Classroom Management: Part 1

Several years ago, when I was learning how to navigate this crazy methodology, I attended a workshop in Denver taught by Carol Gaab. I don’t remember everything she covered, because she did SO much, but the BEST thing I took away from her was 3 words that she repeated what felt like 7.2 billion times in 2 days! “KEEP IT NOVEL!”

When it comes to Classroom Management techniques, games, point systems, rewards, WHATEVER, any and all of it has to be kept novel if we want our students to buy into it. It doesn’t matter what age they are either. This means that, we have to change our management “system” every so often, to keep our students engaged, eager, and excited to learn. I have so many management systems that I use, I have a giant short hand list that I keep next to my whiteboard (next to my brain break ideas) so when I can feel a class, getting board or tired of a system I throw something new at them which may just be a twist on the old system, and all of a sudden they are freshly motivated! It is so great!

In a successful CI classroom, management should be minimal and super easy. If kids are engaged they are acquiring, and you don’t really need to worry about keeping them engaged. Especially  if it is all interesting and compelling input! That is what rocks about what we do! HOWEVER, I always have something extra to keep motivation up and just for extra fun!

The system I used at IFLT that so many people had questions about was my point system, it is something I saw Joe Dziedzic doing in his class and I modified it and made it a little more LOCA. I wrote STUDENTS  and MAESTRA (teacher) on the white board in a place that I could sprint to quickly and reach easily. Periodically throughout the class, I would add points to the students column with simple tally marks. They would receive these for 100% engagement and participation, or if a student said something really smart, or if I saw great energy, teamwork, ANYTHING really. I would give myself points if I felt that energy was low, or I didn’t have 100% participation or I felt that the students were being lazy. Some days at the end of class, the students would have 20 points and me 3, other days the would have 239, and I would have 54!

Many people asked my “system” when it came to awarding these points. Here is my GIANT SECRET…. There is no system… none at all. The points are completely arbitrary. What is important is that your students THINK they matter. Now, since this is a public blog, I will probably have to ACTUALLY think of some sort of system this year, if my students read this! But YOU DO NOT HAVE TO! That is the best part about it! If you feel like a child who really needs some encouragement says something AWESOME in the target language, and you want to praise them, run up and put 20 points on the board. The kids will fall about with excitement and praise that student, and they will be chuffed to bits! If you feel that you have built a GREAT, positive, learning environment, and it is close to the end of the year, and everyone has LITERALLY NO affective filter because it disappeared because they are so comfortable in your room (tehehehe!) then every time you hear ANY English words, give yourself a whopping 50 points! OH BOY! Just wait til you see their faces!

So, what then!? What are these points adding to? What is the end goal?! That is up to you!  Here is a blog of ideas! In elementary and often times in middle school I never needed an end goal (at least for the first several weeks). They are happy as a class, just knowing that they beat the teacher. If you would like to reward them somehow or have an incentive at the end, here are some ideas:

(ES= Elementary School MS=Middle School HS= Highschool A=Adults)

  • stickers at the end of class or end of the week for consecutive class wins: ES,MS,HS
  • candy at the end of class or end of the week for consecutive class wins: ES,MS,HS,A
  • 5 minute Mickey Short cartoon at the end of the week/month: ES,MS, HS
  • GIANT PARTY at the end of the month if they beat the teacher at least 95% of the classes ES,MS,HS,A

and the list goes on and on…. I am sure you can think of other ideas!

So, how do you then TWIST this point system and make it NOVEL again!? Here are some ideas:

  • Class vs. Class (I had 18 last year so this was entertaining to say the least)
  • Grade level competitions
  • Divide the room by countries and have the countries compete each day
  • Girls vs. boys

For the first two, the reward was a BIG party for the winning grade level or class, whoever earned the most points gets the party. Here is a video of a seventh grade jeopardy party.

I know what you are thinking…. BUT HOW DO I TRACK IT IF IT IS ARBITRARY!? Don’t worry! ha! You don’t! We all know which class performs best at the end of any given month right?! And if you feel guilty and want to track it, DON’T! Have a student do it for you! YAY!


Go have fun! Points are arbitrary! They don’t know! Just go with it! and KEEP IT NOVEL!

Here is a link to a webinar with Fluency Matters that I’ll be leading on the 17th of January! Join me!

I will do more Classroom management posts with all my other ideas…. this is just the beginning…. tehehehe

Happy Teaching!


La Maestra LocaIMG_3914


  1. I saw you do this at iFLT!! I started it with my classes. I did set up a reward. My older students are getting poi ts for a Señor Wooly day. A day they get to be on his website and choose any activity they want for a whole class time. Listening to Spanish songs they know so well for 45 minutes!! The love little ones are getting points to watch GPTV Salsa and color “color by number” Spanish sheets or BINGO for one class.

  2. Just found your blog thanks to Twitter!! I am so excited! I am always looking for fun new ideas to add to my class!! Your blog is full of wonderfully loco ideas!! Thank you for sharing!!

