Tag Archives: classroom management

Motivational Clothespins

17th November 2014

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“The Bingold Cup” stemmed from “The Hogwarts House Cup” as a way to not have to purchase so much candy as extrinsic motivation in my classroom.

I am an avid user of Kagan strategies in my high school classroom. I love the “learning teams” concept and it has worked well in my classroom the last two years. I am sure many teachers can relate though that groups can be a classroom management nightmare: there are times when my students get distracted by each other or when I just feel like I want to do some sort of friendly competition to get them motivated “on the fly” but do not have anything to offer at that given moment.

Here is what I do:

  • My student’s desks are in teams of four.
  • Each team has a number stand on their table (bought stands from Ikea).
  • Each team is switched around each quarter based on test scores (and also just in case we have a dysfunctional team).
  • When the quarter starts, the new team makes a shield with their table number in the center. They discuss what four things are important to them as a team (their norms) and they create images that represent these norms (great day back from break activity).
  • Each team starts the quarter with one mini-clothespin (bought a ton to have on hand in my desk from Party City from the baby shower section).
  • As the quarter progresses, teams can earn clothespins to their shield (who can get all the study guide questions for Act 1 correct in 15 minutes, who can create the best poster that represents our current performance task in 20 minutes, who can come up with the hardest question about the passage, etc.)
  • Teams can lose clothespins for talking, phones being misused in class, not being positive, etc.
  • When I do review games, teams can also steal clothespins from other teams (who can give the most complete answer to review questions or who can come up with the best piece of evidence for a common claim, etc.).
  • At the end of the quarter, the team with the most clothespins gets 10 extra credit points on the last assignment of the quarter and second place gets 5 extra credit points.

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That is it. When I see a lesson getting dull or eyes rolling or heads dropping, I stop and say: “Okay, this next activity is for a clothespin…” and I make something up “on the fly” like it was planned. Some of my best lessons are “on the fly” because I modify and adjust at that moment.

I am shocked by how motivating a clothespin can be – but it is.

Before students do any group work now, they ask “is this for a clothespin?” sometimes I say yes but most of the time I say no. The other day, we were writing hooks for the same essay prompt. They were goofing around and having a hard time staying focused…then I told them the best one gets a clothespin and I will tell you those were the best hooks I have seen in a while. At the end of the quarter, the winners get to sign a trophy cup (from Party City) and place their shield in it. I display these in my classroom to give some recognition to the different winners per quarter.

Feel free to adapt this to fit your classroom style. I hope it provides a way for you to manage learning teams in your classroom like it has mine.

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XO.Brit