my 2nd Graders. Parents never looked at their charts – there was no buy in by students and/or parents. They did better with only positive reinforcement. Last year, my 3rd Graders did excellent with the clip chart that moved down for negative behaviors and up for positive behaviors. I rarely had kids off of green. We are required to implement a behavior plan and communicate with parents nightly about student behavior (whether or not the parents communicate back). This year, I am using the Scholarly Habits. I hope they help my students to take ownership for their behavior and education.

    As far as your comment about getting paid regardless of the time you spend for your job. That is not true where I am. Our bonuses are performance based. Our jobs are linked to testing scores. I tutor for free after school and work Saturday School from Jan. – April making 1/2 of my hourly wage. My pay is directly related to how much I put into my job.

    • Karen Langdon August 31, 2013 at 10:50 pm #

      I am very lucky to be able to say that I have never had to teach in a way that was against my philosophy. We are not required to use a certain behavior management system, and I am eternally grateful for that. However, knowing that many people are in a situation similar to yours, where you are not given the choice, there are some things you can do.

      One thing is to decide how to use the system. For example, if you use Class Dojo, then choose not to display it publicly. That way you can still provide accounts to parents and administration if necessary, but it is not a class display.

      I think your experiences with having different classes function differently is very real. Some groups need more structure, while others seem to have fewer issues arise. I find every year that I need to tweak different routines to fit my group. For example, one year I might need to have scheduled choice rotations so kids get predictable turns at popular play areas, while another year the kids have no problem taking turns. It is important to respond to your students. However, I still believe that all children need to have time spent teaching them what expected behavior is. It is certainly not a waste of instructional time. Ideally a lot of time spent up front building the community aids in making the rest of the year flow more easily.

      • Deniece September 1, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

        That year specifically, I spent a good month establishing procedures, reviewing rules and setting up a friendly classroom environment. Then…we levelled and I was moved at the end of Sept. from a 3rd Grade classroom to a Kindergarten classroom (I had never taught Kindergarten). I spent three weeks re-teaching negative behaviors. My first eval. of the year (for a new eval. system) was the Friday of my first week in Kinder. Nothing about that ever seemed fair or just in my opinion. I say all of this to look at the reality of education. Teachers are often put into situations that they do not have all the answers for and they are doing the best they know how to do. I don’t believe that most teachers implement a clip chart, colored cards, brownie points or Class Dojo as a way to hurt a child. I believe they are doing research to find out what works for other teachers in a similar situation and using what has been effective. Is it always perfect? No, definitely not. Do teachers have to adjust, yes. Does any system work every time? No. What works day 1, probably doesn’t work on day 180. What works for Shae probably doesn’t work for Angelica. I think most teachers realize that. I also KNOW that what works in School ABC doesn’t work in School 123. Teachers adjust and do what works for them, parents, administration and the students!

        • Karen Langdon September 1, 2013 at 11:11 pm #

          The time spent establishing routines and expectations is critical – so important. And you are right, some of the issue here is the reality of education. If a school mandates a policy, or if you get stuck in a mess of a situation, you do try to find something that works. I get that, and I have tried lots of things myself. I certainly don’t mean to imply that anyone is trying to hurt kids – certainly not. I just think that often things like this are used, and they need a second look.

          When I was in school, putting kids’ names on the board, with check marks after them, was the norm. Now things have moved towards charts, clips, and Dojo. There are continuous changes, and my hope is that having an open discussion about why we are doing what we are doing can move things into an even better direction for kids.

  8. Julie September 1, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

    I use ClassDojo. My students do love it. My parents appreciate it. I do not display it. I only have the sound alerts turned on. It’s interesting to me that you do not use it but wrote this very long article about zapping children! I had a parent say this exact thing to me last year, and she tried very hard to get me to take away a positive system that works for my class community. You see…I only give positive points. I never take away points that have been so eagerly earned. Students work very hard all day long. They are building stamina, learning new strategies in math, sitting next to a distracting peer…the list goes on… Dojo (as we lovingly call it) keeps us going! The points don’t earn us anything other than a special “ding”! It serves as a reminder that someone in our community is on task. I give group points often. I teach from the heart- these kids deserve to hear a “ding” when I don’t have time to tell them how awesome and incredible they are!

    So, I ask you to please be careful before you judge a behavior system before researching. There are plenty of teachers that use Class Dojo as a benefit for students rather than a punishment.

    • Leslie D September 1, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

      I also am using Class Dojo to positively praise my students. I often reward groups or even the whole class. What I like about it is that I specify the behavior that earns a point such as the red table is cooperating as they work instead of the red table is doing a good job. There is no reward otherwise– no candy, no treat, etc. I feel it helps me realize if there is someone I am not giving specific positive praise. There maybe a quiet child I am overlooking! I do not keep it displayed as my Smart Board is in constant use.

      • Karen Langdon September 1, 2013 at 11:14 pm #

        I do think it is great that you are using specific ways to offer points. I just wonder, why do you need the system to do that? I really try to think about how the things I do in my classroom will apply in other contexts. Concrete praise is natural and appropriate in every life situation – school, sports, work, etc. But a point system is something that is foreign outside of school settings. Doesn’t it make sense to use the great specific praise you are giving in a more real world way?

    • Karen Langdon September 1, 2013 at 10:57 pm #

      I appreciate that you are using Class Dojo as a method of giving positive feedback. However, I think it is very important to be specific and concrete with praise. While I am sure that kids feel good when they hear the ding, they don’t know what specific behavior is being praised. The most effective type of praise is when we describe for kids exactly what it is that they are doing that is good.

      • Julie September 1, 2013 at 11:40 pm #

        I respect your opinion, and I understand this is your space/your blog… So with that being said, I will politely need to stop following a teacher who is giving out “advice” to others when only a tiny piece of the story is known.
        Only my students and I know how our classroom community feels. We know it is a very safe (emotional and physical) place. I was only mildly saddened that you didn’t give Class Dojo a fair run. Now I am just offended that you pretend to know how I teach, what rapport I have with my students and the connections I make to ensure success for each one of them. Dojo or not. Ding or no ding. Shame on you for judging without even knowing me.

