Archive for October, 2015

Class Dojo

October 28, 2015 Leave a comment

Reinforcement Class Dojo Positive Class Dojo Worksheet

Our school uses Class Dojo officially to positively reinforce student behaviour. I initially implemented Class Dojo at our school two years ago and have been responsible for refining the way that we use it. Currently, all grade 1-5 students (more than 200 students) have accounts on Class Dojo and their parents are linked as well.

We have come up with a reinforcement system where teachers can effectively track positive and negative behaviour using the system. The icons that you see above indicating positive behaviour derive specifically from our campus wide rules. There are also corresponding icons for negative behaviour in which teachers can give or take away points from students. In order to ensure that all teachers are updating the system, we use laminated chart (as seen above) where all subject teachers can mark information regarding student behaviour in the class. The teachers can indicate the lesson where an incident or event happened, whether it was positive or negative as well as the date when it happened.

In terms of positively reinforcing student behavior, teachers can give points for behaviors such as respecting others, sharing, working hard in English and so on. Specific examples of the aforementioned are: respect – saying please and thank you to other students, sharing – letting another student use an eraser or pen in time of need, working hard in English – participating in group work or volunteering to answer a question. On the opposite end of the behavior spectrum, negative behaviors include things such as being off task, fighting, running in the corridor, etc.

In order to ensure an effective process whereby behaviors are reinforced or discouraged by the teacher, I’ve instituted the following system. First when teachers observe any of the positive behavior in the chart above, the student will be praised and then given a class dojo point at the end of the day. Once students have accumulated 10 Dojo points, they can get a green card. After getting 3 green cards, they receive a certificate. It seems like these rewards are extrinsic but I would argue that certificates and green cards have sentimental value and the actual value of engaging in the positive behavior, in and of itself, is more rewarding.

Students who engage in negative behavior, lose points on Dojo. The loss of 1o points on Dojo means that the students will get a yellow card. After receiving 3 yellow cards, the students will be put on report. This means the students’ parents will be invited to the school and all subject teachers will use the form above to monitor student behavior every day to see if student behavior improves.

I would definitely recommend this system to teachers to implement across all grades. It provides for a great deal of consistency in the sense that all students know what is expected of them. It allows the school to create a unique set of principles that guide how they positively reinforce positive behavior and discourage negative behavior.

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Classroom Movement Observation

October 25, 2015 Leave a comment

Classroom Movement

The image above details my observation of the movement within a class. The class consisted of 24 students. For the sake of simplicity, I’ve just included one student group above and charted movement of 3 students from the group sitting at the front tables as well as the movements of the teacher.

The class observed was a year 4 (grade 3) English class. The students were all Chinese L1 speakers. The teacher was American. The teacher had the students engage in a guided reading session. Students in each group were given reading A to Z books based on their group reading level and had to complete a corresponding quiz and other supplementary activities in their groups for 40 minutes, which happened to be the length of the class.

During this time, the teacher circulated between groups to check student work. As can be seen in the image above, the classroom setup made it easy for the teacher to get around. The students were organized in semi circular groups facing the board so that they could interact with each other and still focus on the teacher.

The position of the teacher’s desk made it easy for students to consult with the teacher during the lesson. Although no students went to the teacher’s desk to ask questions, it could be helpful for the teacher and students if tape were put on the ground to indicate to the students where they should line up and stop. Otherwise, students may crowd around the teachers’ desk or push or shove if the situation is not managed properly.

During the lesson, most students stayed within their groups without moving around very much. There were several exceptions that I decided to focus on as these exceptions were either A) undirected and unpurposeful, B) undirected and purposeful, or C) directed and purposeful.

Note: The arrows in the image not only indictate the actions of these 3 exceptions but also other types of general movement possible within the class period.

Student 1 engaged in an undirected and unpurposeful action when he went to the interactive whiteboard. It is not clear why he decided to this other than to get the attention of his group mates and to make the class off task. It was said that this student often has issues staying on task and has a habit of moving around when he shouldn’t, touching items in the class that do not belong to him, and standing up inappropriately during class.

Based on my observations, it might have been better to move him to a position in the classroom where he might not be around as many distractions, perhaps near the window or in the middle group table.

