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Classroom Management, Uncategorized   |   Jan 27, 2014

Using Class Dojo to reinforce positive behavior

By Angela Watson

Founder and Writer


Class Dojo is a popular and somewhat controversial free tech tool for behavior management. I frequently hear it recommended by teachers at all grade levels, but am not familiar with it personally. So, I’ve invited a teacher who has used Class Dojo with her students to explain what’s worked for her.  Amanda Killough, who has been teaching middle school Social Studies for eleven years, is here to share with us how Class Dojo helps reinforces positive behavior in both her individual students and the class as a whole. Thank you, Amanda!

Teaching middle school is not for the faint of heart. Often, when I tell people what grade I teach, I get the look of sympathy and a good old-fashioned “Bless your heart!” I, however, love the middle grades and all the challenges that come along with them. Managing middle school kids is sometimes like herding cats, but Class Dojo is a great tool to make it easier.

I have been using Dojo in my classroom for two years and absolutely adore it! Dojo is a free (!) online tool that allows teachers to set up classes and keep track of positive and negative behaviors in class. When I first learned about Dojo, I was not sure if it my students would find it too babyish or silly. I had nothing to worry about- middle school students LOVE Dojo!!

Class Dojo is easy to set-up and use (which is always a plus). Simply create an account using your school email and you are ready to go. Once you are into Dojo, you can choose icons for each class and begin setting up your classes. The program automatically assigns fun avatars for each student, but you can change them. Next, you can use the pre-set positive and negative behaviors or personalize them. Very quick and easy!

Class Dojo student assistant
Class Dojo student assistant

Now that you are set-up, the fun begins! I display Dojo on my SMART board and each week I have a Dojo assistant for each class that assists me with getting the class started. That student is chosen based on their previous week’s Dojo points (more on that later). To begin a class in Dojo, you must take attendance first and then the class is ready to earn points. I allow my assistant to take attendance in Dojo while I am getting the class started on their bell ringer.

One of the great things about Dojo is that it allows you to award points to individual students or the entire class. If all students come in and are working on their bell ringer, I have my student Dojo assistant award the entire class a point for being on task. This lets them know I have recognized they are following class procedures. When you award a point, Dojo makes a happy sound and gets the student’s attention. If several students are off task, I do not award the entire class a point. You would be surprised how this one little point has students encouraging each other to come in and get started on their assignment.

After attendance and the initial awarding of points, I take over the Dojo duties. I can keep Dojo minimized and continue on with my lesson for the day. Keeping it minimized gives me instant access if I need to award or take away a point.

Class Dojo projected on the SMART board
Class Dojo projected on the SMART board

In my classroom, I try to use Dojo to focus on positive behaviors instead of the negative ones. For example if a student is off task, I try to award the students around him for being on task. It is my hope that by not specifically “calling him out,” he will recognize that he is not on task. This works most of the time. Of course, if that tactic does not work, I do take away points. Dojo also makes a sad sound when points are loss and this almost immediately catches students’ attention.

Additionally, there is a Dojo app for your tablet or phone. This allows you to award points in the hallways, lunchroom, and other special events.

Another great (maybe?!) thing about Dojo is that parents can have insight into their child’s behavior during the day. All I have to do is input parent emails into Dojo, print out an access code, and they can  see all their child’s information. On Fridays, Dojo can be set up to automatically send an email with all the positive and negative points received for the week. Additionally, parents can login whenever they want to check the progress. One of my colleagues has a parent who checks their account hourly and offers incentives at home for reaching a set amount of points!

To keep Dojo relevant to my students, I offer free and intangible rewards. First thing Monday morning, I always award my Dojo prizes. Students with 15 or more points can sit next to a friend in the class or at lunch. This is great because I have assigned seats. Students in this category also have the opportunity to be Dojo assistant for the week. Students with 10-14 points get computer time to play games. Students with 5-9 points get a school “gotcha ticket” that goes into a weekly drawing. The first time a student earn 5-9 points, I allow them to change their avatar to one of their choosing. These are all simple and free rewards that the students love. The little things really do motivate them to exhibit positive behavior!

