Classroom Management Part 1.3: NOVELTY

Carol Gaab is one of my “CI mommas”. The greatest thing she ever taught me was the importance of NOVELTY.

Many of you have been emailing me and telling me you are finally approaching fiesta time for the points you’ve been awarding your classes.  A reminder, you can find lots of fiesta ideas on my blog here.  I am glad you’ve learned to take bits of what I have presented or wrote on and adapt it to your class and your style! If I preach ONE thing all the time it is that we ALL do things differently and only WE know what will work best for our kids and our classroom!

So NOW what? Why would you change anything when everyone is so bought in!? They will be even MORE bought in now that you’ve earned enough for a party! After said party, they will be eager to start earning points towards another one!  It is very important, WHILE they are still eager and interested, to create and add novelty.

We shouldn’t wait for students to be tired of a system, routine, brain break, or procedure before adding novelty. If we add little, tiny pieces of novelty while they are still really “into” it, they will remain engaged and interested.. If we wait until they are bored it is VERY challenging to get them to buy in again.

After my kids have earned their first party, I add in novelty to my point system the VERY next class! Kids come in excited and eager and I say, “I am so excited you guys liked the party! You earned it for sure!!!” They say something like “We are gonna earn another one even faster!” to which I respond “I have made it more challenging for you this time! You’ll have to step up your ‘awesome'” Then I explain the novelty.

The system at the beginning of the year is just Class vs. Teacher, if they beat me they log their points toward a fiesta. Their goal for MY class is 1,000 points.
Make it Novel Piece 1:

Students still earn points in the same way as before.

  • They have to follow the rules, participate, and be AWESOME.

Teacher still earns points in the same ways.

  • If class is not participating at 100%, if class is not enthusiastic, if class isn’t respectful, if class is not watching you 100% of the time with 100% of their eyes.
    • REMEMBER** THIS IS NOT A PUNATIVE SYSTEM. YOU SHOULD BE REWARDING THEM MUCH MORE POINTS THAN YOU ARE EARNING YOURSELF! If you are constantly giving yourself points they won’t care about the system anymore. It is FAR more impactful if you give yourself points after 15 minutes of giving them points. They will correct behavior much more quickly. If I have a class that is more challenging or blurting a lot, I will make the scores CLOSE at the end of the class as a warning and  if that doesn’t work I’ll beat them maybe once to send a message.

NOW, instead of the class just having to BEAT me to “log” their points, I subtract any points that I have at the end of the class from their score, and THAT is what they get to log toward earning a party! This is usually met with whining, until I point at my sign (with a huge smile) about not whining and they remember I earn 50 points per child that whines. Then they turn those whines into positive taunts and cheers about how they are STILL going to earn a party fast and that they will make SURE I don’t earn any points.

I find that the positive community I took the time to set up the first few weeks of school really works well with this management system. Everyone is part of a team. They all work together to earn the parties. Students aren’t dependent on a few “top” kids earning the points and those “top” kids aren’t getting individual points just for their smarts. It takes the ENTIRE class to earn a party.

Now that they have to subtract my points from theirs, it automatically takes them LONGER to earn a party. So instead of 3-4 weeks, it takes them about 6-7.

Make it Novel Piece 2:

After their second party I like to switch it up again!  NOTE: I don’t do this “piece of novelty” with elementary school students. (This is usually right around the end of October and it comes JUST in time for that LONG November and December before Christmas break). They come into class and I tell them that NOW they’ll have to REALLY step up their game because they’ll be competing against ALL of my classes. My points are still subtracted from theirs and they are still logging points trying to reach the goal but: the FIRST class to earn the points for a party GETS the party. ONLY that class. Then the points will all be reset (If you have a class who tends to earn less points you have to pump them up early and make sure to award them a lot for doing something AWESOME on the first day. That way they are bought in, believe they have a chance,  and work hard for you for the next 6-7 weeks. Since the points are totally arbitrary, I give every class a good little lead at some point to motivate them, then another class will take the lead and that is THEIR little motivation. The party is earned around the end of the year when all of the madness is happening in school and schedules are never certain. I like to save this “novelty” for this time of year when I need student behavior to be awesome. They tend to really come together and unite as a class when they are competing against all the others who have me.

