Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Super Improver's Team: Rewarding individual improvements, one star at a time!

"Students are not competing against each other, but themselves!"  - Coach B.

With a little over two weeks of school under my belt, last Thursday I unveiled the Super Improver's Team in front of both parents and children at Back to School Night.  When I explained it, I instantly saw parents gleaming at the thought of their child FINALLY having the opportunity to be recognized for their own INDIVIDUAL improvements.  Students were also clearly excited at the thought of special rewards for beating their own personal records!  It was the BEST B2SN I've had!  (I even had students play SuperSpeed Math and Reading with their parents, to explain how it should be done when I send it home for homework in the coming weeks!!!)

After one full week of utilizing the SIT, I have to tell you how amazing it is to have a tool that forces us as teachers to be more aware of student improvement, even in the smallest things.  It is also a great platform for students to celebrate each other's improvements as players working together on a TEAM.  Today, one of my more challenging students initiated a 10 finger woo to another student who did something star worthy.  I think my heart literally jumped for joy!  Before I go into more of these magical moments, let me explain the basics of the Super Improvers Team.

First, put all of the students names on a wall, board, or ANYWHERE you can find room.  I have put mine on a rolling platform so I can always have it near me depending on where I am in the classroom.  It is a constant reminder to NOTICE my students.  When in the process of 'revealing' the SIT to your classroom, it is great to leave their names on there with no explanation as all except, "you will see".

Beside the names there needs to be a color code with 10 colors.  Each color represents a different level on the Super Improver's Wall.  The SIT allows you to do what the grading system does NOT:  give students the fair opportunity to leave at a different level then they came in at.  When students receive 10 stars, they get to move up a level and the name of their color card changes accordingly.  With 10 improvements for every level and 10 different levels, thats 100 improvements to get to during a school year!

Make sure to give each level a name!  Download this FREE, supercute, rockstar themed SIT template HERE, that I saw from Ginger Snaps on TPT ! I just didn't have the color cartridge to print it, so I'm temporarily only using the creative names of her levels! I'm thinking that I'll upgrade to her complete set after Christmas break, when the class needs a scenic change!

 Once the SIT is up and running, it is time to REWARD!  If you notice a dramatic improvement in the first week, award the first stars.  The improvement can be in anything from speaking in complete sentences, increasing their math/reading fluency in SuperSpeed, neater writing, or ANYTHING that your student's significantly improve in!  For those students who are already high achieving and you think won't be able to make obvious improvements, create goals that only pertain to those students.  Place weekly goals on the board, that give a chance for those  students to imrpove.  We have to find a way to include ALL students.

Especially with the pressure of the Common Core, one of my favorite things to reward on is CRITICAL THINKING.  I use regular stars on their namecards for improvements in the classroom but I use STICKER stars for students who blow me away with their answers that show critical thinking.  On Monday I let students in on the secret that a mere 5 critical thinking stars can also move you up to the next level, instead of the 10 improvement stars- whichever is achieved first.  YES, my 5th grade students in my class are really aiming for those sticker stars! 

 This week I introduced Doofus and Smartie, a WBT critical thinking strategy that uses pretend, silly, hand puppets to help students explain their answers and think through their mistakes.  Today the MOST shy student in my classroom raised his hand to take part in a Smartie and Doofus word problem demonstration on the board.  The whole class cheered him on the whole way.  I mean this kid is the one who literally breaks out in hives anytime I talk to him!  He transformed into this humorous character when going into his Doofus voice!  I am definitely going to have my fun plugging this strategy into many activities!  I  had to use my name sticks to pick names after he went because everyone wanted a shot at their very own personal puppet show!

As I pointed out before, we as teachers need to IMPROVE on noticing and encouraging ALL of our students.  The SIW is a great tool for doing this, but it is still difficult to be mindful of all students EVERY day.  This week I remembered a helpful tip that had been shared on the webcast.  Have a folder of roll sheets that you keep  on the corner of your desk.  As you praise a student, put a dot next to their name on the roll sheet.  By the end of the day, a dot should be on every single student on the roll sheet.  If not, this will help focus our attention to those who somehow get ignored or lost in the crowd of almost 30 students! 

Because of the SIT, students are also more in tune with how their fellow students are progressing.  I had several students report to me that one of the bullies from last year, was no longer bothering anyone (just as she has promised me on the first day of school.)  I made a big classroom announcement about it and everyone enthusiastically gave her a ten finger woo!  She was actually the FIRST recipient of an improvement star.  I couldn't think of any better way to start!

It is still a work in progress but THIS is how my Super Improver Wall looked at the end of today, week one: (tomorrow I will be at the WBT Conference in Delaware! WHOO HOO!)

 I write the improvement starts with dry erase marker on the top and the sticker stars for critical thinking on the bottom (they are hard to see).  To make my wall reusable, I slowly "borrowed" free paint samples from Walmart the last month of summer.  I laminated the colored cards for their names, before putting actual names on them.  This way I can write on them with dry erase markers and reuse them next year!  The stickers come right off! 

Here are some ideas I'll be using in my own classroom to reward students with the Super Improvers Team:

  • Every few levels take a silly photo of the student and their friends.  Develop it but turn it backwards so it can't be seen.  After 5 stars on that level, it gets turned around for all to see (suggested by Coach B!)
  • Earn a luxury seat from our VIP Reading Lounge for guided reading and free choice  (our ottomons, rocking chair, and comfy chair)
  • Class leader for rules.  I'm going to be making a special pin for the student to wear.
  • Check out a book from our popular Select Series in our library (Diary of a Whimpy Kid, Goosebumps, Hunger Games, I Survived...)
  • Independent Work computer math game time or read one of our eStoria books
  • Recess or Early Morning Helper (it cuts down on the 15 kids who want to stay in for recess and "help" me every day- a wonderful problem I have)
  • Crazy Professor Prop Makers (I'll show a sample of this new feature in the future)
If you have any other ideas to add to the list, please feel free to share by commenting! You can also FINALLY become a follower, because Coach B. pointed out I was missing that gadget!  Hey, I'm new to this blogging game! hehe :)

Ms. Cruz

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