I also have consequences for those who end up with negative points at the end of the week. These students have to sign the discipline log. Signing the discipline log multiple times leads to parental phones calls/conferences and eventually referrals to administration. At the end of the month, students have not signed the discipline log get to attend the pod party in which our entire pod goes outside and plays for a couple of hours.

Pod party
Pod party

Dojo has a lot of great uses in the classroom and it is easy for teachers and students to become addicted! However, we must remember Dojo is free and there are sometimes technical issues. Some days Dojo isn’t the fastest, doesn’t load, or the music doesn’t work, but that isn’t very often. Dojo is a fantastic tool for elementary and early middle school, but I am not sure how well it works at the high school level. I teach 7th grade and sometimes their “I don’t care” attitudes make negative Dojo points less effective.

ClassDojo is another great tool to add to your toolbox to help manage behavior. It has helped me to recognize positive behaviors instead of always focusing on the negative ones. I have also found that it encourages teamwork and self-regulation among my students.

Amanda Killough has been teaching middle school Social Studies for eleven years. She always envisioned herself as a high school teacher, but believes her true calling is with middle school students. Most of the time, she’s found that teaching middle school is more about life lessons than book lessons. She has a B.A. in History from the University of Montevallo, M.Ed. from Auburn University Montgomery in Secondary Education, and an Ed.S in Teacher Leadership from the University of West Alabama. Amanda and her husband have a one-year-old daughter and love the roller coaster called parenthood!


What’s your take on Class Dojo? Please share your opinions, questions, and experiences in the comments. And if you’d like to have your own classroom management strategy or story featured here, just fill out the guest blog form!

Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Angela created the first version of this site in 2003, when she was a classroom teacher herself. With 11 years of teaching experience and more than a decade of experience as an instructional coach, Angela oversees and contributes regularly to...
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  1. This is my 2nd year using Class Dojo with 1st graders. I love it because there is a ClassDojo app and I don’t have to remember behaviors I want to mark until I get back to the classroom. I can just open my phone and mark behaviors. At the end of the day, each child with a positive total gets a hole punch on a card with 10 circles on it. After all 10 get punched that child gets to pick a prize activity – Fluffy Friend (bring stuffed animal), Stinky Feet (wear only socks in class for one day), trade seats with someone, trade jobs with someone, sit at the teacher’s desk etc. If the class can get 80% or above total each child with positive total for the day gets an extra punch. (Hasn’t happened much this year.) It really helps motivate a lot of them. I recommend giving it a try.

  2. I’m glad that you mention that CD is a bit controversial. I enjoyed Amanda’s candid feedback on using the tool.

    Please share with Amanda that she should probably switch to Chrome from IE. At the very least she should shrink the immensity of her task bar. Somewhere between 20 and 25% of her SmartBoard is Internet Explorer taskbar.

  3. Hi,

    I actually use class dojo with my high school English classes whenever we have Socratic Seminars. I simply personalized the comments to reflect desired behavior during seminars such as “refers to the text” or “references historical influences” and ” nice literary analysis”. This allows me to recognize positive behaviors without interrupting the student-led discussion and students love seeing their names pop up when they’ve made a particularly insightful contribution. I do also include “negative” behaviors such as “off task” ” talking out of turn” or “repetitve comment” to redirect students without calling them out. At the end of a seminar students can easily see how many points they have earned and the charts in the program track individual progress since our last seminar and students easily identify their strengths and weaknesses with one click. Completely changed the way I grade seminars and provides students with immediate, individualized feedback.

  4. I am so far NOT a fan of these points! My son started kindergarten on Friday. He was homeschooled for preschool, doesn’t have siblings or even cousins around has never had a setting where he had to raise his hand or walk in a straight line. So for him this is 100% all new and foreign to him. Well his teacher started dojo on day one and now 3 days later my 5 year old comes home crying everyday saying he doesn’t like school because of these darn points! I check them online daily and what I have a problem with is his teacher is focusing more on the negative than the positive. He got 3 negative today only…you can’t tell me that my son didn’t do one thing right today!?! I also see this teacher giving negative points within 1 minute of each other 3 in a row! He is 5 years old and has said that the dojo points frustrate him because not only are mainly negatives given but they are announced to the entire class! I am about to pull my son out of school to be honest because in 3 days he is a different kid who no longer smiles! Teachers need to understand what this can do to a 5 year old! At least take the first couple of weeks to teach them what you expect them to do before shoving negatives at them all day long or at least do like the article above and focus on the positives more! This should not make a 5 year old hate school! Rant over 🙂

    1. Thank you for sharing your story. I have heard (from both parents and teachers) of a number of children who have had their spirits broken by the negative points in Dojo. Personally, I advocate for only positive points being used. I encourage you to talk to your child’s teacher about your concerns, as I think they’re valid.