        • Karen Langdon September 1, 2013 at 11:56 pm #

          Julie, I truly am sorry that you think I am judging you. I am trying to respond thoughtfully to the comments coming my way. I see a blog as a place to write about ideas to share with others. It doesn’t make me an expert, but it does put me in a position of explaining my thoughts on things. I don’t know you or your classroom, and I am sure you build a wonderful community. This post is how I believe behavior management “systems” undermine community. However you choose to go, I hope you have a wonderful year.

    • Nicole September 15, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

      I couldn’t agree more. Class Dojo is wonderful for my students. I also refuse to give negative points and only focus on the positives. All I see happening is a community of supportive learners being proud not only of themselves, but of their peers. If students dislike dojo, that is the fault of the teacher and how it was presented. It is not the fault of the system. My students get nothing concrete on earning Dojo points; all they “get” is pride based on the fact that hard work pays off.

  9. Lindsay September 1, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

    While I understand your concern and have certainly had similar concerns myself (the what do I get syndrome), I feel you have gone to an extreme side with your views. Are you saying praising a child is bad? That’s the feeling I get. I for one would not have wanted to go to a school or classroom where adults did not tell me I was doing a good job because they worried about it being excessive. You know studies also show that giving excessive praise to “behavior problems” actually helps them improve behavior because it helps them build intrinsic motivation. They get nothing more than being told they are doing well. Furthermore, how are students supposed to learn what behaviors are good or bad if the adults in their lives don’t guide them by telling them so. Maybe you are lucky enough to work in a school where students are taught this at home. I am not. My students need me to teach them those rules of society. Many of the programs you dislike so much can be used in very positive ways. My school does a clip chart system but kids can move up and down throughout the day based on their choices. I for one think this promotes plenty of opportunity for self reflection. Why did I move up or down? What can I do to improve my behavior or what should I keep doing well? Personally, I think you will be hard pressed to find some sort of discipline system that doesn’t involve at least a little public shaming as you call it. Do you really think standing next to the teacher at recess isn’t public shaming? Don’t you think knowing that is a punishment, even if the kids know its to keep them safe, will cause public shame? All those other kids will know johnny is standing next to you at recess because he made a mistake. So I’m confused by your logic and in my opinion superior attitude when it seems to me from that example you are doing the same thing.

    • Karen Langdon September 1, 2013 at 11:08 pm #

      Hi Lindsay. No, I certainly do not think have a praise-free classroom! I do think praise and encouragement is critical. However, I think we need to be careful about how we praise, and how much. In Becky Bailey’s Conscious Discipline she really brought it home for me in saying that kids want to be noticed, not judged. I think about this often. They want us to see what they are doing, and give them our attention for us, but they do not necessarily want us to place value on it, good or bad. I have worked really hard (and continue to work really hard) and using concrete, specific “noticings” with children. For example, I might say, “Max you just worked on tying your shoe for three whole minutes! You tried two different strategies, and you didn’t give up until you got it. That took perseverance.” I do not need to say “good job.” Instead, I took time to tell him specifically what I saw him do, and how it was helpful. It is a form of praise, absolutely. However, it also teaches Max what things will get attention when repeated, and what specific actions were valued.

      I know the praise/noticing/judging thing gets hazy, and I don’t want to try to split hairs with it. I simply do my best. In a system where you are simply adding points, moving clips, or changing cards, the child is missing those concrete examples that help them to repeat and generalize the behavior.

      I certainly work with children that need me to teach them the rules of society, and need to build this in them. We all do. I truly see that as the most important part of my job. As such, I think it is so important to think about how we are doing that.

      As for self reflection, I don’t know. Some kids may very well reflect if they have to move a clip or lose points. In my experience with color cards, the system was very ineffective for kids with repeated behavioral concerns. They were so used to being on “red,” that it was almost a foregone conclusion, rather than an opportunity or invitation to reflect.

      Finally, when it comes to recess, I think one of the key factors is that the consequence is in direct relation to the infraction. A child may stand next to me when they are unsafe on the playground – not because they goofed off during math time. And the language we use is key. If I say, “You are missing recess because you didn’t do your work,” it is completely different than saying, “I need to keep you close to me right now because I am worried you might hurt yourself on the playground. When your body is calmer, you can try again.”

      Please know, I am not pretending to be perfect at this. It is a daily process for me, and some days are better than others. But I really am hoping to get more people thinking and talking about it. I don’t think it is right that schools have mandated behavior systems, and hopefully if enough conversations happen, this can change.

    • Gail Przeclawski September 2, 2013 at 7:48 pm #

      Praise and encouragement are two different actions with two very different results. Praise is an outside judgement; “I like the way you printed your name”. The take away for the child is “I did good because it pleased my teacher/parent/adult”. Works great for little kids that still respect and want to please authority. When they become teenagers it is developmentally appropriate for them to not want to please adults but to please peers. “I like the way you can drink a whole six-pack without passing out.”

      • Karen Langdon September 2, 2013 at 8:40 pm #

        Yes! The phrasing is very important. “I like” statements from teachers are very common, and hard to get away from. However, noticing and encouraging is much more powerful and effective, and better for kids. Trying to identify for kids the pride THEY may feel after doing something well is also a great alternative. “You worked hard and found a way to solve that problem. You must feel proud of yourself.” It helps them connect their positive actions with positive feelings.

  10. Mrs Mars September 1, 2013 at 9:06 pm #

    I agree. What discipline isn’t public? If I wait until later and quiety speak to the student at his desk, all the other students will still see. If I quietly ask him to step outside for a private conference, all the other students will see and know why. I I give the “teacher stare”, the others will see. If a student breaks the rule in front of the classroom and you say nothing, the same discussion wil take place around the dinner table. “Johnny was during cartwheels during story time today.” Unless you are working at a school for the blind, the other students will still see and understand that Johnny is being inappropriate.

    While that does not mean that I have to reprimand Johnny over the morning announcements, it does mean that ANY action I take will more than likely be public. My issue is less about whether Dojo is right or wrong, and more about the thinking that because something does or does not work for one, must mean it won’t work for anyone.

