Thoughts on Class Dojo – Class Don’tJo

I’m cross-posting this from own Blog as I genuinely want to seek answers. I do want to make it clear that I am not criticising Class Dojo itself but my own use of it. I know there are people using it in better ways than me so please feel free to add your thoughts afterwards. Class Dojo looks good; teachers and students clearly love it. But is it a BETTER, more effective way of managing the classroom than other things? I want to be convinced but, thus far, can’t really say that I am. So, apologies if you read it first time round but let’s collect examples of ways to use Class Dojo more effectively than I have.

Cross-posted from Just Trying to Be Better Than Yesterday

After a promising start, I’ve become a bit disillusioned with Class Dojo. In case you are unaware, Class Dojo is a behaviour management system – their words – which promotes positive behaviour in the classroom. I won’t explain it in detail. Have a look here for more. Kids love it because they get points and create a wee avatar for themselves. Teachers love it because they can display progress on the projectors and whiteboards in their classroom. Win/ win? Well, I’m not so sure.

What started well – the younger kids were constantly asking about points and competitive to get to the top – it became exactly that. A competition. After a few weeks, inevitably perhaps, the ‘running order’ took on a familiar look. The boys who had previously been poorly behaved started to drift to the bottom of pile – it is not so easy for them to remain consistently on task, or always stay focused – and others began to pull ahead.

The system began to reaffirm the class stereotypes and reaching the bottom become a race and then, inevitably, an identity. I’m fully prepared to put my hand up and admit that it could have been my failure to implement the system properly but class dojo wasn’t working for me.

As Shirley Clarke says:

‘Children who are used to rewards tend in future not to choose activities when there are no rewards to be had, and also prefer less demanding tasks.’

It had become a system of rewards with an inevitable ending. I may as well have hung a string of mars bars at the front and promised them to the good kids. My reading and understanding of Mindsets didn’t seem to square the circle. Points didn’t add up for me. (sorry). Having had a similar experience with Accelerated Reader I have now, perhaps temporarily, stopped using Class Dojo.

However, the point of this post is not to be negative about a resource that others are using more constructively than me. The whole point of my blog is to reflect and discuss. What was I doing wrong? Or what was wrong with Class Dojo I could fix before giving up on it?

My biggest problem was/is with the original ‘reward’ list, both negative and positive. My 30 mixed ability S1 (year8?) kids had no problem with the good things. They could ‘do’ teamwork; they generally ‘helped others’, participated, often worked hard, were on task etc. Although I really believe that vague comments about hard work don’t help.

However some of these young kids come from chaotic backgrounds where disruption, disrespect and the absence of anywhere to even do homework is a real problem. Of course schooling should be about teaching them these qualities but making that very public is really bad, in every way. Sorry. I found that many were switched off when they started losing points for this and many were always going to do that.

I’ve stopped using it for the moment until I can come up with a set of ‘rewards’ that all can realistically achieve, consistently. Getting the comments right will be essential if this is to really work beyond a bit of fun. Otherwise it is merely a tech tool which is only skin deep and, potentially, very damaging.

16 thoughts on “Thoughts on Class Dojo – Class Don’tJo

  1. Carol Rae

    I use Class Dojo with my P6 class and they genuinely love it. I wouldn’t say it’s ‘better’ than other reward systems of awarding points but it is novel and the children have responded really well to a fresh take on something they are already familiar with and respond well to. I think this is the point; finding a tool that helps your particular group of learners is key. This works well for mine but I don’t think its a blanket approach. Also, I don’t take off points although they know I could. I try instead to notice the positive in the class, pay big attention to it whilst ladling on the points… has a far more positive effect than taking points off.

    1. kennypieper Post author

      Thanks Carole,
      Appreciate your thoughts. I suppose my point is that, like many behavioural management tools, does it seem to favour those who, let’s face it, behave well anyway. Can that cause demotivation?

  2. amweston

    I read your post with interest as I plan to start using Class Dojo with my P3 class tomorrow. My plan is that I will introduce it the children tomorrow reward points for each of the class rules they follow eg trying their best, listening etc. The children do respond to positive reinforcement so I am not going to use the negative points. My alternative would be to set up reward cards for each child and hand out stickers – I am hoping that class dojo will be more visual for the children. I will keep you posted on how I get on.

    1. kennypieper Post author

      Hi Anne-Marie
      Looking forward to hearing how you get on. I think my problem stems from my concerns about ‘rewards’ in general. Research seems to suggest that are rarely beneficial in the long term.

  3. Kellie Smith

    Hi Kenny. I use class dojo with my Primary 6 class and so far it has been working well for me. I have a table of the week award for groups of children. If they win table of the week, each child at the table gets a cushion for their chair for the week (their choice of reward!). This system is used by any teacher who comes into the class and as I’m a probationer there are other teachers in my class every week. I use classdojo for my Star of the week which goes to an individual child each week. I have it open on a tab in the background all of the time and whenever a child does something I think is worthy of a point I award one, but explain why I’m giving it to them. For example, last week, one of the boys in my class helped another child with their maths so I gave him a point but told him why. Sometimes I give out the points at the beginning of the day if I haven’t had a chance to do it the previous day, so we are starting off on a good note. But they all know that there is a reward at the end of the week. I have a box of goodies that the star of the week gets to choose from. I also write in their homework jotter if they have won star of the week so that parents can see it. I realise that you are in secondary and this may not work with secondary students but maybe the child with the most points at the end of a period of time could win something like 10 minutes listening to their ipod or something. Hope this helps a little.