This is how I display points in my room
Make it Novel Piece 3:

After the last novelty piece, kids come in and you have ONE class who LOVES you (the class that earned the party) and 4 or 5 classes (or 17 if you teach elementary school) who are REALLY bummed out that they didn’t win! Sometimes even a little bitter. So, for all of those classes, you tell them “I really didn’t like that last round either because you guys worked hard for points too! SO, this time, YOU ALL get a party again, whenever you earn it!”


This time, I introduce my POMPOMS and containers. For every 10 points the class earns they get ONE pompom to add to their “container”. Edwina, our MS assistant is amazing and she has given me 70 containers like these. I think they were gum containers originally. I label one to represent each class. They love watching the Pompoms rise. As classes fill their containers anticipation is high and so is engagement. Kids are also reminded of elementary school because lots of teachers used pompoms as management systems. They call the parties “fuzzy parties”.

  • NOTE!: Am I counting all the points and pompoms!?
    • NO WAY! I never count ANY of the points. That would take FOREVER! I always guestimate! That is part of the reason I never let STUDENTS count them during class either! (I don’t want them knowing the general point range incase my counting is way off.
      • If I take the time to count up points it almost defeats the whole purpose of the simple, quick, arbitrary system!
      • REMEMBER the Power of the White LIE!!!!
    • Grab a few pompoms if it was a decent class, 10 if it was AWESOME and, 15 if it was OUT OF THIS WORLD…

I also work to keep all classes more or less equal as they earn pompoms. The reason for that is I don’t want classes having parties too far from each other. That is for the following reasons:

  • I don’t want to keep track of who has had a party and who hasn’t
  • Since I start a new management system (add novelty) after each party, I need them all starting around the same time so I am not tracking different systems
  • Parties are exhausting…. I like to get them all done within a few days of each other…
    • Making points arbitrary allows me to manipulate the system.
  • There was ONE child in ONE class who happened to be a mathematician. It bothered him that I didn’t add the points in front of everyone and he didn’t trust me and was smart enough to figure out that my guesstimates, were not very accurate at all. He and I had an agreement that as long as he never added points up DURING class, he could always take the last 45 seconds of class to do it for me. He loved it, and he was happy, and I didn’t risk being exposed to the entire middle school for “failure to ACTUALLY count the points”.
You can see why I choose not to count points… it would take me FOREVER, and they don’t know that I’m not! 😉
Make it Novel Piece 4:

For the next piece of novelty, I introduce my “points” slideshow. I am sharing it with you here, but in order to use it, Google should FORCE you to make a copy of it first. 🙂 YAY! Students love this and love the “digital” representation of points. When students fill the heart with all of the banderas (flags) or countries, they get a party. What I LOVE about this, is points can be even MORE arbitrary because students don’t always have to see you move the flags over, however, I find that I can be lazy about moving them and sometimes that can affect student motivation. I use flags because each of my classes is named a different Spanish speaking country. The more frequently I remember to walk to my computer and move flags the better the buy in and participation. That is the reason I save this for later in the year when I don’t have to “sell” the method or work for buy in as much. Kids know what it takes to succeed in a CI classroom by late February or early March.

Make it Novel Piece 5:

I like doing “internal” competitions later in the year. I ONLY do this when I have an AWESOME classroom community built where everyone respects each other and their various levels of language development. Once I have that, I tell classes we will have daily point competitions between groups. I divide the room by country, (many teachers do this but the first I saw was my mentor Joseph Dziedzic) and I give each section (2-4 sections max) points throughout the class. I tell all of my classes that unless I didn’t think there was healthy, positive competition throughout the class, at the VERY end I will add their points up and “log” them toward a party.

Do I really add points up!?

NOOOOO! ALWAYS guestimate…. ALWAYS…..