    I don’t like it when teachers feel the need to police and criticize others. I respect your opinion and I hope that we can all respect and the thoughts, actions, opinions and experiences of others.

    • Karen Langdon September 1, 2013 at 11:18 pm #

      I am not trying to police others. I want to have a discussion. I really believe this is a very important issue in education, and it needs to be talked about. If we are not able to reflect on, evaluate, defend, and sometimes modify our methods, then that is concerning. I absolutely respect the opinions and experiences of others. I also believe in my right to express my opinions and defend them. I happen to be passionate about this issue, and hope to get others to really think about it. I am sure many start using behavior management systems like Dojo because they are the norm right now, rather than using them because they find it supports their philosophy.

  11. Lori rice September 1, 2013 at 9:09 pm #

    Thank you for stating what I was thinking about reward systems. I have written articles on classroom management and this is such an important conversation educators need to be having.

    • Karen Langdon September 1, 2013 at 11:19 pm #

      I would love to read what you have written! The discussion is very important.

  12. Mrs. White September 1, 2013 at 9:17 pm #

    I’m not really sure how you can write an entire blog post about a program that you’ve never tried. I struggled reading all of your criticisms of Class Dojo. You haven’t even given it a chance!
    I like the program, my students LOVE the program, and I have had positive feedback from parents.
    Keep doing what works for your classroom and your community of learners. I will keep using Class Dojo in mine. Not everything works for everyone!

  13. Kim September 1, 2013 at 9:27 pm #

    I also will be using Class DoJo this year. I agree with the others who are using it. It will not be publicly displayed at all times; however, my school does require that we have a behavior management system shown in the classroom. I will also mostly be giving positive points in the hopes that it will serve as a reminder to me to do this more often. Working in a school neighborhood where many children come with very little input from parents on how we should act at school, we have many discussions about what this should look like. When a student looses a point, I will be discussing with them why they lost the point and how to correct the behavior.This will be done in a personal setting, not in front of the others. The other students know for themselves that a certain child is misbehaving. They don’t need me to point it out. Expectations will be modeled and discussed at all times. It is very easy to criticize others when you are not sitting in our classrooms. My students will earn rewards for their points, but it will for such things as special privileges in the classroom. I have read more than one article on your sight and it always seems to be very critical of others.

    • Karen Langdon September 1, 2013 at 11:22 pm #

      I am very sorry if you think I am being critical of others. In fact, I am being critical of behavior management systems that I believe to be doing more harm than good. Please know that I am in a classroom every day too, and I deal with difficult behaviors every day. I am not pretending to have all the answers. I agree that we need to discuss and model expectations and have conversations with kids. I think these pieces are key. I think that when we link these things to rewards, points, etc, it diminishes their value.

  14. Jessica Hamilton September 1, 2013 at 9:32 pm #

    I have a very hard time reading this post. I do not think that it is very fair for someone to be so judging of a system that they have never used or tried. I am curious as to how you handle serious behaviors in your classroom. I imagine that you must be one of those people that do not believe in disciplining children, making your classroom a bit hectic. I, on the other hand, believe that children must learn that there are consequences for every choice that they make. There can be good consequences and bad consequences depending on that choice. I teach my students that they are in charge of the choices they make and they must think about their actions. Many children have a difficult time understanding this concept. They have a difficult time checking their behaviors and understanding their choices. Having a system in place (be it a clip chart or a point system) gives them feedback. It helps them to keep track of their choices and their behaviors. Many students need that. They need the visual. They need to SEE the consequence. That does not mean that Dojo or a clip chart has to be made public or a big deal. It is not an attempt to humiliate a child. As a parent, I give consequences to my children when they make a poor choice. I want them to learn from their mistakes and learn to make better choices. But they need to understand that every choice has a consequence (as a child and as an adult) and they will receive that consequence. My students are treated the same way. I am teaching them to become responsible children and future adults.

    • Karen Langdon September 1, 2013 at 11:29 pm #

      Hi Jessica. You have me all wrong. I absolutely believe in discipline, consequences, and choices. In fact, I completely agree with most of what you wrote. I want my students to learn from their mistakes, make better decisions, and understand consequences, both good and bad, for their actions. These are all REAL things. The clip/card/Dojo system is what is not real world. Feedback is important. I just don’t think moving clips or losing points is good feedback. I think we need to be more specific, both in what went wrong, but more importantly what we actually want the child TO do. If kids are to learn from their mistakes, they need to understand what they should be doing (not just what they shouldn’t be doing.) Systems leave that piece out, and rely on rewards and punishments as a motivator.

      Students do need consequences. They need consequences that relate to the behavior, and are ideally immediate. The best consequences, in my opinion, are natural consequences. For example, you took too long putting your stuff away in your locker, so you missed your chance to do the whiteboard activity. If they can’t be completely natural, they need to fit the “crime.” If they are being unsafe with scissors, they lose the privilege to work with scissors to finish that project. I don’t think moving clips or taking points relates to the actions at hand, which makes the teaching less effective. And discipline is supposed to be about teaching.

  15. mattBgomez September 1, 2013 at 9:48 pm #

    I have to agree with most of the issues discussed in this post. I have written about removing rewards and behavior systems in my classroom several times. The issue is these systems do work for the teacher but what works best for the teacher is not what matters. My main issue with systems like class dojo is they tend to put the teacher in control of behavior rather than giving the kids control. When kids act a certain way for points or rewards they are not in control of their behavior. As far as serious behavior concerns, these systems rarely work for those kids anyway. Teachers usually have to work one-on-one with those kids and develop relationships that lead to success. My suggestion is to skip the system and work on the relationships with all.

    • Lindsay September 1, 2013 at 9:53 pm #

      Interesting thought. My question is how do systems like cards, clips or class dojo put teachers in charge of student behavior? The students are the ones that are in charge of their behavior and their actions in my class. The clip or whatever I use is my way of helping them think about their actions and whether they should be repeated or changed. So I would consider teachers to be in charge of the reward or punishment with these systems not the behavior. Maybe you could clarify your thought for me there. I agree relationships need to be built for students to trust in you and your guidance as their teacher.

