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Brag Tags - FAQ and Troubleshooting

Brag tags are a great way to motivate and reward students. This blog post focuses on the most commonly asked questions about brag tag management and troubleshooting.
From looking at the trending searches on TpT, it seems that many of you are wanting to try brag tags in your classrooms this year. My {previous post} has had a great response, and I have gotten A TON of questions about brag tags so I thought that I would devote a blog post to them.
Brag tags are a popular search item on TpT right now!
General Questions
Q: What are brag tags?
A: Brag tags are small, military tag-like "charms" that can be earned by or given to students. Teachers can give tags for mastering math facts, showing good character, reading different genres of books, holidays... pretty much anything that needs to be celebrated in your classroom. Students collect them on ball chains, binder rings, or whatever the teacher decides is easiest to manage.

Q: How do I prepare my brag tags?
A: There are many ways to do this depending on supplies and budget, but I print mine in full-color on white cardstock. Then I feed the page through my laminator. Then I cut the tags apart and punch a hole in the designated spot. I know that some people prefer to print the blackline versions on colored paper or cardstock. Others prefer not to laminate.

Q: Don't 5th graders think brag tags are too babyish?
A: Like anything, it all depends on your excitement and attitude towards them. In the years I've used brag tags, I've only had one class where the majority of my students seemed to be 10 going on 18. But for the most part, 5th graders still love little things like this deep down inside. Of course, there will always be a few that determine anything you do is "lame". Welcome to the joy of teaching 5th graders ;)

Brag Tag Management
Q: How do you organize your brag tags?
A: I use bead organizers from any craft store. I know others use the teacher toolboxes from hardware stores. I've seen other teachers use binders with plastic sleeves that were made to hold baseball cards or embroidery thread.
Bead organizers are perfect for storing brag tags and beads. Bead organizers are perfect for storing brag tags and beads.
Q: How often do you pass out earned brag tags?
A: For easy tags, like math mastery on XtraMath, I hand them out ASAP. For awarding genre tags, like through Reading Counts, that's a little more time-consuming. On Fridays, I check their passed quizzes on Reading Counts, record their points towards the goal party, update their 100%s for our 100-100% party, and also award their tags/beads. All of that is easier for me to do only once a week.

Q: Do the students store the necklaces or do you?
A: I hang them up on a Closetmaid tie and belt holder attached to the wall with Command strips. I'm afraid that if my students stored them, then they would disappear into the black hole known as their desks. Then the motivation dies. However, I know of some teachers who use binder rings and the students attach them to the zipper of their pencil pouch or backpack.
A tie and belt holder can be the perfect compact place to store brag tags.
Q: Do you let your students take home the brag tags at the end of the year?
A: Yes! About 95% of my students want to take them home. For those who don't, I just take the pieces and use them again next year.
This brag tags template allows you to create your own brag tags to fit the needs of your classroom.
DIY Brag Tags Troubleshooting
Q: My version of PPT doesn't allow me to save slides as pictures. How do I do that?
A: If you have a newer Mac version of PPT, you need to export as a JPEG. If you have a PC with PPT 2013, you need to Save As and choose PNG. If those are not options, then you need to email me so I can help!

Q: Why are my inserted pictures blurry/too small/pixelated?
A: You most likely need to save at a higher resolution. On a Mac in PPT, click Options after choosing to save as pictures and type in something over 1000 into one of the boxes. On a PC in PPT 2013, try following the steps in {this article}.

Anything I'm forgetting? Leave a comment and I'll add your question with the answer!

You can browse my current selection of brag tags {here}.

Brag Tags

Brag tags are a great way to motivate and reward students for various accomplishments and holidays.
One of my huge successes of the year was my implementation of brag tags. I finally figured out a way to be consistent with awarding them in addition to having a variety of ways for students to get them. Since I get a lot of questions about using brag tags, I'm going to share with you how I implemented them in my classroom this year.