Make it Novel Piece 6:

If the competition between classes went really well for you (piece #2), you can always do a competition between grade levels to make it novel again. I used this in high school and they loved it. For me personally, it has not worked well with Middle School and Elementary because competition between grade levels gets too ugly and negative… We know how much I try to steer away from negativity! There is no place for ugly attitudes and disrespect in my classroom.

When I did it in high school, my various grade levels were competing against each other for the party. If you teach 2 classes of freshmen and 2 classes of juniors then they should be working together with the other class of their grade level so that BOTH of the classes can win a party. (Obviously you double the end goal that they’re trying to reach since there are TWO classes trying to get there.

Here is ANOTHER way to keep it novel. From this blog, it sounds to me like Kelly Condon is an Elementary Teacher on a cart! Which makes this even more valuable as she shares how she used pictures of LLAMAS to keep it novel, and how she did this as she works in varies classrooms. She also is a good example of how you don’t have to be CRAY CRAY with the points like me…. She is much more controlled… (BEEEE yourself! There is only one you and only one me and only one Kelly! Take these ideas and tweak them to be more “you”! YAY!

Remember, the ultimate goal of this “system” is to make your life EASIER and your classroom more of a community. The better your students feel about the environment they walk into the more likely they are to WANT to participate and please you. If it isn’t working, DO NOT try to force it. Work with your students to show them that you want to find a system that works for ALL of you. Jen Schongalla, who I met in Oregon this summer, is an expert and testing the waters and adapting her systems to what works BEST for each of her classes!

There you have it!

I hope these give you some good ideas of how to keep it interesting and keep it NOVEL!

Until next time,



La Maestra Loca

This is my friend DAN!! He came to visit me for the day from New England. I met him in Vermont this summer… He is an awesome  and teaches LATIN! YAY!!!


  1. I always love your blogs and look forward to them all the time!!! I am using your point system and my students absolutely LOVE it! In fact, they are already bargaining for more points if they are able to do various brain bursts at the same time! And, they do this in the TL!! Just yesterday, a student said PERFECTLY in TL “The class gets up, claps their hands, spins around, claps their hands twice, and sits down together for forty points”!!! That’s after only seven classes! It’s fantastic!!!

    Now, after reading this blog, I think I should have started slower in order to bring in more novelty later in the year! My five classes are already competing against each other!! My reward for the class with the most points is donuts-which they absolutely love! In the past few years, my classes always competed but instead of points, I timed which class could stay in the TL the longest. Fortunately, the novelty never seemed to wear off. But, now you have got me thinking…I will have to change it up to keep it novel.

  2. Thank you! Yes, I always try to keep things new and different. This year is the first that I am experimenting with your mini brain bursts as well as your deskless seating. I feel that I may have overdone the brain bursts in the beginning. The kids loved them and so did I…I still do! But, I was doing like 4-5 at a time and they were having so much fun with it. But now I feel like it’s a little too much. The kids aren’t complaining, but I feel that the novelty wore off! I am going to add new brain bursts to keep it fresh but I think I am going to use them as you do…just one at a time every five minutes or so.

    So, deskless seating… I do like it a lot but I only find myself changing their seats about once a period. The kids are out of their seats a lot anyway so I don’t feel like it’s always needed. However, the problem I am finding is that almost no matter what I make the criteria (line up according to favorite type of pizza, high five someone that has the same favorite class, shoe color, hair length, etc.) they end up sitting in almost the same seats all the time!!!! I don’t say anything and it’s not a problem but I would rather them be in different seats. Anyway, I will be starting the dominos soon, so that should help. I am wondering, though, how often do you have them change seats according to different criteria? I have class for 84 minutes…should I do it more than once class, twice? Do you think it’s ok if I do the same criteria throughout the year? I have a list of about 40 different things to refer to but I am going to run out soon!

    Thank you!!!

    • I actually only have two classes that I switch seats with often this year. Even then I only do it once or MAYBE twice per class. This year all of my classes are VERY easily managed and I don’t really have many chatty kids. They want to be in Spanish and stay in the TL which is a dream. Don’t feel like you HAVE to change their seats unless they are acting up for you! 🙂

Leave a Reply to kc1005 Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s