      • mattBgomez September 1, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

        Lindsay, I think the systems put the teacher in “control” because the kids are behaving mainly for the points or rewards. For the kids to be in control they need to be making choices for intrinsic reason. There were several times I wished I had a treasure box or stickers to give out during my first week this year because I know these systems help me. What I believe is they don’t help the kids be in charge of their own behavior and for that I am willing to struggle a little as I build those relationships. I also want to point out that I think many times these systems are a form of punishment. Any time you rewards/points are given to another child you are punishing the other kids. If you want to read more on this please check out Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn. I read it every summer!

        • Lindsay September 1, 2013 at 10:04 pm #

          I respect your opinion, however, I disagree I feel getting praised or being told you are doing well is an intrinsic motivation. At first, yes you may have to give out that praise, points, clip up often but eventually, if you are doing things right and focusing on positive behavior the students will not need the constant praise. The clip up or the point given quietly is motivation enough. They know they have done well. To me that is intrinsic motivation. Again, I still feel the children are in control in this situation, all I control is asking them to move their clip or giving them the point. The reason they get it is all in their control. If they want it bad enough they will earn it, if not they will not. My kids get no physical prizes for their clip up on the chart. I also don’t think it is punishment to the other kids. I find it is a model and a motivator for what they do need to do. I may not get every kid every time but when my kids are doing what they should they know it. I will look into that book though, I’m always interested in hearing other view points. Thanks!

          • Lindsay September 1, 2013 at 10:06 pm #

            Sorry forgot to ask something. I wonder to those who are very much against the clip systems and so on….what do you do to let kids know they are doing well? I am reading a lot of I don’t want to reward my students I want them to have intrinsic motivation. So what do you do to not reward them but let them know what they are doing is good?

          • Karen Langdon September 1, 2013 at 11:39 pm #

            I think the key is to be really specific with kids about what they are doing well. Rather than saying, “Good job!” you might say something like, “You didn’t give up on that math problem. You tried on your own, used your tools, and figured it out. You were really determined.” This type of praise gives the child general behaviors that they can repeat. They know exactly what they did well, and how it was helpful to them. It is more about labeling the good we are seeing, rather than just saying “good.” The last bit is key to intrinsic motivation – You were determined. Or you were helpful/patient/respectful/etc. This gives meaning to very abstract words, but also helps kids to see themselves as having those positive qualities. If they see themselves as a determined person, they may work extra hard on problems again in the future. Or, if they are giving up on something, you can remind them. “Remember how much determination you use when working on math? That quality will help you in writing too…”

          • mattBgomez September 1, 2013 at 10:12 pm #

            Lindsay, I felt the same way about the systems before reading the book. I really respect how you have stated your viewpoint and disagreed without taking it personal. We are all trying to grow and do what is best for our own classroom. My question is how do you handle kids that don’t know their letters or can count? Do we create public lists and point systems to motivate them? Would you move their clip for forgetting the letter “B”? I feel behavior should be treated the same because the kids are all learning how to be social beings, it is not something they should already know how to “do” Thanks for the great conversation!

      • Karen Langdon September 1, 2013 at 11:34 pm #

        I think the system puts the teacher in charge because the teacher is the one who decides when a clip is moved, a point is added, etc. So the teacher is in position of judge. Yes, the kids are the ones acting, but we also want the kids to be thinking about their actions and how they felt (to them and others). If they get negative feedback from the teacher by moving a clip or losing points, the child feels bad. Likely they feel bad because they lost points, lost a reward, etc. At this point they are not feeling bad because they did something unkind or didn’t finish their work. So their reflection is convoluted. However, when the discipline becomes more of a discussion between student and teacher, the teacher is able to elicit this thinking from the child. Then the child becomes in charge of judging how their behavior impacted them and others. Is that more clear, or more confusing?

    • Karen Langdon September 1, 2013 at 11:30 pm #

      I agree completely. Relationships are the key. And the systems do put the teacher in the position of judge. We want the kids to be able to self regulate!

  16. Lindsay September 1, 2013 at 10:39 pm #

    Sometimes yes. When I taught 3rd grade we would build an ice cream sundae as kids learned their times tables. It was a visual thing for students to see how they were progressing and be able to see how they were doing compared to other students. There was no shaming of those who struggled but it was a good visual for students and a good motivator to at least practice their times tables. We also used a program called study island and kids earned blue ribbons on the study system for passing levels and tests and we would hang those blue ribbons up to show who was earning and doing a good job. So yes at times, I do create public lists for how kids are learning, again, I think it is a good model and comparison for kids to see where they could be as opposed to where they are. Does this work with all students, no, but no system will work perfectly with all students. I also do not shame or make students feel bad even when results are displayed publicly. Students are praised or given kuddos for progress of any type and at any rate. However, I have found with the students at my school this public showing does help with many things because these students often don’t know what a “good” or “advanced” student should be doing. I feel they need to see where they could be where that bar is and what they want to work towards through small manageable goals. Yes, thanks for the great conversation as well. Not completely swayed, but it is giving me things to think about.

    • Miss Night September 5, 2013 at 8:56 am #

      Lindsay, I have to jump in and say that any public display that is intended to create comparison between children is problematic. Yes, children will inevitably compare their work to their classmates’ work any time you do a bulletin board or display, but if the PURPOSE of that display is to highlight blue ribbons vs. those who have not achieved blue ribbons, it is harmful to the creation of a caring classroom community. I agree that it is good for children to see examples of excellence, but that is where a clearly laid out rubric is appropriate. Children can strive for excellence, but striving to produce work “just like Mikey’s” or “just like Maria’s” is not the goal.
      To me, a key question is: how does a public display make ALL the children FEEL? If it is going to create shame for the kids who most need to feel pride, it is time to reconsider the display.
      Finally: intrinsic motivation is defined as children doing the right or best thing BECAUSE it is the right or best thing to do. As soon as they are doing it in pursuit of praise, it is not intrinsic motivation. You may be ok with using praise or points as extrinsic motivators, but make no mistake: they remain extrinsic.

