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Sunday, June 2, 2013

Stickers! Stickers! Stickers! and 21st Century Teaching

Yes, I know there is only one more week of school, but I can't help reflecting on my favorite revelation this year. 

Seriously, all kidding aside, stickers are a huge reason I went into teaching.  I mean, who doesn't remember getting stickers when they were in school?  They were so beautiful.  Some were shiny, some were bright, but the best were the smelly stickers.  They have since renamed them stinky stickers, but that name doesn't do them justice.  Anyway, you can tell I love stickers.  Parents love donating stickers too, so I think many feel the same way I do.  The other day, someone brought me Hello Kitty stickers and I swear when I saw them I forgot what I was doing and had to sit down to absorb their beauty.

So I couldn't just become a teacher who gave stickers once in a while.  I became a teacher whose whole classroom management centers around praise and stickers.  Do not underestimate the power of a sticker.

First, I do have the "Clip Up/Down" clothespins.  But really, it is just there for backup.  The first time I meet parents, I explain to them that my goal each day is to get students to the top.  Really.  I don't feel like I have been successful in recognizing the wonderful things that go on each day if most of my class is not at the top.  Once they get past the top, they get a sticker each time I say "clip up" and they say "I'm already at the top."

"Well go put your sticker page on my desk!"

Beaming, the student quickly gets out his/her sticker page and puts it on my desk.

When students get 5 stickers, they get to go to the treasure box or they can choose to have a 5 minute sharing time on Friday.  First graders love to share!

I especially love to pick 4 or 5 kids everyday during "Book Box" time-- who were reading the whole time-- to receive stickers. 

But it gets better.

At some point around mid-year, one of the students said something so clever, brilliant, or profound that I couldn't help but skip the behavior chart and squealed, "Brilliant!  Bring me your sticker page."  Audible gasps around the room came from children who couldn't believe I went straight to stickers!

I took that moment to explain the amazing thoughts that came from this student, and how they sat and thought about something I had said and then used what they knew to figure something out.  I would tell you what that was but I honestly don't remember because since that day, so many students come up to me and start with, "I noticed....." or "I figured out......" to try to impress me enough with their thought processes so that I will call them amazing, brilliant, clever, etc., and give them a sticker.  And most of the time I do.  Because they seriously sit and contemplate what they could possibly say that could get them a sticker and praise.  And it is crazy how fast they have learned to extend their thinking about whatever it is we are discussing.

It happens a lot in math, like when several students noticed that you could subtract to get a missing addend.  I didn't even lead anyone to it.  They just stare at things looking for things to say to me.

Or in reading, kids will come up and say things about how characters from different books are the same and proceed to give me some amazing character analysis.

But the other day was the best day ever.  A struggling student drew out her whole thought process on this math word problem and explained it to me step by step how she figured it out.  It was difficult and it was a multi-step story problem.  And I swear her life changed that day.  The light in her eyes and the excitement in her voice told me that she will love figuring out story problems the rest of her life. 

It has gotten so bad (good) that I had to start putting boundaries on when kids could come up to me and tell me their revelations.  Like, lining up for lunch is not a good time.

Critical thinking and creativity are two huge goals of the 21st century learner and I witness kids showing off these skills all day.  So if anyone asks me how I am teaching kids to be 21st century learners, I reply, "I give stickers."

Happy Last Week of School!


p.s.  If you want this simple sticker page you can grab it here:

Sticker Awards Page

I put the sticker in/over the box and write what it was given for on the line.