      1. Yes, I am going to try to do that! Only issue is his teacher doesn’t seem to respond to concerns. Kinda feel lost being my first kid in school and I don’t want to come across as the “complaining Mom” being it’s only the first couple days.

        Thank you 🙂

        1. Ask if you can come in to talk about the Class Dojo system–be very polite and upbeat about it. When you arrive at the conference, say, “I wanted to share with you some things my son has said and some things I have observed in him this week.” Try to give as many facts as possible and less opinions/judgment. Then ask, “Does that fit with what you’ve been seeing in the classroom?” Give the teacher a chance to tell his/her side of the story and suggest a solution. If you’re not satisfied with the outcome, say, “I’m concerned that this is making my child feel bad about himself and dislike school. Is there anything we can do to make this a better experience for him?” and “How can we help him be successful in your class so he doesn’t get these negative points?” Then give it a couple of weeks–your child has made a BIG adjustment in starting school, after all, and it’s going to take both of you awhile to adjust to the expectations. If you feel like things are not improving at that point, ask to schedule a conference with the teacher and principal together. But that’s down the road–don’t anticipate having to take it that far, because you probably won’t have to. 🙂 Keep me updated!

  5. Thank you so much for the advice! I will do that. It makes me feel better getting advice from a former teacher. I will keep you updated 🙂

  6. Thank you again Angela for the advice. Spoke to the teacher and feel much better now! She listened and was willing to work it out with me. Thanks 🙂

  7. Not a fan. Lose a point for going to the bathroom or getting a drink of water?! Not acceptable. My son was asked, ” Are you sure you need to go to the restroom? We will have to take a point away.” My son said he thought about it and decided that yes indeed he needed to go to the bathroom. Really? It’s a good thing he made it in time. I fully support positive reinforcement but penalizing a child for a natural bodily function? And penalizing a child for wanting water…we lie in central Florida; you never deny a child water. Very disappointed in our school for not using this system in a more positive manner. In fact, his chart reflected only a 85% for the day because he had to go to the bathroom but he did earn participation points and more points for ending up on a high color. Wow – that’s all – Wow.

    1. I agree Aileen. We are also in central Florida and that is horrible penalizing for water! These points made my son hate school and he only started KG 2 weeks ago. I contacted his teacher with my concerns and she thanked me saying she wished all parents would be honest when things are affecting their child. She now no longer gives so many negatives to my son and is focusing more on the positives. Maybe talking to the teacher will help you and your child as well 🙂

  8. My 5th grader has always been an honor roll student and recognized for her excellent classroom behavior. Class Dojo started last week and she had 100% positive – GREEN circle. Monday she received only one comment for “talking after she finished her work, when the class was told multiple times to read silently. Her Dojo read 100% negative = RED circle. She was devastated and wanted to leave the school. One teacher of three posted one negative comment… no other positive ones. The impact on her self-esteem was sadly remarkable. She thought her teachers think she’s a bad kid. A simple redirect would have corrected the behavior. If that happened and she continued to talk… that would warrant a negative dojo.

    Today, three positive comments made it 75% green. That one negative has had a demoralizing impact on a typically good student.

    I agree with the teacher that reinforces on-target behavior rather than using this as punishment tool.

  9. Update: I did share with her teachers that the Monday feedback had an unintended negative impact on the child and today there were the three positive dojo’s. I can see where it would be easy to use this tool only to correct off-target behaviors and create a negative impact on the students. It must be used in a balanced way or it can be harmful.