  17. Karen Langdon September 1, 2013 at 10:54 pm #

    I know that the fact that I have not used Class Dojo is a sticky point for many of the commenters. However, I have used color cards and sticker charts in the past. The truth is, they are all the same. The reason I wrote specifically about Class Dojo is that I am concerned that many teachers are hearing about a “great new interactive behavior program” and are jumping in, not fully considering what it is. Because I fully believe that all of these systems are essentially the same, I feel quite comfortable in discussing my feelings and experiences with them.

  18. Matt September 2, 2013 at 12:20 pm #

    I think this article from a leading psychologist has a lot to contribute to this discussion.

    Unsolicited Evaluation Is the Enemy of Creativity. If you’re looking for research and expert analysis instead of “it works for me and my kids love it”, this is for you.

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201210/unsolicited-evaluation-is-the-enemy-creativity

    • Karen Langdon September 2, 2013 at 1:00 pm #

      Thanks for the link! I particularly like this section: “Evaluation generally promotes effort—because we want to impress the evaluator—but effort is insufficient for creativity. You can’t be more creative just by trying harder. To be creative, you have to back off of yourself in a way that permits the full engagement of certain unconscious mental processes—processes that generate unusual associations and new ideas. Those unconscious processes work best when you are playing, not when you are striving for praise or some other reward.” I don’t think that teachers are necessarily consciously judging kids. However, the systems that allow the teacher to control whether or not they are earning points ARE systems for judgment. And it triggers in kids the desire to please. So, lots of effort can go into trying to please the teacher/earn points/change cards. But this article showcases how that is a very different process from thinking creatively, free of risk. Thanks again!

  19. Shannon Rossi September 2, 2013 at 12:25 pm #

    While I appreciate your point of view, I use ClassDojo as a completely private conversation about classroom behavior between me, my student, and his/her parents. I use negative points after verbal warnings. I try to always give explanations for points so parents can have conversations with their children on a daily or weekly basis. I would never project the app for the whole class to see. It is one tool I use and I will continue to use it to help the line of communication between me and the parents in my class.

  20. Will Richardson September 2, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

    Hey Karen,

    Hang in there. ;0)

    Judging from your comments, I’d guess you’ve read Carol Dweck’s “Mindset,” but if you haven’t, you might want to pick it up. Years of reserach showed that praise does not build self-esteem; in fact, it actually jeapordizes it. And I totally agree that systems like Class Dojo create a reliance on feedback that looks nothing like the real world. As a parent, I would really have a problem if my own kids were a part of this type of behavior modification practice.

    • Karen Langdon September 2, 2013 at 8:33 pm #

      Hi Will – Thanks for the comment. We have studied and discussed excerpts of “Mindset” in PD sessions at my school, so I am definitely familiar with her work. I have not read it all the way through though – thanks for the reminder to do so. I want something different for my daughter when she starts school as well. Hopefully conversations like these can make that happen.

  21. Robin September 2, 2013 at 5:01 pm #

    Thanks for this. It breaks my heart when students come to me after I’ve complimented them for their responsible choices, and ask for a treat or prize (because that’s what they’re used to). Addicts is the perfect term.

    • Karen Langdon September 2, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

      Yes – it really shows that they are reliant on outside motivators. So sad.

  22. TechGirlJenny September 2, 2013 at 6:34 pm #

    I’d be interested to hear your thoughts and opinions on gamification in the classroom. I think Class Dojo is more about meeting the kids where they are and today’s kids really enjoy playing games. Normally the whole point of a game is to earn points or lives and continue earning what you need to win the game. Should we not use gaming for learning in general or just steer clear of using it for classroom management?

    • mattBgomez September 2, 2013 at 6:52 pm #

      TechGirlJenny I will reply to the gamification question.

      When kids are playing games for education they are in control of the game. I think it is a big stretch to compare the two but if you were going to it would require the teacher to allow the kids to decide when and how to use Class Dojo.

      Yes kids enjoy games, digital tools, the graphics in CLass Dojo and even the sounds but kids enjoy many things that are not best for them. Gamification has a place in education but not with classroom management.

    • Karen Langdon September 2, 2013 at 8:38 pm #

      I think Matt gave an excellent response. I do think there are times and places for meeting kids where they are through games. For example, I had a student who was struggling a great deal with learning his letters. I constructed an alphabet book completely based on Mario characters to help him learn them. He was more familiar with Mario than with many every day things, so we used what he knew.

      I also think there is a lot to be learned from all sorts of games. However, I agree that behavior management is not the place for it. Once again, behavior, self regulation, empathy, and things of this nature are very REAL. I want my students to be skilled at managing themselves and their relationships in the real world.

  23. Tim Lavallee September 3, 2013 at 1:14 am #

    Thanks for this post. I’ve been ambivalent about Dojo as my colleagues have all jumped on board. I’m not fond of the public display or the negative points. Luckily, I teach in a Positive Behavior school that uses its own currency reward based on several posted and modeled classroom and school wide behavior matrices. Most of colleagues are using Dojo based on the matrices for positive reinforcement only. We also take discipline very seriously, and faculty/staff are trained on how and when to issue consequences and how to “deescalate” behavior problems.

    I had a classroom chart with Velcro buttons my first year. It was made by a colleague as a welcome gift and I was told I would “need” it and how to “use” it. One day I overhead two of my third graders talking intensely. One said, “You’ll lose your button!” The other replied, “What the hell do I care about some stupid button?” I took the chart down after school that day and never went back to a tracking system again.

    Eventually, I did add, and still use, a “time-out” seat. I call it the Hokey-Pokey Zone. It’s where yo go to turn yourself around, and that’s what it’s all about. The kids get it, and you know what? It works. Most of my students who find themselves in the HPZ are there by request because they simply want a solitary place to work. They might sit next to a kid who fidgets too much for their liking, or one who needs to whisper read her work, or they wan to be away for the distractions in their own desk. On the rare occasion that a student is sent there to turn around, that student has already made him or herself a behavior spectacle, and the HPZ serves as a circuit-breaker, and removes the student from his/her audience. Instruction can continue, and the student is always welcome to return to his/her own desk whenever ready to be a positive part of the lesson/task.

