Van Duyn Students Stay Motivated with Virtual Pets

     Published on 1/5/21   Tagged under:    District News    Van Duyn Elementary School   

One of the challenges of hybrid and remote learning for elementary school students? Adjusting to changing classroom traditions.
In a regular school year, students at Van Duyn are accustomed to earning white and green “Champs,” which whey can use to purchase prizes from the school store. Students loved setting a goal and earing their Champs to purchase items they had been eyeing.
Due to the hybrid and remote learning this year, however, this has been difficult. Fourth grade teacher Ms. Huynh-Boyle came up with a creative work-around: a special incentive within her virtual classroom!
“This school year hasn’t offered us many options in terms of incentives and awards,” Ms. Huynh-Boyle said. “I drop off prizes and care packages here and there, but it wasn't immediate enough. I wanted my kids to have something to look forward to everyday.”
Utilizing Seesaw and Class Dojo, she created a virtual world that allows the students to achieve a feeling of success at the end of the day. She created an assignment on Seesaw to hold students’ virtual pets, which they designed themselves, and students were also invited to design rooms for their pets.
Throughout the school day, students earn Dojo points for different acts, like being kind, turning in work, collaborating in small groups and more. At the end of the day, they can trade in their points for any of the materials in the virtual shop – from furniture to toys and food and more. Once the students complete their purchase, Ms. Huynh-Boyle adds the items to that student’s Seesaw activity, where the student can arrange their virtual space however they’d like. 
“This incentive gives kids an immediate feeling of success at the end of each day,” she added. “There is a prize for everyone, regardless of how few points they have. I believe that ALL kids should be allowed to feel success in some form. This incentive also requires the kids to self-regulate their feelings: maybe they didn't earn enough, and they need to work harder the next day.”
Ms. Huynh-Boyle mentioned that the activity also includes some math work, as it requires students to do basic adding and subtracting on their own to see how many points they have earned, spent and have left.
“It really keeps them on their toes throughout the day,” Ms. Huynh-Boyle explained. “One student hated Dojo because it was always something negative for him. He told me that he loves it now because he can earn something. It was incredible. I just wanted my kids to love school again! They absolutely love this.”