  10. I’m using Dojo this year and 99% of the points I give are positive, for Showing Respect, Being On Task, Caring for the Classroom, Whole Body Listening, etc. It’s the second week and I haven’t had any complaints from students or parents. My students always get a warning before any negative points are awarded for behavior. They get one bathroom freebie a day and then, yes, I do take points away for that… we have multiple breaks during the day and I have always had groups of students who go to use the bathroom just to be able to leave class. I’d also kind of like parents to know that their students are using the bathroom five times a day… if it’s legit, there might be a medical reason! I never tell a student flat ‘no;’ I say in a neutral voice something like, “Okay, but you’re going to lose a point, and we have recess in 10 minutes.” It’s amazing how many students are suddenly able to wait! Oh, and I don’t display points — it’s no one else’s business how many points they have — and only share them with students before or after school. Oh, and the new messenger function is pretty nice too, a great way to communicate with parents or answer their questions after hours without giving out my cell number.

    TL;DR – like any management tool, you have to use it thoughtfully. It’s working for me.

  11. I appreciate all the great thoughtful educator comments in suggesting parents actually talk with their child’s teacher about their concerns. My 5.5 yr old just started K and they are implementing this, so my googling led me here. Any program that takes points away seems anti-self-esteem to me, which is why I looked up others’ responses. I wonder if it is discriminatory in nature and tends to be harder for minority and immigrant students and students who have learning difficulties (or small bladders?) or from lower socio-economic circumstances like many of these other types of programs.
    As a teacher myself, when we used marbles towards class rewards years ago, you were never to take marbles out of the jar- just add them appropriately and deal with negative behavior in a more quiet way.
    Also, If the program is free, who sponsors it and why and who is providing the training to teachers to use it in the classroom?
    My kiddo’s teachers are awesome, so I’m not so concerned since they are loving and experienced, but I’d like to see how my daughter reacts the first time she gets negative points- I hope it’s nothing like I felt the first time I had to stand against the wall during lunch for talking during quiet time in elementary school in the late 70’s. Nothing like everyone knowing you blew it when you are generally never in trouble. True, not everyone gets a cookie every time, so to speak, but no child should ever have negative points in school for any reason, in my opinion.
    My daughter was thrilled to get to go to the treasure box in week 1 for great behavior, but she also did a year of pre-K and is good at the game of school (one of 2 in class of 23 who got to go, I believe, but could be wrong).
    Some of her classmates are not quite so adept at school yet, and I hate to see their ADHD and/or a lack of schooling prevent little Kindergarteners from getting little rewards, esp when they have so little school experience, similar to the child referred to in previous emails who was homeschooled. And way to go to that parent for talking with their kid’s teacher. I think I need to do the same- if not for my kid, then to look out for others’ children who are apt to end up with negative points by Monday afternoon… high class problems but worth it to address ‘fore the therapy bills pile up!

    1. Exactly, for me, I see this just like the marbles method–you add to the jar, but you shouldn’t take any away except in very extreme (preferably pre-determined) circumstances. The marble or dojo point represents a good choice. A poor choice later on does not negate the first choice. And what happens when you get down to negative points or all the marbles are gone?

      1. I agree! I commented a few times already on this and have spoken to the teacher weeks ago and thought it would get better. But now I am getting phone calls from the principal and teacher because my son is throwing things and getting frustrated. They put him on the phone and he tells me he hates school because these points are frustrating him. On Friday he got 9 negative points in less than 2 minutes for the same thing (not following directions)!!! Seems to me they didn’t even give him a chance to stop what he was doing and the point after point probably fueled his frustration! He comes home with sad faces on his calendar instead of a terrific stamp on some days and asks me if I am still proud of him even though he got bad points. A 5 yr old should not be focusing on the points more than learning but he is. Something that is supposed to help kids learn right from wrong is turning my son into a different kid then he was 2 months ago before school started and making him act out more, reversing everything I did the last 5 years. :/

  12. My 5 year old doesn’t want to go to school anymore. He was getting good dojo points but now he has deteriorated to the point of I think he needs to be looked at for special needs class. He’s only 5 years old, but at my work of you were only 30% productive for the day you are walked out the door. From 75% – 80% to 30% percent days in less than 2 months is horrific to me and his father.