    In my fourth year of teaching, an observer told me in a post conference once that she felt my verbal reminder to a misbehaving student didn’t “protect his dignity”. That hit home. The reminder I gave was the type I’d given out many times, and with approval from administrators and colleagues as sound. The more I thought about it, the more I put myself in that child’s shoes, and realized that the teacher has the ability to make a child feel big or small with just a few simple words. I chose to make my students feel big from that day on, and it has paid dividends.

    I do correct my students still, but I try to disarm with humor that doesn’t target the student. When I need to talk with a student privately, it is often under the pretense of looking at their work together in a reading/writing/math conference. We do look at their work faithfully, but I also take a moment to say something like, “I think you noticed the behavior earlier wasn’t getting the reaction you wanted. Please correct that so you don’t have to face further consequences.” or “I really enjoyed your participation in the discussion. Let’s see more of that because that’s the type of attention you want, right?” or “Which behavior do you think your classmates will talk about at home tonight?” For the ones who are having a harder time, I usually ask them to tell me what I can do to help them. Do they want a seat change? Is there a special task they can be in charge of? Finally, I let them know I have to draw a line and involve their parents if the behavior continues. All of this puts the child in charge, and intrinsically motivates the child to follow the rules, rather than earn a reward or avoid a consequence. They’re not worried about accumulating or losing something based on arbitrary teacher decisions. That’s not to say Dojo and similar aren’t worthy. Many of colleagues are having great success with it. It’s just not for me.

    • Karen Langdon September 4, 2013 at 6:55 pm #

      You bring up a lot of important points. Protecting dignity is definitely key to keep in mind whenever we speak to kids. It really does take effort and practice to change the way we speak, but it matters.

      I also think that time out is effective when you use it in the way that you have described – to give a child a chance to calm down, regroup, and rejoin the group. It is especially powerful when kids learn to give themselves a quick break. When kids can self monitor and realize they need a minute to calm down, that is amazing! I am sure many adults would benefit from that skill. And I think the Hokey Pokey Zone is a fun way to describe it! This is such a different thing from the traditional “time out.” Thanks for sharing. :)

  24. David Truss September 3, 2013 at 1:45 am #

    Hi Karen,
    I wrote this, not too long ago, with similar sentiments: Classes of Donkeys

    I also enjoyed the conversation that came from it. No, I’ve never tried Class Dojo, but I also haven’t tried corporal punishment… and don’t need to in order to know that behaviour modification is not something I want done ‘to’ students.
    Dave

    • Karen Langdon September 4, 2013 at 6:51 pm #

      Thanks for the comment, and the link! I agree – there are some things we don’t need to try to know they are not for us. I enjoyed your article, and am glad to hear that you were also corresponding with Class Dojo. Nice work!

  25. Jennifer September 3, 2013 at 9:51 am #

    I would like to point out that Class Dojo has customizable goals. I used it for formative assessment on a scale. 1= working on understanding 4= demonstrates and applies understanding

    The goals do not have to be posted for public view.

    I think that it is a mistake to throw this app under the bus without having used it, even in a trial capacity.

    • Karen Langdon September 4, 2013 at 6:50 pm #

      I can respect the idea of using an app such as this for personal teacher use. For example, tracking student behavior, with customizable goals, which you then use to communicate with parents. My issue is with using it as a behavior management tool with students, based on points.

  26. Bon Crowder (@mathfour) September 3, 2013 at 2:28 pm #

    This is the same thing that happens to adult learners (me, in particular) when prizes are given out for people answering questions. They (and I) start strategizing on how to win a prize – not on the learning.

    Seems both K12 and corporate trainers are being misled.

    Thanks for sharing this!

    • Karen Langdon September 4, 2013 at 6:49 pm #

      True enough! I always notice that when we do staff “jeopardy” – the prizes and winning takes over our attention.

  27. Jim Dillon September 5, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

    Thanks so much for writing this. I was not aware of Class Dojo but not surprised about it’s existence. It would be a perfect fit for PBIS. I was an elementary principal for seventeen years and we used cooperative learning, classroom meetings, gave students as much choice as we could. We viewed “discipline” problems as teachable moments. As a result we had minimal behavior issues. I came to the simple conclusion that if you met a person’s developmental needs there would be no reason to act out or misbehave. We took what we did and applied it to the school bus and developed a program called the Peaceful School Bus and our behavioral referrals on the bus dropped dramatically because the kids on the bus were empowered as a community and took care of each other. I have since retired and I am devoted to trying to spread the word about more human ways of teaching our children. Here is a blog post I wrote on PBIS that received quite a few comments that you might find interesting:

    http://smartblogs.com/education/2013/07/02/a-problem-with-success/

    Thank you for sharing your insights and wisdom.

    • Karen Langdon September 5, 2013 at 11:56 pm #

      I absolutely agree that meeting developmental needs is the best way to reduce behavior issues. All sorts of behavior are a form of communication, and disruptive behavior is always communicating a need (for attention, space, control, or as you put it so much more positively, autonomy, belonging, and competency.) If we can find ways to effectively meet these needs without incentives, we are growing individuals with great self control and self respect. Thanks so much for sharing the link!

  28. Lindsey September 6, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    I just came across this blog because my son is in the second grade this year. His new teacher uses Class Dojo. At first I really liked the idea and got the app on my phone so I can check on him throughout the day. However, as his points decline because he is talking out of turn, or not keeping his hands to himself, and I watch the percentage of his behavior go down and down for the week I am starting wonder. I keep talking to him about it and he just doesn’t seem to care. His response is but I got green points earlier in the week! I ask him why he didn’t have these problems last year and he says because we didn’t have Class Dojo. He has made it clear he wishes I would just delete the app. Makes me wonder if maybe this Class Dojo is leading the teacher to expect too much from a 7 year old boy? Or is it making him want to rebel more? Or does he just not like it because then I know more than usual? I like knowing what’s going on because I can discipline him accordingly but I’m just not sure he looks at it as positive. I also was not aware of the classroom white board. If my son has seven negative points for the week and everybody else has 7 green ones how does that make him feel? Does it encourage him to do good or does it make him feel hopeless? Granted I want him to know his behavior is not ok but I don’t know if this is the way. Just thought I’d throw a little parental thoughts in there.

