Friday, August 4, 2017

Creating a House System in my Fifth Grade Classroom #RCAinspired


*In September of 2016, I was lucky enough to visit the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, Georgia. If you haven’t heard of RCA, make sure you check out their website and videos; you’ll be INSPIRED to say the least. RCA holds professional development days where teachers from all over the country can come and watch their unique techniques and strategies for creating respectful, knowledgeable, and strong, young leaders. I attended a one-day workshop, and I left feeling excited, inspired, and motivated to make my classroom and teaching methods the best they could be.

*One component of RCA that really resonated with me was their house system. They sort their students into four different houses, and the students can earn points for various things. The pride and love these students (and teachers) have for their houses is unreal. I knew I needed to incorporate it into my own classroom as soon as possible. But how? When? I decided to wait until the following year, which is this year, to implement it. I struggled trying to decide how to manage this new system; What would they receive points for? Do I take points? Do I keep the houses the same all year? Should I be rewarding them monthly, quarterly? I didn’t know!... and I started to second guess my decision. Then I read The Engaging Station’s blog post, which you can find here. She confirmed just how awesome this system could work when you put enough time and thought into it!


*Students will be assigned to houses at random through the help of this handy-dandy wheel. 

Disclaimer: I painted it from turquoise to black, and I laminated a piece of blue over the orange to go with my colors. When I placed the magnetic wheel on my whiteboard, it slid straight down! However, when placed on my chalkboard, it stayed extremely secure!
*I printed my house shields, laminated them, and then taped them to my wheel insert. The names of my houses just came from Google translate. I typed in the four words I wanted my houses to represent, and I just had them translated to Latin. The wheel insert actually had three colors similar to my shields, but it also had an orange section. I simply took a piece of green paper and laminated it right on top to cover the orange! BOOM!...IT MATCHES. 

*I'm going to be sorting students on the very first day...or the second day if I don't think there will be enough time. I'll first start off by explaining the system so they're all jacked up about it! They will then come up to the wheel and spin!
*Once a student spins a house, their Class Dojo icon will immediately be changed to their house icon. (Instructions for this will be included in my TpT file.) Class Dojo will be pulled up on the SmartBoard for all to see. A quick note about Class Dojo: I’ve used this behavior management system for the past two years and I LOVE it. Although it’s great for managing behavior, my favorite component of the site is that it allows you to easily connect with parents. You can send messages back and forth, and you can also share what’s going on in your classroom in a quick way. (The story option is very similar to Facebook’s format, and I use it all of the time to share reminders, pictures, and videos of our classroom happenings.
*I have twenty-four students this year, so I am limiting my houses to six students each. Once a house has six students in it, no other student will be allowed to enter that house. The student will just re-spin until they obtain an available house.


*When a student needs a point either given or taken from them, it will be done on Class Dojo. For example, let’s say Avery earned a point for demonstrating leadership. I would either award Avery the point myself, or have her quickly award herself using my iPad. It’s extremely quick and simple!
*The great thing about Dojo is that it allows you to place students in groups as well. This means that you can award your houses points directly to every student in that group without having to actually click each individual student. 

HOW IT WORKS- timeline, incentives, etc.

This is the part that I struggled with most, and I’ll be honest, I’m still thinking about it! Here’s a quick rundown of what I’m thinking:
*After students are placed into their houses, I will ask them to “run” for house leader. They will write a letter explaining why they think they would be a great house leader. I will select one student from each house and reveal them at the end of the first week. Team leaders will meet with me every few weeks for lunch to discuss motivation, teamwork, ideas for house spirit days, and incentives they’d like to see.
*Points will be awarded throughout the week to individual students for Dojo points (so they can cash them in at our class store) and groups.
*On Fridays (at the end of our class meeting), the team’s points will be revealed, and we’ll determine current totals and all-time totals. This will be laminated and we will updated the numbers with a dry-erase marker.
I think I’ll do a few different incentives for my students (monthly and then an overall winner). I’m only thinking I need to do more than just a yearly winner because I want to keep it fresh and exciting. I also want all of the teams to have a chance to experience some success. These incentives will be decided on with the help of my team leaders, so the incentives below are just EXAMPLES:
MONTH WINNER: This will change out monthly! The first month, the team with the most points might get to have lunch with me. The next month, they might get a homework pass or be allowed to bring in a drink/snack. 
YEAR WINNER: Ice cream party!
*Choose incentives that work well for you and your students!


*Go above and beyond explaining your points to your kiddos. Give them examples! That first few weeks of school, you’ll probably be giving out the most points. You want your students feeling excited and motivated to be their absolute best. 
*These are things in my classroom that are non-negotiable. They’re expected to be respectful, on-task, tracking the speaker, etc. Think of what’s non-negotiable in your room.


*Either before or after class meeting (I haven’t decided yet), we’ll have a little spirit session where the houses will compete for extra points. I only plan on doing this at the end of each month right before the winning house is revealed, but you could absolutely do it weekly or quarterly.
*Each team will have something to show the class. Either a fun dance, rap, poem, handshake, etc. that represents their house. The entire house can present, or they can have different people every time. I’m going to leave it up to them. Some of my students are not into things like shaking it! I don’t want them to feel like they have to do that. All houses will have a chance to spin the wheel for extra long as they gave their best with their performance. The wheel will have points on it ranging from 5-50. Whatever they land on, will be what is added to their house. Those points will quickly be added to the totals, and the monthly house winner will be revealed.

It's going to be a learning process for sure, but I can't wait to get started! If you're interested in my shields and documents, click HERE!

***2018 UPDATE***
After a full year with the house system, I've decided to make some changes for the future.
1) I will be adding two more houses. There will be another class that I see for 80+ minutes every day, so I want them to be included in the house system. If you have my house shields from TpT, don't worry!...those new shield styles will be added to the file.
2) I won't be using Class Dojo. Our grade level team will all be using SeeSaw next year for parent communication and student portfolios, so I don't want to add Class Dojo to that mix as well.
3) A running score of points will be kept on the board instead of saving and sharing the points at the end of the week. I like having the students see their current totals, and I really like having the students be responsible for updating their points. My student assistant was the one who kept track of the points towards to end of the year. If I said, "Nice job, Quantum! 10 points!!"...she would jot it down quickly and update the points when she had time. You could also have your house leaders be the ones to update the current totals.
4) I'm no longer doing individual points for students. My students were way more concerned about receiving house points than individual points for their Dojos. If I awarded them individual points, they often asked me if I could make them house points instead. With that said, I won't be having a classroom store anymore. 

Thanks for sticking with me through this long post! :)