    1. I agree! My 5 yr old started at 100% the first day of school, next week 80%, next week 60%, next week 54%, next week 50%, this week so far 44%….he comes home wanting to see his points every day at home and the look of disappointment and frustration on his face should NEVER be on a 5 yr olds face! Most of the time he tells me he didn’t even do what they gave him a negative point for or he gets 5 negatives in 1 minute time for the same thing! Nothing good is coming out of this system except making children hate school. UNLESS they focus on positives more than negative which some teacher do and thank god for them, just wish my sons teacher was one of them.

  13. Hi Angela,
    I teach French to about 100 students a day. I have four different classes.
    I am really debating if I should begin CD with my classes and would like some guidance. I am thankful for all of the comments made by parents and teachers about how the Dojo system affects their kids. I guess if I were to use it, it would be to only recognize positive behaviors. I think I’d also keep my current management system of giving verbal reminders to students demonstrating off-task behaviors and if needed, pull the student aside to discuss the appropriate consequences-but that would be in private. I wouldn’t display the points awarded to students because I feel that this information is private.
    That being said, from a practical point of view, how much time will it take away from my teaching to award points on my iPad? I imagine quite a bit, if there are 30 kids in the class. I wouldn’t want to have the sound on either, as I think that would distract my students. Another thing is that how much time is it going to take to let students know about the points they receive for each period? Would they need to log-on at home for the updates?
    I teach in a community where I know that I will questioned quite regularly for points not awarded.
    I am not planning on sending hourly reports about student performance, either. It just seems to me that this system can get complicated.
    Now that I have listed my concerns and questions, it seems like an obvious decision for me.
    I just worry about equity and building up a child’s self-esteem and not the opposite.

    I’d greatly appreciate any comments about what I’ve written in this post. Thank you.)

    1. I use it in middle school English and each period is a “student” in my dojo class. I use it for each period as a team gaining and losing points together. Each period competes against the others for a small prize at the end of each grading period. I display points at all times and I don’t email parents reports. I make note of individual problems and call those parents. So far so good!

    2. I like your idea of just awarding positive points. I wouldn’t think that awarding points would take away from class time but actually add to it, just like telling kids “good job!” The positive recognition refocuses and motivates kids, and gets them back on task. At least, that’s what I tend to experience. If I stop to recognize one child, all the others scramble to get on task, too!

  14. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater! Dojo is a great system if used properly but like any system, it’s only as good as the operator. Instead of whinging about the system here, speak to the teacher as soon as you have an issue with it. Simple!

    1. If you actually read the comments you would see that is what everyone has already done or has recommended to others….in a little nicer way.

    2. Wish it was that simple. The principal likes it, so the tool stays. I do plan to address issues with the principal. Going to the top will save time and we can get answers quickly.

  15. I use ClassDojo for high school students. I have told the parents that I will be using it as an end of lesson reflection on how the students went today. The only bad points the kids have are when they progress through the school’s strike system, or they have a second warning about something. e.g. Disruptive behaviour, redirected, disruptive again. That ties in with name on the board as a warning, tick for repeat, second tick is a strike.

    I have lots of positive points too. I am using it to track homework, complete/incomplete classwork, students attitude, how they help each other or cooperate.

    I know my kids’ parents would much rather hear from me/ClassDojo earlier to be able to have those conversations with their kids at the same time I’m having conversations with them. Lots of parents have their children put on short suspensions and they hadn’t heard anythign from the teacher.

    As a teacher, I know parents are very confronting at times, especially when you have to deliver bad news about their child’s behaviour/attitude/work. If the parents are getting the Dojo reports, then as soon as something ‘bad’ comes up, they can message me straight away and have that conversation as soon as it happens, rather than wait, or not even be aware of it.

    I use it with my year 11 class, as they are the hardest with the most blaise attitude. For me it’s a tracking tool. Kids can find out where they are with the Dojo points logging in to their account (or their parents tell them).

    It takes a village to raise a child and I find that this helps a lot!

  16. I’m a parent and it’s an awful system. Teachers like it because it makes their lives easier whether it’s better for the student or not (which it isn’t). I find that the really good teachers that make an impact on children don’t focus as much on behavior. Why? Because the kids love them and behave (as my children do with us–the parents–and we’ve never needed timeouts, reward/punishment, etc.). It’s the bad teachers that are constantly using these behavior tricks. If teachers would spend more time being better teachers they wouldn’t need all these lame tools.