    • Karen Langdon September 6, 2013 at 7:02 pm #

      Thanks for weighing in! I think the parent perspective is SO important. You are definitely asking some important questions when it comes to how your son is feeling. It is important to know that not ALL teachers project the full class points. Many commenters have said they do not do that, so that would be something to clarify with your son’s teacher.

      From your conversations, it sounds like the system is not giving your son an idea of expected behaviors, or specifically what he is or is not doing well, which is definitely part of the problem. It is tough, because a full day at school is long. There are so many instances where a child may do well, make a mistake, or have trouble. One “score” at the end of the day does not give a lot of information about the specifics, and it does not give a child credit for what they did well.

      I also think it is true that kids “give up” after a while with the system. If the child is consistently losing points, they may just throw in the towel (but I suspect also feel pretty upset inside about it.)

      Anyway, I really appreciate your perspective!

  29. Melissa September 6, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

    So you admit to never trying the class dojo application but that makes you the perfect person to write such an in depth analysis on how evil it is to children’s self esteem in the classroom? I personally use it for my K class and they love it as do the parents. Class dojo saves time since the parents can login at the end of the school day to see their child’s progress ( I refuse to update progress until that point so no one is sitting and cringing over their child’s behavior all day) it also frees my day to spend more time teaching and less time writing disciplinary notes home. The children earn rewards for good behavior and it is a great incentive to keep them wanting to participate in class productively. There is no public shaming of behavior in my school system using class dojo. Anyone who does is barbaric and is abusing the purpose of the application. I recommend that teachers try it themselves not rely on the dishonest opinion of your column.

    • Lyndsey September 14, 2013 at 1:12 pm #

      I have been successfully using Class Dojo for the last 2 years and have already set it up for this year. The positives that I have found using this system include:

      1. Students can now take more responsibility for their actions, behaviors, and class work by checking their Dojo points and with gentle reminders from me as to what the expectations are.

      2. Class Dojo has encouraged and increased parental involvement in the class and their child’s behavior. The reports are easy to understand, allow space for comments to praise or explain any negative points, and give instant gratification. I have seen many people use traffic light systems or clip charts in which they must record the color a student was on every day for the parents to see. I did this my 2nd year of teaching along with my team and there was never adequate time to document any behavior issues for parents on the recording form.

      3. Currently I teach in Abu Dhabi in the UAE at an all Emirate, Arabic speaking school, where we are trying to teach all children to be bilingual in both Arabic and English. I have found that using Class Dojo is engaging to my second language learners, allows them to understand easily and monitor their points, and is a great visual representation. I do not display Dojo all the time, but will do updates during the day to check on our points, and to remind students about class expectations in order to encourage more positive behavior.

      4. We are moving ever so quickly into a world that is fast paced, technology driven, and leaves little down time for teachers. Using Class Dojo has freed my time (as others have mentioned before me) for more valuable teaching practices and one-to-one observations of my kiddos.

      5. If any of my students are on a documented behavior plan, IEP, or 504 plan, this is a great system to have data collected. If for example little Johnny has a plan in place to work on behavior and aggression, Class Dojo collects data on how many times I give points to Johnny for displaying positive behavior, or docking points for negative behavior, something that was not as easy to do while teaching before.

      Finally I think you should try Class Dojo at least once before being so open to trouncing on it. I find it hard to believe that a system that encourages positive behavior, allows students to learn from their mistakes, and is used GLOBALLY can simply be described as “zapping children back to work”!

      • Lyndsey September 14, 2013 at 1:15 pm #

        In addition I know that every teacher has their own methods of how they use the points system but I teach 1st grade currently and have taught Kindergarten before, and each time I have used Class Dojo, I always reset the points daily so that even if a student had a bad day that day, they will get a clean slate the next day to try again.

  30. Jim Dillon September 14, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    I have commented before but feel a need to comment again. This is an important conversation to have and it does elicit strong opinions. I think that the debate is not really about Classroom Dojo but goes much deeper to our assumptions about human development and the basic purpose of school. Our educational system has been based on a behavioral approach that views all behavior as learned as a result of stimulus and response schedules of reinforcement. That is a legitimate point of view and there is a lot of research showing these approaches as effective. There however other ways of viewing human behavior that have had much less influence on educational practice. There is a whole body of research in social psychology that explains human behavior much differently. I highly recommend one book that educator should read, Why We Do What We Do by Edward Deci. He presents his research on human motivation and it offers a very different perspective on learning and motivation. Agree or disagree it is worth seeking out a different perspective from the one that has been the traditional one influencing our whole structure of education. I also recommend reading John Dewey’s My Pedagogical Creed-you can download for free from the internet-it presents a philosophical alternative to our current educational philosophy.

    • Karen Langdon September 14, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

      Thank you. It is absolutely true that this is about something much more than Class Dojo, and how that app may or may not be used. I wrote the post about Class Dojo because it is gaining popularity right now, and I was hoping to get people to give it a second thought before jumping on the bandwagon. However, the real issue is using a token economy in the classroom. Like you said, the behavior modification system is what I am calling into question, whether we are talking about points, marbles in a jar, names and check marks on the blackboard, stickers on a chart, or a colored stop light.

      I wrote a post some months ago about using sticker charts, and I received many similar comments and arguments. It is, like you said, the norm in education. Changing that norm is challenging, but I believe it is for the best.

      I initially learned all about behavioral psychology in college, learning about how Pavlov trained dogs to drool when he rang a bell, just by pairing food with the sound. That idea has never left me – that this is a very effective way to train dogs. And that I want to teach children with more depth than that.

      I very much appreciate your reading recommendations, and for adding some perspective and insight into this conversation!

