August 22, 2017

Why I decided to use a clip chart (and get rid of Class Dojo)

This post is pretty specific to teachers, but it took me a lot of thinking and a major-ish revelation to make this switch. It was a big moment. I think it's worth sharing my thought process. I've been a HUGE proponent of Class Dojo for the last 4 years and I like it but I can't use it right now.

I've had great success with Class Dojo, and I wrote about how I don't like clip charts. However, this year, I decided to scrap Class Dojo and go back to a clip chart.


Lots of reasons.

1. Class Dojo was interrupting valuable instructional time. It was interrupting in two ways. First, I would have deal with swiping and scrolling and my iPad freezing when I was trying to teach. Picking up the iPad to give or take points mid-instruction would be time-consuming and/or stressful.  Secondly, parents would send messages that needed timely responses such as Can you please tell _____ to walk home with ______ after school? instead of calling the office to pass on the message. If I didn't check Class Dojo and respond, the message wouldn't make it. That was interrupting the flow of the classroom. I liked having an open line of communication but it would pull my focus away from what I was doing.

2. Kids were too focused on it. They wanted to know their percentages and their points, and I didn't always have time to give real feedback or explanations. When I gave or took points, they wanted to know who it was and, while that makes perfect sense, calling kids out for every little thing (good or bad) was wasting time and that's not necessarily the most valuable form of feedback. But not using it as regularly brought up questions about why I wasn't using it. It becomes a distraction to the class as a whole and I found myself hating the iPad and never, ever wanting to deal with it. Plus, if there's a substitute, it can be a difficult system to explain.

3. Parents were too focused on it. I found myself typing out long messages to justify points taken away and the constant defending was getting old. By not having reminders of their child's positive or negative behaviors tracked down to the minutiae, we can all just focus on the bigger picture. Parents are used to clip charts and none of the 5th grade teachers use Class Dojo, so I don't need to get these kids ready or prepared for it next year. The parents won't run into it, likely. Truth: I have files of saved conversations, just in case I need them to defend my actions in the future. While having textual evidence of what was said and when is great, I'm not a lawyer and I've spent far too much of my career carrying my iPad into an administrator's office, reading off quotes, in my defense.

I will still use Class Dojo for one thing:

1. The lessons. Class Dojo has amazing lessons on mindfulness, perseverance, and empathy. There's cute videos that the kids love and I really enjoy being able to teach interactively in a way that engages them. I pull in at least one series a month depending on what they'll benefit from the most. These can also be found on Youtube so I might go that route.


I'll be happy to update this post on whether or not the clip chart actually works, as I haven't used one since 2013. However, I do know that I'm going to really attach a positive or negative consequence to each clip move. This isn't about being punitive or making up punishments. My initial thoughts...

Everyone starts on Ready to Learn.
A courtesy warning is given before any clip is moved down. The exception to this is if a specials' teacher tells me a student needs to clip down. They've likely already been given several warnings because specials' teachers are nice like that. 
One clip down is an official warning.
Two clips down is a reflection sheet at the time-out desk. If it continues past that, parents are notified.
To go the other way, students will be clipping up when they are complimented by other teachers or helpful to others. Being on-task and ready to learn in a way that is above expectations is also important. If I don't even have to ask them to get ready to do something, if they do it on their own, that's a clip up. In addition, showing empathy and consideration for the learning community as a whole are the skills I want to build up. I have a list of non-prize box rewards that they can choose from if they get to Super Student twice...things like computer time, art time, bring in a toy, sit on a stool instead of in their boring chair, etc. 
However, I will likely take a picture of the chart at the end of each day, in order to have that documentation. Since I'm using an emoji theme, they can draw the face they land on in their planner at the end of the day.

These are my mid-August ambitious pipe dreams anyway. Fingers crossed.


  1. Its all about what finding what works for you!! :)
    I think this is a great idea.

  2. we had class dojo for one year but then they took it away as well...maybe for the same reasons?

  3. I think the clips are more visual than dojo especially if dojo isn't pulled up 24/7. Can't wait to hear how your class is already shaping up 😀

  4. I've heard the same complaints about class dojo from my sister. I agree that it would be difficult to constantly be checking that during the day and losing focus.

  5. Your ideas for the clip chart system sound great! I've always been a huge believer in acknowledging students for doing positive things...especially above and beyond expectations. It's built in for us to do in our school wide positive behavior program, but I need to do better. I also want to communicate positives to families more!


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