Thursday, February 13, 2014

Small Changes

by Hugh MacLeod at

She's spunky and funny and VERY creative, but her lack of attention during our 80 minute math period was making me crazy. I was constantly redirecting her: sit up, look at the board, pay attention, come sit right here by me, sit up, keep your head up, be a good group member...

I'm not the only one who sometimes has to spin down into the depths of negativity before I remember how powerful POSITIVE can be, am I?

Yesterday, I took her aside at the end of recess and reminded her how smart she is in math -- how well she had done on her algebra test even though she wasn't always paying her best attention in class. Told her how much better I hoped she would do with our new unit on fractions, decimals and percents, and how I wanted to help her pay attention more.

I broke the 80 minutes into four 20 minute sections. I told her that if I only had to remind her to pay attention once every twenty minutes, just four times in the whole math period, I would give her a piece of candy. She agreed enthusiastically. On a whim, as we walked into the classroom, I offered her a double reward if she could make it through math with NO redirection.

Best. Math period. Ever.

Yes, I know I will have to keep this reward a moving target so that it doesn't lose its effectiveness. And there will be times when she will have to work for a hug, or praise, or a positive email home. But for right now, I am thankful for a small change that can make a big difference.

What's a small change that has made a big difference for you recently? (Yes, Franki, wearing lipstick counts!)


  1. Love this! So real…and you write with incredible humor and warmth

  2. Ah, the pomodoro technique strikes again!
    (Maybe she can set a timer for herself as a next step?)

  3. Glad it worked, Mary Lee! Now you know she can 'choose' to do things differently. Small changes do help if we only remember to let them. Great lesson to share!

  4. Mary Lee, your post describes what many of my colleagues experience daily. Many often share how they have to battle with certain students just to gain or keep their attention. A number of my colleagues have shared that they have to use extrinsic methods to motivate a student to complete a task or follow the rules.
    The method you use, such as offering a piece of candy to a student, is often used by some of my colleagues. Some my colleagues have expressed they do not like using this method to motivate a student to complete a task or follow the rules. A number of them have shared that they believe there is a better way to motivate their students.
    I do like your method of sending a positive email home. Hopefully, this method may motivate students to complete a required task and not misbehave during class time.

    The technology teacher at our school shared the following behavior management resource: ClassDojo.
    Link to view resource:

    She has shared that it motivates her students to stay on task, complete assignments and follow class rules. Classdojo is a behavior management software “that makes it easy to keep students alert and on-task; furthermore, it is a classroom tool that helps teachers improve behavior in their classrooms quickly and easily; in addition, it captures and visually generates data on behavior that teachers can share with parents and administrators” (ClassTwist, 2013). ClassTwist also shared, “specific reinforcement helps students to develop a sense of purpose in the classroom, which may enhance intrinsic motivation over time by giving students visible data on their behavior” (2013).

    ClassTwist. (2013). Classdojo. Retrieved from


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