  31. Kate September 16, 2013 at 9:11 pm #

    I think if I were to teach in the ideal setting where parents actually put a value on education and my students wanted to learn for all the right reasons, then I would have no need for any sort of positive behavior management system. I worked in a very high income school for 3 years and after the first few months of school, I no longer needed any sort of behavior management system. Now I work in a very low income school and I basically had to start with my positive behavior management system from the first day of school. My students lack a lot of basic social skills, I have to spend at least 30 minutes a day on team building exercises because they are just downright nasty to each other. The only way that I can keep focus in the class is to reward points. I do not award points for getting answers right, but for participating(before I started this, they would sit there staring at me like I had two heads) I award points for students who listen to the directions I have given the first time, for students who are genuinely working hard. I do give out negatives when the need arises but mostly for being off task and not listening to directions. I do not publicize the points except to the individual students on Friday who get to use their money at the school store. I talk to them about their negatives if there were any and we discuss ways that we can turn them around. I wish that my students were intrinsically motivated but some kids just need a different approach.

    • mattBgomez September 16, 2013 at 9:37 pm #

      I know you are in a tough situation but one thing I refuse to believe is that parents don’t value education. They might not be able to show it or have the time to be part of education like high income places but I believe all parents value education. Much like we believe all parents can learn I believe all parents care. I hope your year gets better!

  32. Mark Hankins September 24, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

    In real life score is often kept. Pro athletes, bill collectors and fighter pilots, to name a few.

    But I was also surprised nobody mentioned the monster study of 1939. The science is old.

    • Karen Langdon September 24, 2013 at 10:15 pm #

      Wow – I must admit I had never read about the monster study. Definitely immoral, but also powerful evidence that what we say to children matters.

  33. Lila September 26, 2013 at 8:03 pm #

    Interesting. I was looking for information of interpreting Dojo’s specific task-based rewards system, since my older daughter is EXTREMELY extrinsically motivated. Cognitive behavior therapy was invented for people like her. (And me.) She’s doing great. The moment she saw she could get points, she started focusing more and now she’s doing great.

    I’m not sure how no reprimanding of negative behavior in an elementary classroom would ever work. I mean, would you not inevitably have to say, “Stop making fart noises and please pay attention.” And would that not obviously draw attention to the fact that the child in question was not on task? I feel that Class Dojo just provides the same feedback in a visual way that kids today, who learn math and phonics on the computer, will respond to. It’s effective behavior management.

    Sure, when a child gets into patterns, then you need to address root causes. But for most children, who are not delayed or have no behavioral problems, this is a way to give positive feedback frequently and in a way that can be backed up at home.

    Most importantly, it is deeply unfair and borderline cruel to ask the majority of students who are well behaved to sit there at the mercy of a few special snowflakes whose behavior must be rewarded no matter what. Precious little things, whatever will they do if they are told to stop making farting noises? He’s damaged for life! Meanwhile, my own child is forced to do more work as homework because the material is not covered in class. Special Snowflake no doubt is not doing homework, but I’m sure his parents have an excuse for that.

    As a kid who hated distractions in school, if you don’t want to be tased, Dojo’ed, told to knock it off, put in time out… How about you just stop goofing off and pay attention? If you don’t want someone to tell you your behavior is harmful, then don’t do harmful things. It is truly that simple. If you can’t, then you can expect a lifetime of people implementing carrot-and-stick approaches to keep you in line, because there are 7+ billion people on this planet and we have lives, too. We don’t want to miss the math lesson because you just HAD to make a fart noise.

  34. harold October 3, 2013 at 8:00 pm #

    i love class dojo

  35. Chad October 13, 2013 at 4:28 am #

    My sons 4th grade class is using classdojo. I really have no interest at this time.
    My son is smart and not a trouble maker, I’m not concerned he lost a point for blurting or giggling.
    It seems there will be too much emphasis on the end of the day and the points.
    Also seems like more work for a teacher, constantly having to keep up with every minute behavior and action for up and down movement on a chart!
    Also, from the papers my son brought home, other teachers in the school can give or takeaway points, like when going to the lunchroom or restroom.

    Kids will be constantly worried about points!! My sons teacher sends home a weekly paper with the point winners and of course there are kids whose names will never be on that paper.

    I do think teachers will award points to their favorites also and just how accurate can this be realistically? With 25 students in 7 hours there are thousands of chances for points, no teacher can monitor their kids this extremem, unless their a robot.

    Technology does not have to be enbraced because its there! Everything cannot be solved with technology or an app.

    This makes me think of the 55 rules book which is just basic things most kids learn at home or learn by just being humans.
    My sons school actually spent valuable time teaching 500 kids how to clap, something they were doing when they were in diapers. What a waste of time.
    There are actually 26 rules about eating!!
    The rule about not turning around on the bus, you must sit forward and not talk to someone behind you, really??
    Sounds like schools are becoming little Catholic prep schools or little prisons where kids are scared to be kids without worrying about points or some 55 rules.
    They are told exactly what to eat, which is bland, leftover, extra lean, skim milk, pink slime, etc. Food machines are not allowed, no more restaurant food brought in for your kid, no colas, kids hate schools now more than ever and seem to learn less. Some kids are told by bus drivers no talking on the school bus! Some kids spend 2 hours a day on a darn bus and can’t talk or play with an electronic toy??
    No wonder so many kids are home schooled.
    Yes, Mr. Clark won an award but the web says it was awarded by his publisher, big whoop. I think I’ll write a book, 110 rules, will be twice as good as Mr. Clarks. It will be easy, just don’t do this, don’t do that, over and over.

  36. PAM October 28, 2013 at 8:12 pm #

    Thirty years ago sticker charts displayed in the classroom were epic. A visual for all to see. My smart intelligent 6 year old, who only had wonderful reviews prior, figured out that if you were not good in the first week (a sad sticker) you would not get the prized treat at the end of the month. Why be good for the rest of the month? Once I figured out his dilemma we made our own sticker chart at home. Regardless of his behavior “grade” at school he could still get the grand prize. Ours was rewarded weekly and no more problems goals for him to have to live up to.
    The issue with this behavior control today is followed immediately by the tracking phenomenon. Labeling a child who may be trying as best he can for the particular stage in development can destroy him for the rest of his life with the tattle tales echoing a five year old malady. Absolutely ridiculous. I am reminded of the stockade from the middle ages. Throwing apples at the criminal behavior of another, only here it is a chart with a tail that never ends.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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