Student 2 engaged in a non-directed, but purposeful movement when she went to get a class dictionary from the back of the classroom. Actually, the dictionary should have already been on her desk at the start of class, but apparently she forgot to do this and got up without raising her hand to go get the dictionary.

Again, this class was mostly on task so there weren’t any major issues with this movement, but you can imagine if more students had also forgotten their dictionaries, it would have caused a lot of unnecessary commotion and taken away from precious teaching time. It would have been better, in my opinion, if the teacher had placed some boxes in the middle of each group for students to include important items that they might need for the guided reading session such as pens, pencils, markers, and dictionaries. The close proximity of these items would better enable the teacher to keep track of what the students are doing.

Student 3 engaged in directed student movement when she went to the computer to read RAZ Kids unit. I was told that she was allowed to do this as she was one of the highest level readers in the class so this would give her the opportunity to be challenged. The proximity of this student’s desk to the computer station made it easy for her to get to the computer without disturbing others. Nonetheless, it seems like the class might benefit from having more computers in the classroom. I think at least one more computer placed on the table on the left hand side of the classroom would allow for a better flow of movement around the class.

Mostly students were well behaved and I believe this had a lot to do with the classroom dynamic and how the desks were organized. Groups tended to focus on the task given to them and were rarely off task.

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High Performance Learning Environments

October 15, 2015 Leave a comment

In the lesson above, I felt like there was a great deal of depth involved in planning and execution of the lesson. Students had the opportunity to create a roller coaster simulation. The thing that really amazed me about this lesson was the fact that students had the opportunity to test their hypotheses graphically, collaborate and brainstorm ideas for improving their work, and then reattempt the project in an effort to build a successful roller coaster model. Embedded in these activities was the notion that it was okay to make mistakes and fail and from student failure, they could generate enough feedback from team members to solve problems inherent in their system design. I think this is the essence for developing learners’ abilities to take risks and approach problem solving proactively. It is something that is missing from most of the other lessons observed in this activity.

Furthermore, the aforementioned lesson contained detailed guidelines for the students about the project work that they were to engage in. It provided a basis for high expectations for all of the students in terms of setting clear attainment targets for the students to reach.

I believed the teacher in this video high very expectations for her learners and constantly challenged and encouraged the students to pursue their project work to perfection. By providing clear examples at the beginning of the lesson, this would be a good example of the “Format” strategy described by Lemov (2010) in which the teacher provides clear guidelines about what is expected in the final product of student work. This encourages all students to work toward a standard. If I were this teacher, I would provide more differentiation in the lesson plan structure to support students at differing levels of attainment.

The teaching style in this video is quite familiar to me. It involves rote learning which is common in the Confucian teaching tradition, which represents a common teaching practice at my current school. It doesn’t seem like the teacher has high expectations for the students but, in fact, she does hold the students in high regard. She uses whole class teaching to model the correct answer and expects that all students will be able to memorize the rules through repeating constantly. This is a collectivistic teaching style that puts an emphasis on conformity as opposed to individuality and self-exploration found in the first lesson discussed in this post. The focus in this teaching style is on being correct and avoiding mistakes, hence the teacher makes use of error correction frequently and also does not let the students get off task.

The Math teacher definitely made use “No opt out” strategies. Students were required to respond to the teacher and were not allowed to keep quiet. If I were this teacher, I would have tried to call on more students to participate so that I could check for comprehension.

Personally, I like the first lesson better as it gives students a bit more autonomy to direct their learning. Obviously, in the teacher centered lesson above, students are not allowed to explore and make mistakes. On the other hand, the teaching style in the second video is more geared toward helping students be successful on standardized tests where form and structure are more important than meaning making.

So, how can we determine which method holds higher expectations for students? I think that depends a great deal on the teaching context one finds him or herself. Obviously, in a learning environment where testing solely determines my chances of being successful in life, the teacher-centered lesson would be preferred and this is true in many countries in East Asia. On the other hand, if I live in a society where creativity is valued and means to success, then the first lesson style would be more appropriate. The answer, to my mind, then is that the teacher expectations will vary depending on the environment where he or she happens to be.

After watching the videos this week, one thing was certain: I really wasn’t very excited by this lesson.

