& Teaching In The Target Language

A language teacher from Pennsylvania recently asked me a question about using

classdojo staying in the target language

Although I don’t imagine that it would be an effective resource in every setting (or with every age group), it is a HUGE part of what I do with my students.  (It’s so huge that I was pulling out my hair trying to keep student’s on task for an hour last year when our district servers went down and I couldn’t access the website!  hahaha!)

Here are some reasons why it works so well in my “90+% target language use” classroom.

1- The sound effects give my students comprehensible feedback regarding their behavior.

If you’re familiar with the website, you know that each student is assigned an avatar/cartoon/monster/character.

classdojo senorhoward

Each student’s avatar gains and loses points based on their behavior.  Teachers can elect to have a sound effect accompany the gain or loss of any point.  Those sound effects are key for me because my novice students won’t understand my L2 corrective phrases and sentences.  However, when they hear a “BOOM” (and see that their avatar has lost a point) they immediately get the idea that their behavior is off-task and won’t be accepted in my classroom.  9 times out of 10 I can redirect off task behavior at the click of a button; without needing to say a word.

Furthermore, I like the sound of the positive sound effect: “DING.”  Whenever a student gets a point, the “ding” makes them feel proud and motivates my young learners to want to do well.

2- The students and I love using L2 to discuss points accumulation and numbers identification.

Sometimes, when there’s a few minutes to kill at the end of class, I’ll randomly choose a student and they will have to say all of the L2 numbers that I point to on the ClassDojo homescreen.  I love doing this because my youngest students are masters at counting but start stumbling when I ask them to say a random number that I point to.

Often we will also talk about which student has the most points.  We talk about it so much that even my 2nd graders can ask and answer complete L2 sentences like, “How many points does Roger have?” and “Who has the most points?”

Whenever I see a student get excited about earning a point, I take the opportunity to use the Two-Hand Method to teach them to say, “Look Sr. Howard! I have 8 points!”

3- My end of the month routine.

The student that accumulates the most ClassDojo points in any given month receives a prize.  Then we reset the points to zero and start the new month fresh.

At this point I like to practice the L2 months in a meaningful way.  I say something in the target language like, “we have to say goodbye to all the points because we are saying goodbye to _______ (i.e. August, December).”  Then I have the students say, “Goodbye points,” and I reset the point bubbles.  Then I sing a “goodbye to the month” song.  Then we say goodbye to all the months that have passed in the school year so far.  By the end of the year students know all of the months without ever having to complete a formal thematic unit on the months of the year.

4- It helps me keep the students’ attention.

It doesn’t take long for novice students to disengage when they hear incomprehensible L2.  This is a very important point because, if a novice student isn’t watching the source of instruction, there’s ALMOST NO WAY that L2 will be acquired. (Since *pairing will not be occurring.)  With this in mind, a teacher needs to do everything he can in order to maintain the attention of his students. helps me toward this end.  The sounds are attractive (at least to young students).  The avatars are attractive.  The idea that a student has their name up on the screen (and that they’ve chosen their avatar) is attractive.  It encourages them to watch what’s happening at the front of the classroom.

5- I can use it throughout the class period.

Some teachers ask me, “So do you just enter the ClassDojo data at the end of each class period?”  And I say, “No.  I enter the information throughout every portion of the class.”

I can enter the data onto any mobile device. (Just download the free app)  This is handy if I’m showing the students a video clip.  I can have the class list open on the ClassDojo app and be giving students points for paying attention or using the target language while their watching the video.  It’s also handy if the students are walking around the room doing some kind of interpersonal mode activity.  I can circulate throughout the room and record ClassDojo data on my mobile device.

I can quickly switch between windows/screens using the computer keyboard, wireless mouse or SMARTboard screen.  Let’s say we’re doing an activity using power point and a student knocks my socks off with an amazing L2 answer/contribution.  I can easily switch screens and give any amount of points to communicate that I’m very pleased.  In that moment every student WANTS to make the same positive contribution because they see how richly I rewarded the exemplary behavior.

6- I can use the ClassDojo reports.

  • I can print an individual student’s behavior report and send it home.
  • I can invite parents to sign up to receive live behavior updates.  I can also send messages to parents through the website without compromising my personal contact information.
  • I can run whole class reports and use them to award prizes at the end of the year.
  • I can run student reports at the end of each marking period and use them as a performance assessment.
  • I can have an objective count of how many points a student has lost and assign detentions accordingly
  • etc.

How to make more attractive to older students:

You may want to avoid using ClassDojo with older students to avoid making them feel childish.  But there are some things you could do to use this free resource and still make it age appropriate.

  1. Have every student be the same avatar.  I’ve done this before.  I choose a Critter Option instead of an Avatar Option.  I make it look really neutral.  Then the students don’t feel singled out…and it looks less like a childish cartoon.
  2. Don’t display the home screen in front of the students as much.  Keep it more private.  Enter data on a mobile device.  Show individual students the data as part of a teacher-student conference to discuss progress/performance.
  3. Turn off the sound effects in the settings menu.


Click here to read an older post on how I use ClassDojo to increase student motivation.

*Disclaimer: This term is my own and I’m using it for the purpose of reflecting on my own foreign language teaching practice.  The reader should not assume that this is a term found in formal, academic writing.

Señor Howard

Señor Howard – – @HolaSrHoward

Caleb Howard –

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