  3. I love that this system is really no work at all…just tally marks! I also like how it is centered around teamwork because they work together all hour, encourage one another, and they ALL leave feeling successful (or all leave in the same boat with their heads down) ready to do better (or just as well) the next day. Thx so much!

  4. So are there any consequences for if the maestra wins? And how would you introduce this to the students without giving away the fact that the points are arbitrary?

    1. No consequences. Only positivity. They are upset enough that THAT is their consequence. You just don’t tell them they are arbitrary. They have no reason to suspect otherwise. What is important is that you are USING the points often enough for the students to buy in and believe that if they are ALL participating 100% of the time THEY are being rewarded for that and eventually, they will get a party for it.

  5. Thanks so much for this suggestion! I don’t know if I can implement this into my Latin classes (I teach K-12 Latin in Nebraska) this late in the school year. I will FOR SURE be using this at the beginning of next year though. I appreciate all the great suggestions, ideas, and activities on your blog…I should probably get back to some grading.

    1. It is never too late in the year! 😉 Even with just one class for fun! You could tell them you’re trying something new! K-12! Wow, what a range!
      Good lucky grading! 🙂

  6. I love this idea. Thanks! One comment I would make is the suggestion of boys vs girls. It isn’t a great idea to separate anything by gender in case anyone is gender non confirming, questioning their gender or trans. It can be uncomfortable to be split up in class this way.

  7. I teach 14 classes, K-6. My first parties have been great so far–I offered Games outside, Kindergarten Day, and Bingo with candy. (Kindergarten hasn’t earned their party, and the other classes wanted to know what they get…5th grade day? Hmm…I’ll have to figure that out. So far, 3 classes have chosen K-day! Only 2 wanted Bingo with dulces. All fun fun fun.

    Do you zero out the points when you restart the game, or do they get to keep their points? I think I need to give out more points, because they average only 20 or so per class, and got their parties at 200. I haven’t given myself 40 for complaints either! A couple of classes did have to lose once or twice to get that yeah, it has to be 100% response, nobody gets to “lay low” or “check out.”

    Another question–do you have native speakers in your classes? If you do, can you blog about that?

    1. I do occasionally have native speakers. I used to teach heritage Spanish in Colorado. I have literally 55 blog drafts at the moment and I have 2 in there that will address heritage students in the CI classroom. Stay tuned. I do zero points out after a party. Here is how I “change it up” after each party. I find that novelty is VERY important. 🙂

  8. If you have a particularly challenging class, do you ever “beat” the class (I don’t want to use this wording, but I feel like it makes the most sense). Like not give them the fiesta or not give them the candy?

    1. If I were to not give them the party all together they wouldn’t be “bought in” to the system anymore. If it is a challenging class I make it a point to “beat” them once or MAYYYYBE twice on the daily points game to motivate them to participate how I need. My goal is to keep it as positive as possible. I want THEM to want to participate and earn points. I want them to work together to do that. I hope this helps answer your question. hang in there!!!

  9. I’m really interested in trying this with my 4th-8th grade montessori class but at our school we try to stay away from extrinsic rewards. Have you tried this without any parties, movies, etc… at the end, but just as a fun motivational tool? Does it still work?

  10. Saw you in ME (fun times) and didn’t think points would be “my thing”. I needed something today and just threw them up there (no explanatin) w/my middle schoolers, who talk over each other all.the.time (been a struggle all year). I’ve tried so many things, always trying to be positive and reward “good (aka expected)” behavior and honestly nothing has worked and I’ve been so exhausted. Tried something new (that was positive and which has helped) the week of the conference…. but today… I just threw those points up there… and wow. Buy in. For the first time the whole class was working TOGETHER towards the positive goals we created. Thank you! Came back to look up your “specifics”. (Didn’t think there were any). Will tweak what I did (won’t take points away) after what I read. Think it will be a good fit after all, and love the way you make it “novel” with country competitions etc. if/when “beating the teacher” needs a change-up.

  11. I’ve done something similar for the past few years and given each student a little plastic bingo type piece every time they raise their hand, help a neighbor, help me, do something great, etc. My 6th graders especially get into it (they remind me “aún necesito un punto” if I forget to give it to them). We’ve done teams before, but I love the idea of teaming them up as a whole class against me and just tracking points on the board. Plus, no germs. 😛

    1. Yes…. and MUCH quicker/easier!!!! Just as effective and even more of a community builder. The challenging thing about individual systems…. is there are kiddos who may not be as outgoing, or EAGER to earn those points… in this system those kiddos are included too and everyone is part of a community earning points 🙂 it is nice! 🙂 I hope it works! If nothing else, it will be a piece of novelty for your kiddos! 🙂

  12. I have started implementing the points and LOVE how it is working in almost all o fmy classes. I have one that I am struggling with and wondering if you have some advice…. The class is very negative with each other and are always “just kidding” . I have four students that I am constantly telling to be nice. I have tried putting points up for only positive behaviours that I am seeing but it doesn’t seem to help. These kids can be very toxic to each other and it just hurts my heart to hear them…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *