Monday, June 23, 2014

Super Improvers Team in an Upper Grade Classroom

So, the big question can the Super Improvers Team work in a classroom where the teacher sees a large number of students in one day? In an average year, I see 100+ students in a day, so this question is one that I wrestled with for a while.

As you can read HERE, I am completely on board with the idea of the SIT. And I did use it for one full year with my students (all 100 of them).

I used borders to break my bulletin board into four sections (as I had four different class periods that year). Each student had their own 4"x2" card made of construction paper. The color of the card showed the level that the student was on. In the center of the card I attached an address label with their name written on it. As I noted improvements, I awarded students stickers, and they applied them to their own card. When they had ten stickers on their card, they ripped the card off the wall and got a new card to staple up. The card covered in stickers was then taken home.

It worked really well, and absolutely helped to motivate students to continue to improve...but it was difficult for me to maintain. I constantly had to be on my toes to award stickers every day, and it was admittedly difficult to keep at it.

We worked on the idea of modifying the SIT for upper grades for some time, and I think we've come up with a way to not just make it work, but make it AMAZING! We call it the Super Improvers LEAGUE.

The main difference is that instead of individual student cards, you have one card for the WHOLE class period. The class period is shown, as well as each student's name in that class. Posting the names on the card helps students to feel ownership in the card (and they look to see where their friends are!).

The second difference is posting specific goals that students need to improve on as a class. To start the year, I came up with specific goals that they were to meet. When the class met the goal, they earned a tally mark next to that goal (tally marks instead of stars or stickers). Each class had three goals, and had to show 4 improvements in each goal in order to move up to the next level. Doing it this way, a class actually has to show TWELVE improvements, as opposed to the ten required in the Super Improver Team.

 In this example, each class period had made it to the second level of "Rookie". The small white boxes were where I placed the tally marks. When a class had earned enough tally marks for that goal, I placed a big X over it. When all three goals were met, we made a big deal of ripping the paper off of the wall, having a ten second dance party, and celebrating our class victory.

Examples of class goals to start the year are:

  • 50% of students in seat when bell rings
  • 50% of students will have all required materials
  • 50% of students will have homework completed
The idea is to start with a lower percentage, something that is somewhat easily attainable, then raise the percentage on each new card. As I got to know each class, I chose specific goals for each class. One period that had a low homework completion rate had that goal, while another had a goal about supplies, while yet another had a goal about Rule 1. You can differentiate to choose class goals that fit the needs of the class.

When a class reached the 5th level of "Captain" I let the class choose their own goal. The students were surprisingly perceptive and honest, and ALL classes chose goals that were appropriate.

Around March I started thinking about the goal setting process, and came up with an even better idea...instead of setting the percentage, I'd let my STUDENTS set the percentage in action. This is how I will start the year next year because it is FAAAAAAAN-TASTIC!

Here's how it works: On the first day that the SIT is used, count the number of students that were in their seat when they bell rings (let's say 14). Then count the total number of students in the class (let's say 25). That's 56%. So write 56% on the little line next to "In seat at bell:___". The next day, students will earn a tally mark for that goal is they beat 56%! If that happens, they get a tally mark, and the new percentage is written on the line. To make this easier, I will staple sheet protectors to my bulletin board so I can just slip the paper into the pocket and write right on the sheet protector with dry erase marker. Or you could laminate it, but that sounds like more work.

Now, students all have to work together to improve their numbers...and THEY set their own records to beat. It's less on me, and more on them.

We start each class by doing a rules review (look for a post on that later), and this is led by a student. This takes about a minute, and frees me up to take attendance, then I ask the students to do the math on our goals. Most of them had their calculators ready when class started, and did it on their own!

For the supply check, we took about 30 seconds to hold up each material required for class, one at a time. "Hold up your pencils...Hold up your green notebook..." When I saw a student without a material, I just kept track of the number. When finished, I'd say," 23 out of 25 have materials, what percentage is that?" and the students would do the math and tell me. I love this goal because there is nothing better than hearing a student in the hall reminder another to bring materials to class!

