Sunday, August 6, 2017

End the Messy Desk Dilemma!

The morning of the first day of school, every student desk is neat and tidy. Every crayon where it  belongs, every pencil in its place. Ahhhh, Heaven.  Two hours later half of the desks look like a tornado struck them. I was pulling my hair out. I looked, and used, many different techniques to help students organize their desks. After all, how could they ever find their math book if it was at the bottom of an overflowing pile of....well, junk. Nothing worked for longer than a day, if that. Then I discovered the "Desk Dragon" solution.  Wow!  What a difference!! It's very simple for grades 1-4. I'll get into older grades in a minute.

The first step is to find or purchase the coolest ink stamp you can find.  I like this one from Amazon

I have to admit, I have a HUGE preference for dragons. I have also used a fairy stamp and called her the desk fairy. What stamp you use doesn't really matter. Just make sure it's cute and something kids would like.

So, What's next?

1.  On the morning you are to begin your Desk Dragon program, tell students to take ten minutes to make their desk as clean as possible. Something special is going to happen for students who have a neat and tidy desk.

2. Once time is up, check each desk for tidiness.  Be picky, especially this first time. For any student that has a satisfactory desk, put a sticky note (the square kind) on their desk and stamp it with the dragon (fairy, bear, whatever) stamp. Once you have finished, tell students that if they have a dragon stamp, that earns them one M & M.  You can use anything as a small reward. M & Ms are cheap and as long as they get only one you escape sugar highs. If you don't want to use food, you could also allow students who get a stamp to take off their shoes for one hour (or for the afternoon).  Kids LOVE going without shoes! At this point (the first time only) I give those who did not have a clean desk another opportunity to clean it up. If you have students that have a difficult time knowing what "clean desk" means, allow them to see a few desks that have earned the dragon stamp. 

3. Tell students that at least once a week the Desk Dragon will be visiting, and only clean desks will earn the stamp. 

4.  Later in the week, before students arrive, check desks and leave a stamp on those that are clean. Keep a list of the students who get a stamp for M&M time after students arrive. Don't allow students to try a second time. The object is to help students get to the point that they keep a clean desk consistently. Allow the Desk Dragon to visit at least once a week. I usually say something  before the dragon arrives like, "Hmmmm, it's been a few days since the Desk Dragon was about. You might want to be ready." That usually initiates a flurry of activity.

Ok! I know someone is freaking out about giving candy for this. I don't like giving it out either, but I make an exception for clean desks. Helping students become organized is vital to their success in school. Once kids learn how to keep desks clean, it speads to keeping assignment organized and so on.  We all have to start somewhere. Besides, like I said, messy desks drive me nuts. 

What about older students?

For older students, do it less often, but offer a "no homework night" card, or any other privilege your kids like.  

Seriously, kids love this! Just make sure that for the students who truly have a difficult time even knowing where to start when cleaning their desk, that they either have help from your class neatnics the first few times, or even take a picture of their desk when it's neat and tidy and attach it somewhere inside the desk to help that student see what is expected. For this kind of student, I usually have a desk cleaning time, and give him/her some help. I then make sure the Desk Dragon visits as soon as possible, so this child can feel that good feeling when they get a stamp too. 

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