    One day in the future people will look back on Class Dojo and the “marble jar” and think we were in the dark ages the same way we look back at teachers who slapped hands with rulers. The only tool it gives teachers is allowing lazy teachers who haven’t learned anything about empathy to manage behavior. Read this and you may change your mind: http://www.teachingace.com/thinking-about-classroom-dojo-why-not-just-tase-your-kids-instead/

    1. I’m sorry that the way Class Dojo was used in your child’s classroom was not beneficial. I remember reading the article you linked to (in fact, it’s linked to in the first sentence of the post) and it made some excellent points. However, it’s going to be hard for anyone to really hear your message if you refer to teachers who use Class Dojo as “bad” and “lazy.” Keep in mind also that not all teachers use the negative points in Class Dojo.

  17. I have used many different behavior systems in the past. There is no easy way of doing this because each child and family is different. I just had 24 students in my 1st grade classroom. I am well aware that my behavior system at the time did not work for everyone but it is a base for many of the students to learn appropriate behaviors. Some families cared (maybe even too much), while others could have cared less. The idea is that the teacher is trying to communicate with you the behaviors noticed so you may deal with them and support the teacher who wants your child to get the most out of school that they can. I am looking forward to using this program next year because of the direct feedback with the parents.

    For those of you on here posting of your child’s behavior with negative points I want you to think of this…. Would you rather know where the difficulties are or be oblivious? Yes negative points aren’t comforting to anyone but they do raise awareness. One thing to discuss with your teacher is where all these negative points come from during the day…. subject, time of day, etc. Maybe you’ll find that these negative points come from the fact that your child may have difficulty with a subject matter, type of assignment, or the opposite of both. The main thing is that the teacher, student, and parents need to address why is this happening, what can each person do to lessen the frequency of these behaviors, and will we all work together to do this? Just remember…..the last part is essential.

  18. My school is using Class Dojo as the main tool to drive our PBIS program. I’m curious, how are teachers keeping up with points awarded during the day? I understand it can be done on the computer or on a tablet, but not all teachers are at their computers most of the day, particularly the teachers in the early grades. Is there a chart to list students’ names and maybe points awarded and why during the day. These of course can be updated at various times on the computer, but with a chart you’d have a paper copy to keep and wouldn’t forget about points awarded when you weren’t right in front of your computer.

  19. As my mother always said, nothing is ever free. Class Dojo uses it as a way to gather your information and sell you stuff. They’ve done no psychological testing and basically are app developers. This isn’t a nonprofit like Khan Academy devoted to helping students. It’s all about money and pleasing teachers so they’ll use it and give them more personal information. (Do the math 20+ students a year and multiply it times 2 to include parents and you’ve got 60 new people in your database to market to or sell to other companies – very profitable I’m sure. Read everything in their policy statement.) They only want to please teachers and not parents. It’s funny (not ha-ha funny) that many teachers go on and on about how great it works for them (never how great it is for the kids emotional development) and I don’t hear child or school psychologists saying how good it is for kids. It’s unconscionable that teachers don’t talk to child development professionals before they try this out. As a teacher and school you should be worried for several reasons (1) you are probably violating a parent’s privacy by giving their email to CD, (2) especially for kids under 13 they are protected by COPPA laws and you shouldn’t give their information to a company, and (3) and when you post behavioral scores for all to see you are probably violating privacy laws. Especially for elementary students who get a report card that grades behavior. I’m surprised no one has been sued yet. Or maybe they have. With all the data/cyber security breaches of even giant companies like Target, Home Depot, and Sony, schools and teachers should think twice before hiving over personal information to an internet company.

    1. Dear Maggie, you are SO on-target regarding this application. It is intimidating and destroying our child’s self-confidence. He comes home in tears most of the time — and he’s 10 yrs old! The tool serves only to communicate how “bad” he is (his words, not mine) and everything he is doing “wrong”. No positive points even though he has helped fellow students, teachers, and even raised money on his own for his school. We are only 3 weeks into the school year and the teacher’s use of this application has already destroyed our child’s joy and enthusiasm towards his school and school work. We will definitely look more into this, especially regarding the use of our child’s information. We as parents need to understand our legal rights.

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