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Midvale Journal

Rewarding students as simple as whipping out the cell phone

Dec 14, 2020 12:04PM ● By Julie Slama

East Midvale Elementary Principal Matt Nelson and Eddie the Eagle are leading the SOAR campaign, outlining expectations and rewarding students for positive behavior. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Awarding students for positive behavior has gone high tech.

As more schools are focusing on teaching positive behavior, shifting the attention to those students instead of on the ones who act on poor choices, there has been an increased need for positive behavior intervention and support systems, including those that are online.

This fall, East Midvale Elementary revamped its schoolwide expectations and hooked up to Class Dojo app.

“We’re outlining what it should look like in a classroom and other areas of the school so students learn and understand the expectations,” Principal Matt Nelson said about his school where 320 students are in person, 140 are learning remotely and 12 different languages are spoken. “Kids come to school most days and make good decisions. We’re wanting to recognize that they’re doing good work and having good behaviors, so it becomes contagious. It builds community and we share in our accomplishments.”

Playing off their mascot, Eddie the Eagle, students can now follow those expectations through “SOAR,” which stands for self-management, ownership, acceptance and resilient. 

“They self-manage and respond with their emotions appropriately; they’re honest and reflect on their behavior; they’re kind and inclusive; and they’re able to adapt to adversity,” he said.

Then as a way of rewarding students, through the Class Dojo app, teachers can “whip out their phone, iPad or computer” to reward students with points, whether it’s an individual or class that is acting appropriately, Nelson said.

The students don’t need to have a device although they can look up how many points they have earned for a chance to go to the school store to purchase items from mechanical pencils and slime to Lego sets and headphones and have the mascot deliver the rewards.

“This allows every kid to know the basic expectations and to receive points for positive behavior; it’s virtual currency, so this year especially (during the COVID-19 pandemic), it’s welcome,” Nelson said, adding that the faculty are enjoying its consistency so the focus then transitions to more learning. “The Dojo points are incentive for our behavioral goals, and we can add it up to class benchmarks so the whole class could earn something like a Popsicle party or hot chocolate or an extra recess.”

He said the school committee choose the app since it’s free and user-friendly and has “all the functionality we wanted.”

At Midvale Middle School, gone are the days of the paper Trojan Tickets given for positive behavior, as administrators also chose to go with an app this year.

“We can still recognize the students, but in light of COVID, we’re not using paper,” Assistant Principal ConnieTrue Simons said. “We’re digital, using the PBIS Rewards app, and parents can see the points their children are earning for being caught doing something right as they are caring, safe and principled.”

Points can be a reward for something as simple as saying, “good morning,” as Simons said she recently thanked polite students by taking out her phone’s scanner and added points to their school identification cards. They use the same system as the lunch lines so students aren’t all touching the same key pad to punch in their student ID numbers, she said.

Students can check their points either on their own devices or on the school’s Chromebooks, which have been assigned to each student this school year.

Like East Midvale, Midvale Middle teachers can reward one student or an entire classroom for their behavior and students can save their points for the school store, purchasing items from snacks to water bottles and backpacks to ear buds.

“We’re loving it,” Simons said. “In the past, the students would lose, steal or misplace their Trojan Tickets and that’s a nonissue this year. We’re also able to set goals and track the progress our students are making and when students didn’t turn in the Trojan Tickets, we weren’t able to do that. It’s really making a positive impact in our community.”