  4. kennypieper Post author

    Thanks Kellie
    That does sound similar to the things I have been trying but I have been taking points off. Of course, positive reinforcement is vital but should they not be aware that there is a consequence of their bad behaviour if it occurs? Not that it does in my class very often, but it seems to affect the usual small number,

    1. Kellie Smith

      I agree Kenny about the positive reinforcement but I think it is ok to use the negative points as long as the children have been warned about it. For example, I have told the kids in my class that although I won’t normally take off points I will if their homework is late. I suppose it’s about being selective with the use of it.

  5. Robert Drummond

    Hi Kenny,
    What a ‘pedagoo’ post! A post about something which is very popular among many teachers but which some teachers find isn’t working for them. Being able to reflect openly about things is a major strength of the pedagoo site for me.

    I used class dojo for a bit last year and don’t really use it any more so I suppose I too found it wasn’t what I wanted.

    I love your Shirley Clarke quote about rewards – I’ve adopted a similar strategy in some ways too. Encouraging the children that it’s not about a sticker, nor what I think, it’s about what they think and how their work matches the success criteria, and how they can improve it.

    The things I didn’t get on with the Dojo were pretty much the same you… It wasn’t a difference maker. It was a bit of a reinforcer of pre-existing behaviours. And I found I wasn’t good at recording every instance of goo behaviour I found (I never used the negative behaviours as that was something I wasn’t comfortable with)

    I wonder if I would find a use for it a short term tool. To setup just one behaviour, maybe good in-group support, and running that behaviour for a short time, to avoid the ‘slow slide down’ of some children who find the time period too long. There is a also setting up a behaviour which we know some of our more lively children can genuinely succeed in (such as asking good questions?). The genuine success the child achieves in that criteria, might help develop the confidence and esteem they need to change other behaviours in class.

    Finally, I am personally uncomfortable with the idea of a negative system (break time missed, points off, etc) for no homework being handed in. I reward great homework by blogging it and commenting on it, and by adding it to our homework display, placing it in our Edmodo group etc. I dont know the home circumstances of children and families so a ‘negative’ for no homework doesn’t sit easily with me, instead I try to positively encourage.

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  7. Anita

    Classdojo has to be used to suit all students. I have many students who have behavior problems, however, when I catch them doing something good, I reward them with points. Something as simple as bringing in their classroom supplies is rewarded. I also reset my points each day so everyone has an opportunity to gain positive points that day. The kids get a kick out of being able to go in and look at their performances at home as well. You also, as a teacher, have to learn to overlook some of the problems that students may not have much control over fixing, like their chaotic home lives or the fact that they are not monitored at home, is not their fault and you, as their teacher, should not make excuses for it….just do the best you can with what you have and as Tim Gunn says, “make it work”.

  8. Ellie

    I agree with whoever wrote this article. I am a fifth grader and I believe my teacher is beginning to show favoritism to some students whom she awards the most points to. There are people such as me who have positive points in the higher range and then there’s one boy in our class who has ADD and has -17 points. It is so unfair. She is always giving negative points, rarely positive points are given. Isn’t that what ClassDojo was meant to be?

  9. Carrie

    I use a group system in my class called Preferred Activity Time. It encourages the class to work as a team to meet their expectations. The ‘rewards’ are non tangible and are explained to them as time we can use to have a little fun and spend time together because we have worked so hard to keep the class running smoothly and completed what we needed to. I don’t have the time to reward students individually for things I expect them to do as students and human beings. If certain students struggle with their behaviour then I use personal behaviour tracking just for that student. I may use ClassDojo for just those students as opposed to paper charts. Just my two cents.

  10. Brittany

    I am a 2nd grade teacher and also struggle with the idea of giving tangible rewards for good behavior. Our school has started training in PBIS though, and class dojo fits in well with that behavioral system. I used dojo last year with my second graders and it seemed to work well and the kids loved it. I mostly give positive points and only take away points when kids have been warned and are showing repeat behaviors. At the end of the day, I reward the kids with the highest points with a “high five.” This is our school’s form of a “tickets” you can collect to earn a larger prize (lunch with the teacher, chewing gum in class, lunch with the principal, etc.)

    To prevent the “trouble-makers” from growing disillusioned, I tend to keep a closer eye on them and reward them for small positive acts. I also try and keep the points fairly even to keep up the competition. Kids don’t typically go over 10 points a day and I have never had anyone lower than a -2.

    Although I have mixed feelings about this software, I feel like it improves behavior and learning in my classroom, so I continue to use it cautiously. I also really like the quick “dings” the software makes when students get a positive point. When kids are off task, I look for the few who are working hard and give them a point. After the kids hear the ding, most of them immediately start working. It’s a nice positive way to remind the kids of what they are supposed to be doing without feeling like I am nagging them.

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