I felt that the lesson might be more appropriate for younger students at primary school level but not for high school students and the repetition seemed to be remedial.I felt like these students could be pushed to produce more at their age, particularly along the lines of getting the students to engage in exploratory learning and reflection. I liked the idea of getting students to do brain based learning, but then what about having students get into groups to discuss, compare and contrast the brain based learning with other types of learning. I didn’t see any sort of error correction or direct feedback from the teacher as could be observed in the first two videos. All in all, I didn’t feel the teacher had as high expectations for the students as in the first two videos.

Works Cited
Lemov, D. (2010). Teach like a champion: 49 techniques that put students on the path to college (K-12). John Wiley & Sons.
Marzano, R. J. (2007). The art and science of teaching: A comprehensive framework for effective instruction. Ascd.

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Reflection on Bullying in the Classroom

When I was a child growing up in the deep south in primary school, I remembered how we were oftentimes discouraged from enjoying the experience of learning new and interesting subjects in school. I recall a third grade teacher, who told us (a class of African American students) that we would be unable to complete an experiment in static electricity because our hair was “too oily.” The experiment was designed so that the students would have to rub balloons against their heads to attract bits of paper on the desk. When the teacher saw that some, though certainly not all of the students of African American descent, were unable to complete the experiment satisfactorily, she made the aforementioned comment. To this day, I am still baffled as to why she said this. Did she want to discourage us from developing an interest in science? Was this a form of passive aggressive bullying or not?

Bullying was rampant at school when I was student in primary school. I went to school in South Carolina in the Low country region, not too far from Charleston. Racism was the focal point of many a bullying incident at school. If you wanted to play volleyball at the playground and weren’t white, you had to be made into an honorary “white boy” to play, but then you’d be ostracized by other students for engaging in activities that were not considered “appropriate” for your ethnicity. It sounds bizarre, but I almost exclusively was on the receiving end of bullying just because I liked to study, primarily by male members of my own ethnicity. The bullying was mostly passive in nature but resulted in exclusion from activities (e.g. sports teams, social events etc.) just because I liked studying. It is difficult to qualify what it means to “like studying” because it was hard work and not all fun and games, but all I can say is that there was certainly a negative correlation between how well I got on with people and how well I did in school in terms of grades I received. It may be the case that people experience this around the country regardless of ethnic or social background; however, at least in my context, this seems to have been a beast spawned by racialist thinking. It’s been my experience that passive aggression is the worst type of bullying. Being excluded, given a label, and ignored are the most demoralizing things and serve to diminish students’ self-esteem. How does one deal with passive aggression, particularly when the factors that led to its creation exist and/or are inherent at a local or societal level.

Even if there is ostracism inherent in schools and this can lead to the bullying and isolation of individuals who do not conform to the status, then why would ethnic minorities, choose to eschew education (as is often suggested by the media) given the obvious economic and social incentives currently associated with academic success? Recent research answers this question by more accurately suggesting that environmental factors and personal relationships demarcate the role of education in the lives of minorities. An immediate conclusion from the aforementioned is that minorities’ resistance or acceptance of educational opportunities cannot be readily and solely predicted by historical inequalities or injustice.

Lee (1994) provides evidence for how relationships between parents, authorities, and peers encourage or discourage minority students. In particular, the researcher notes that Korean students feel indebted to their parents’ sacrifices for their education (p. 418). Korean students’ parents in turn support their accommodation of white culture; furthermore the dominant culture (e.g. teachers and others in power) promote, encourage, and expect these Asian students to excel in academia (pp.416-417). It is apparent that the expectations from the local community and parents are congenial, which is associated with academic success according researchers (Hones and Cha, 1999, p. 154). Thus, we see that when both the community and parents expect and encourage minority students to succeed, children are more likely to make progress. Contrastingly, it has been found that other Asian groups are worse off academically when they perceive themselves as victims of discrimination (pp. 424-425).