Set Up and Storage
First of all, I get a spool of silver ball chain from Hobby Lobby and cut 24" pieces. Or, if I'm feeling lazy in a time crunch, I order 24" ball chains through Amazon Prime. Some people like shorter, keychain-like ones or binder rings, but I like chains because I also award beads (more on that later).
24" ball chain necklaces are a perfect way to collect brag tags and beads.
Then I make each student a name tag and school tag. (The punch I use is 1/8" from Michaels.) EDIT: I totally forgot to give Nasreen at {Upper Grades are Awesome} credit for inspiring the name tag design.
Creating a tag with the students' names helps to clear up confusion on whose necklace it is. A 1/8" punch is the perfect size for ball chains.
The tags get hung on a Closetmaid belt and tie rack attached to the wall with Command strips.
A Closetmaid belt and tie rack attached to the wall with Command strips makes a perfect storage solution. A Closetmaid belt and tie rack attached to the wall with Command strips makes a perfect storage solution.
I made the wonderful discovery this year that my {brag tag template} can also be used to label the different hooks with the students' names. I typed their names onto the template, printed on cardstock, cut them apart in strips of six tags, and then punched with a regular-sized punch. They are spaced perfectly and slip right over the hooks so I can shove them to the back. This makes it MUCH easier for students to find their tags.

SWAG Tags
There are certain tags that all students get, mostly holiday and birthday tags.
Holiday tags make a quick, inexpensive, and easy gift! Holiday tags make a quick, inexpensive, and easy gift!
The PBIS tags are also handed out when we earn a yellow ticket party or we win the traveling trophy for the week.
Brag tags can be used to reward PBIS achievements!

Individual Tags
The rest of the tags are earned by individual students throughout the year.

When students pass an operation in XtraMath, they earns a tag for that operation.
Brag tags can reward math fact mastery.
After students finish a book, they take a test on Reading Counts. If they pass, they earn a tag for that book's genre. If they already have a tag for that genre, they earn a color-coordinated bead. I run the reports and award the tags and beads on Fridays, otherwise it's hard to keep up with the large number of passed quizzes. NOTE: Be prepared for a LOT of students opening their necklaces and spilling every bead on their chain onto the floor. I HIGHLY suggest that they add tags and beads on a table, counter, or desk.
Students can add beads to their brag tag necklaces for other achievements, such as reading multiple books in a genre. Genre tags can be used to reward Reading Counts quizzes and 40-book challenge goals.
I also have a tag for a desk gnome/fairy tag for the occasional spot-check of desks.
The desk fairy can reward students who keep tidy desks.

Bead and Tag Organization
I use bead organizers to store my beads and tags. All of my genre tags and beads are in one, and the other tags are in another one.
Bead organization boxes are perfect for brag tags. Bead organization boxes are perfect for brag tags.
I already have several other tag designs in mind for next year. Hopefully I can find the time to make them this summer!

EDIT: One of my Facebook followers asked about celebrations and such for earning the tags. Maybe once a month or when we've earned a goal, I let them wear their tags around school for the day to kind of show them off. They get so much attention from other teachers and students who want to see their tags and they love it!

If you are interested in seeing the tags I've created, you can {check them out on TpT}.

You may also be interested in {Brag Tags Part 2: FAQ and Troubleshooting}.


Bath Rugs in the Classroom - Who Knew?!

Bath rugs in the classroom create soft and cozy places for your students to read and work.
This year, the most coveted cozy spot was without a doubt my round bath rugs. Something about the round shape makes them really desirable. I originally got the idea from Kristen at {Ladybug's Teacher Files}, and I included them in a Donors Choose project.

Most use them directly on the floor.
Round bath rugs create a soft and comfortable floor space for reading and working.
Then one student got the idea to lay one on his chair because he liked to use the softness to calm himself. The idea quickly spread because they made the hard chairs more tolerable.
Round bath rugs add a little extra comfort to classroom chairs. They also provide some stimulation for tactile students.
As far as holding up, one of them lost its edging somehow. And a particularly tactile student started pulling out the yarn. Otherwise, they did well in the washer and dryer and come out nice and soft.

{Here's the link} to the product if you want to pick a few up for your classroom (or bathroom). (Note: This is not an affiliate link. I just like the rugs!)


Classroom Library Success

Read about organizational tips and tricks that I used in my fifth grade classroom library.
In the past two years, I have gone back to being a fifth grade self-contained classroom teacher. If you have read my blog for longer than that, you know that I used to teach mostly fifth grade social studies.

In my new district, it isn't really common practice to send students to the library whenever they need a new book since they do not employ library associates. (Side note: I spent the first 13 years of my teaching career in the same building teaching the same grade in the same room. It's a really interesting experience to see the differences between buildings and districts. It has really shown me that certain resources cannot be taken for granted.) Anyway, I needed to build up a classroom library since my students only go to the library once a week.