I would again choose the goals for the first few months, but then allow classes to choose their own goals as well.

To use the rules as goals, here are some suggestions:

  • Rule 1: count up to see how long it takes to do something (pass out papers, move to groups, etc). That number gets written on the line. When they beat that time, they earn a tally.
  • Rules 2 through 5: Count the number of times you have to do that Rule Cue in class, write that number on the line. When they beat that number, they earn a tally.
If a class reached the Living Legend level, they would get their picture taken as a class, and that picture would go on my Living Legend wall. I told them that the picture would stay there FOREVER... since that's probably how long I'll be teaching there. I said, "That means that when you graduate, your picture will still be here on my wall. When your KIDS are in 6th grade here, your picture will still be on my wall!" They thought that was super cool. As some classes got close, I told them that IF they reached the Living Legends level, the number of tallies they earned on that card determined the type of picture they would take. A few tallies means regular smiles...many tallies meant silly faces...even more tallies meant they got to pick where they were to take the picture. I even said that if they earned 12 tallies that we would walk down the block to McDonald's for ice cream and take out picture there. It was INCREDIBLY motivational from day 1 through day 180. And I've never found ANY other motivational system that does that. 

I'd love any feedback on this process...what obstacles do you foresee? How do you think it would work in your particular situation? Please comment below!

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  1. Hi!! This is not an issue I have but have run across others that are not sure how to make it work with multiple classes. I shared this on my Facebook page. I am your newest follower!

    Kickin It Whole Brain In Texas

  2. I am wondering how this would work in multiple classrooms in the same building with the same kids? I love the idea but am wondering about student "burn-out" .

    1. That is a great question! I work with many teachers/teams in middle schools in which multiple (or all) team members are working together for a Super Improver Team. One example of this, is to have one SIT located in the hallway. This would be a TEAM, not a LEAGUE, so all students would have their own card. Then each teacher can award stars for improvement. This helps to unite the team of teachers under the same umbrella of improvement, and continues to help students improve individually. Individual improvement is the ultimate goal, but when a teacher is doing it alone with 100+ students it can be overwhelming - that's there the Super Improver League comes in. But when possible, the team, showing individual improvements, is the best way to use the strategy.

  3. I love the idea of the Super Improvers League!! This is the part I struggle with every year. Especially with the thought of putting all of my students' names up on the board. I use most of my board space to put up student work. With the SIL it seems like a reasonable task. However, I have one more task for my summer to do list. It would be great to have the signs ready to go before the craziness of the school year begins. At least for the first goals. The SIL also wont take up as much my space in my class and I can even make a space for the living legends. Once again, I like how you give suggestions on what to say to introduce the SIL. Thank you!

    1. I love the Super Improvers League too! I do miss the individual student recognition, so I still try to pull that in when possible. If I see a kiddo really make an effort on improvement, sometimes they'll earn a point for the whole class! That's a super big deal. :)

  4. Thank you for this great idea- I tried the Super Improvers a couple of years ago... but, like you, I see 6 classes a day! That was a lot of name cards & stickers & stamps! :) I'm going to try the class-wide Super Improver League this year...

  5. Do you supply any free resources/printables for this league?

    Thank you in advance.

  6. Any way teachers can provide positive recognition to hardworking students is worth it. Creative approaches from teacher to teacher only reinforces concepts.

  7. If I were still teaching middle school I would do this! I do have a teacher friend I'm trying to get her into WBT so this may help!

    First Grade Frame of Mind

  8. I am moving to 6th grade from 3rd grade. I'm going to try this!!! I will have three periods of Science!!

    1. Awesome!! I'm glad you found it helpful! Let me know how it goes!

  9. Sarah, I watched your peri's these last couple of days..I am a teacher of approx. 600 each year in 25 classes per week. If I don't get a handly on things this year, it's retirement for me. Anyway, I want to use SIL this year. Forget using indiv. students cards. I can't keep up with ins/outs and movements. So, if I use this by class, how should I set this up? Write class names on multiple colored sheets that I can move to new levels, perhaps. And what levels do you use - I am 4th and 5th music.