Hones and Cha (1999) present us with a gamut of environmental factors affecting minorities’ educational performance. On one hand, if both parents and the local community reject the aspirations of minority students to succeed academically, those who happen to succeed might become alienated from both groups. The result would be that fewer minorities in such situations would succeed (p. 45). On the other hand, groups like the Hmong, when placed in schools where minorities are encouraged to succeed, will more than likely do well given their culture’s insistence on academic and professional development (p. 112). Again, encouragement from the local community appears vital in producing desirable results for the Hmong. In conclusion, the researchers suggest that schools implement cultural therapy programs to mitigate the influence of negative environmental factors. Through cultural therapy students will have the opportunity to learn “social skills suitable for participation in the larger society” (pp. 139-140).

The question quite naturally arises however as to what social skills are suitable for society, especially if our society is potentially the culprit that engenders inequalities and disparities in education that lead to bullying, ostracism, and isolation? After reflecting on the readings this week, I believe the way forward is to connect parents and educators by promoting cross-cultural awareness, but without a systematic analysis of the factors that discourage minority students, such intervention may not have the desired results.

Ultimately, I believe that in order for America’s student population to succeed, educators must strive to create learning environments where students feel confident to express themselves, where diversity is seen as a valued asset, and where students are given tools to become agents of change both inside and outside of the classroom. My reasoning for the aforementioned is that I believe that in order for schools to become viable in an increasingly diverse society, every student must be treated as an integral member within an inclusive, educational environment.

I believe that schools should serve as safe havens where our diverse student body can utilize their cultural capital without fear or prejudice. In such a school environment, networks would be formed at school where students would be able present information about their home cultures and language. Knowledge of students’ home cultures can serve as resources for teachers to connect students with the content of their lessons. Such content will be culturally appropriate and meet the needs of the students (Luke, 2009, pp. 301-303). Opportunities for students to share their home cultures through different mediums such as blogs, wikis, and presentations will ultimately serve to reconcile home and school cultures. Knowledge gained from these activities can serve as a platform to connect teachers with parents and correct misconceptions teachers may have about students and their parents and vice versa.

Finally, I believe schools should empower students to overcome “deficit” and “racializing” discourses that have long plagued American society. These discourses have often branded minorities as being culturally and linguistically inferior in addition to being marginalized as the “other.” Schools can empower these students in two profound ways:  The first way is to give students opportunities to provide feedback on their teacher’s performance. Students should be able to openly discuss aspects of their classroom experience that they find difficult or confusing. The second way is to make explicit the kinds of discrimination students are likely to encounter in the real world (Freeman, 1998). The aforementioned involves increasing students’ awareness of the factors that have created their circumstances, which can position them to take on the role of change agents (Freire, 1970). In the aforementioned view, the school becomes a bunker where students can actively and collectively resist the status quo rather than becoming molded and shaped by it (Freeman, 2000, pp. 203, 206-207). In this way, educators will be able to serve as catalysts for change.

In my classroom, I intend to be more cognizant of my students’ needs and will try to “listen” to my students and know more about their upbringing, their learning styles and preferences, as well as attempt to gain greater insight into what motivates students to succeed in the classroom. As suggested in activities 1 and 2 this month, I believe that through my positive actions, i can promote and encourage a positive classroom environment through which I hope that all of my students, despite their background, come to collaborate and feel confident to express themselves.

In sum, I see myself taking on a greater role in the future as cultural broker who has the aim of connecting students with their learning and each other in dynamic and positive ways. As suggested by this week’s reading, I intend to make use of the whole person to connect to my learners in a way that suggests that:

A)I am on every students’ side regardless of their background.
B) Students feel that they can trust me enough to come to me with any issue that they may have.


Freire, Paulo. (1970). The adult literacy process as cultural action for freedom. Harvard Educational Review, 40(2), 205-225.
Freeman, Rebecca D. (1998). Bilingual Education and Social Change. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.
Freeman, R. (2000). Contextual challenges to dual-language education: A case study of  developing middle school program. Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 31(2), 202-229.
Luke, A. (2009). Race and language as capital in school: A sociological template for language-education reform. In R. Kubota & A. Lin (Eds.). Race, culture and identities in second language education. New York: Routledge.
Hones, Donald F., & Cher Shou Cha (1999). Educating New Americans: Immigrant          Lives and Learning. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Lee, Stacey J. (1994). Behind the model-minority stereotype: Voices of high and low-achieving Asian American students. Anthropology and Education Quarterly 25(4), 413-429.

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