Through Donors Choose and the wonder of Scholastic bonus points, I have built up a pretty decent library. Here are some things that are really working well for me up to this point.

Keeping Track of Titles
I haven't found anything that I really love, but for now, {Booksource} is working for me. I don't have students check in and out, but it's nice when I'm going through Scholastic book flyers or the bookstore and wonder if I already have a book. There's an app, so it has come in handy on more than one occasion when I've been book shopping. Most of the titles are in their catalog, so it's simply a matter of scanning the barcode and adding it to my library. If you have something you really like to inventory your library, please leave your suggestions in the comments.

Protecting Paperback Books
I prefer to buy the library binding whenever possible, but sometimes paperback is the way to go. Before I put the books out for students to read, I cover them in Contact paper. I found {this tutorial} that is pretty easy once you get the hang of it, though it is time-consuming.

Labels
Creating labels for the inside covers will help answer those reading level and genre questions.
About halfway through the year, I got the urge to print labels for the inside covers of the books. There were a few questions for which I just got tired of looking up answers (namely, "What Lexile is this?" and "How many points is this book?"), and I also wanted to be able to grab the book when awarding {genre brag tags} and beads if I wasn't sure of the genre. Nothing fancy. Just a Word template for good ol' Avery label 5160.

Book Display
Organizing your books by author and series help students find what they're looking for. Organize random titles in genre or reading level baskets.
I am fortunate to have a bit of built in shelving for books and such. Pictured above is the section of my library for series and author collections. The baskets are organized by genre or author for paperbacks. On the window sill, I chose a few books/series to highlight by using a plate stand to prop them up. Often times, this is where I showcase the new library additions.
Using clear wall files gives you extra storage for picture books and other thin books.
I also have some clear wall files to hold thin or oversized paperbacks. I {previously blogged} about how I use these files in other parts of my room.

Any classroom library ideas that you have found to be successful? Please share them in the comments!


Prodigy, aka How I Got My Students Hooked On Math!

"I just bought 2 new video games, but this is my favorite!"
-Fifth grade student

One huge success in my room this past week has been the use of {Prodigy}. Prodigy is a FREE website that completely gamifies math. Students have an alias in a virtual world and use math to battle each other, unlock features and new worlds, and otherwise have fun. I've been told by the students that it's Pokemon-like. (Note: There are some benefits to having a paid subscription, but the free version is completely awesome on its own.)
https://www.prodigygame.com/referral.php?referralCode=756777B48F91&referralName=Diane%2BRoethler&referralOrigin=link
It is incredibly easy to set up for your class, and it works on both Chromebooks and iPads (either in Safari or with the free app). First, you need to set up your classroom code by {creating an account}. Students go to {https://www.prodigygame.com/play}, log in as a new student, create their screen names and avatars, and enter your classroom code.
https://www.prodigygame.com/referral.php?referralCode=756777B48F91&referralName=Diane%2BRoethler&referralOrigin=link
https://www.prodigygame.com/referral.php?referralCode=756777B48F91&referralName=Diane%2BRoethler&referralOrigin=link
From there, students unknowingly start the placement test.
https://www.prodigygame.com/referral.php?referralCode=756777B48F91&referralName=Diane%2BRoethler&referralOrigin=link
https://www.prodigygame.com/referral.php?referralCode=756777B48F91&referralName=Diane%2BRoethler&referralOrigin=link
On your teacher dashboard, you can see placement test results, skills that students are struggling with, students who have answered the most questions for the week, and how many questions have been answered during the week. I'm sure that there are a ton more reports that you can get, but I'm still exploring it myself!
https://www.prodigygame.com/referral.php?referralCode=756777B48F91&referralName=Diane%2BRoethler&referralOrigin=link
https://www.prodigygame.com/referral.php?referralCode=756777B48F91&referralName=Diane%2BRoethler&referralOrigin=link
https://www.prodigygame.com/referral.php?referralCode=756777B48F91&referralName=Diane%2BRoethler&referralOrigin=link
You can also align {Prodigy} to Common Core, TEKS, MAFS, or Ontario standards. Students can do this when they set up an account or you can do it through the dashboard. Or, you can align to skills that you are covering in class and choose specific skills for students to encounter in the game.
My students have begged me every day to have time to play this game. They play it at home. I know this because the graph on my dashboard tells me. I also hear the talk about certain battles from the night before and making plans to battle that evening. If you are interested in checking it out, you can click on {my referral link} or any of the images.

Disclaimer: Prodigy has not asked me to review their game. These are 100% my thoughts and experiences.


End-of-the-Year Behavior Reward Chain

Students create a chain of rewards with one link for every remaining day of school. At the end of the day, a link is removed and the reward is given if students were behaved that day.
Do you ever walk into another teacher's room and get so excited about something so relatively simple that happens to be exactly what you need?! I had that feeling this week, and I wanted to share the idea with you (with her permission) in case it's exactly what you need, too.

We are entering that point of the year when it might feel that we have to pull out all the stops to make it through the last few weeks of school. This is how my coworker created a behavior reward chain with her class.

First of all, they brainstormed a list of rewards they might like to earn. The teacher had to approve them, such as hat day, iPad time, reading outside, 5 min. extra recess. Any ideas that were bigger or that the teacher wouldn't be willing to do several times, such as moving desks and PJ day, were kept on a different list.

After the class had come up with a dozen or so teacher-approved rewards, she handed out a strip of paper to each student. They each chose one item from the list and wrote it on the paper strip. The she numbered them on the other side with the number of days left of school. For the extras, she chose some of the bigger rewards so they would only be in the chain once each. Finally, she created a chain with the numbers on the outside.
Students create a chain of rewards with one link for every remaining day of school. At the end of the day, a link is removed and the reward is given if students were behaved that day.

Students create a chain of rewards with one link for every remaining day of school. At the end of the day, a link is removed and the reward is given if students were behaved that day.
At the end of each day, she takes off a link as part of the countdown. If the students had behaved during the day, they earn the reward. If they didn't behave, they don't earn it and the link goes in the trash.

You might want something a little more measurable. I have {this NOISE freebie} in my store that might help. If they get down to the NO, then they don't earn the reward.
This NOISE freebie can help with behavior management in your classroom.
Let me know if you think this idea might work in your classroom? What twist might you put on it?


Hanging Wall Files in the Classroom

Clear hanging wall files can help you utilize wall space for organization.
I cannot believe how quickly this school year is going. Fortunately, the weather is starting to cooperate to make it feel like spring. Here's a pic of a bleeding heart that I managed to keep alive from last year. (Note: Bleeding hearts do NOT like to be moved.)
Anyway, earlier this week I walked around my classroom taking pictures of things that went really well this year that I wanted to remember for next year. I decided that the ideas might make a nice little blog series.

The first idea that I want to share is the use of clear hanging wall files. They can be a little pricey, but I have used them in a variety of ways. I have a total of 12 (which I purchases in sets of 3), and they can be joined together or used separately. Instead of making a hole in the wall, I used medium Command strips (or maybe large?) to attach them to the wall.
Command strips can hang clear hanging wall files that can help you utilize wall space for organization.
As you can kind of see in this picture, I make sure that the tab extends above the top of the file so they can be removed from the wall if needed. When I have them connected together, I also add strips to the top of the bottom file. This also keeps them from wobbling. Sometimes I also add a small poster strip to the middle one with the tabs extending to the side.
Clear hanging wall files can help you display picture books or other thin books.
Picture Book/Thin Book Storage
These are hung on the wall about eye level to the students. In the past, I displayed the books that related to the current social studies unit in the blank area under my whiteboard and rotated the books with each unit. Since I actually have more room for my library, I use them for the Who Would Win books and other similarly-sized books. If you use them for this purpose, I highly recommend getting clear files so students can see the covers through the plastic.
Clear hanging wall files can help you utilize wall space for organization.
Paper Management and Teacher Interactive Notebook Storage
Oh, then endless cycle of papers that we must wrangle. I put these right behind my desk or on the side of a file cabinet. When I had to assign homework and take grades, they were labeled To Be Graded, To Be Recorded, and To Be Returned. When I was departmentalized, I labeled one for each class period and I put in papers to be returned. When they were full, I have students pass them out at the end of class.

Now that I don't have to assign homework and have fewer papers to check and return, I have 3 behind my desk that are labeled by subject, 2 for PD papers/random whatnot, and 1 for student papers to be filed.

Once I really started incorporating INBs into most subject areas, I struggled with where to store all of my teacher copies. I put files near my document camera and they are now perfectly out of my way and easy to find.

If you use hanging wall files in your classroom in a different way, please comment with your ideas. I'm always looking for new uses!


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