As you many have noticed, I have recently added French Brag Tags (billets de fierté) to my TPT store, and have been discussing them a bit on my blog. I like to call them « médailles merveilleuses », but you may have heard of them under a different name. Basically, billets de fierté are a classroom management system, that help you teach and reward your students in a positive way as they learn, develop, and practice great behaviour and character choices. I wanted to write a little blog post today about how I use les billets de fierté in my classroom. As you doubtless know, I teach maternelle - and if you teach maternelle as well, you know that sometimes we have to do things a little bit differently!
Preparing and setting up your billets de fierté will take some time and work. I highly recommend picking a rainy day and setting up in your living room with lots of coffee and Netflix (or the Olympics if you get started this week!!). Just about any set of brag tags that you purchase will include many different options - especially if you have purchased a bundle of tags. The first thing you will need to do is decide which tags will work for you, and how many of each you will need. Which behaviours do you want your students to learn and show? Which are most important to you and your classroom environment? There is no need to print them all if they don't all work for you - and you don't need to print hundreds of each tag, either.
I do choose to print MOST of the tags. I love handing them out, and I like to have a wide variety of tags to avoid students being awarded too many doubles. However, I don't print tags that don't work for my classroom set up (for example « pupitre propre » isn't relevant to me, as my students don't have desks) or the male teacher option when available. I print out just ONE page of each. I only have 16 students (as of now), and there are 18 per page in my sets. I feel that it is unlikely that every student will earn every tag, and as I said above, I try to avoid handing out doubles. If I start to run out of a particular tag during the year, it is so easy to just print out and laminate that ONE page, rather that doing a hundred different pages at once! If I have extras of anything left over, I can save them for next year.
Once you have chosen which tags you would like to print, get out your card stock and start printing! If it is more cost-effective for you, you may choose to print at Staples or another office supply store. Another great option is to refill your ink cartridges at Costco for a MUCH lower price than buying new ones, or signing up for HP Instant Ink if your printer is compatible. I have my own personal laminator, but if you have a laminator at school, that's a great option. My home laminator produces a much more durable final product, so I choose to laminate at home and purchase laminating sleeves. Amazon often has less expensive ones, and Walmart carries a great brand (Casemate) that is a little over 13$ for 50 sheets and they hold up really well. The number one reason I laminate at home is this - because the plastic is higher quality, I DO NOT have to cut out all of the cards before I laminate them!!!! I just feed them through as they are when I print them out, and cut them out with my paper cutter after. The time saved makes the cost WAY worth it, in my opinion! If I try that on my school laminator, the plastic pulls apart after being cut and does not hold up to kinder fingers :(
Another decision to make is how you would like to display them, and what you plan to use to hold them all together. I bought inexpensive ball necklace chains on Amazon, but you could also use large binder rings, or anything else you wanted that can hold a students' collection together and is easy to open and shut! I will have a display on my bulletin board for them (can't get into my classroom yet for pictures, but I will post some ASAP!). My students all have a number on each of their supplies/boxes/baskets, and they will have one on the bulletin board as well. Underneath will be a simple thumbtack that they can hang their necklaces on. They will be on display all year long for everyone to see and celebrate! I find that using a number instead of their names is a simple reminder that we are not comparing ourselves to others - each student knows their own number, and they are only trying to self-improve and earn more as the year goes on. Brag tags aren't a competition against anyone else - they are all about self-improvement!
The last piece of the set up puzzle is deciding how you would like to store your extra brag tags until you hand them out. I am sure that there are as many ideas for this as there are stars in the sky - choose one that works well for you! I purchased an organizer on Amazon. I just need to add labels so I can quickly find the tags I need, and I will be good to go! I will keep the organizer in a place that is easy for me to access as needed, but where my students won't be tempted to touch ;)
Step 2 - Explain
As with any successful behaviour management system, communication is key - with both students AND parents. It is very important to have clear expectations, and to explain them to your students and their families. This may be difficult in the beginning of maternelle, and require lots of miming and gestures, haha! Once a few students have earned their first tags, however, the rest will catch on very quickly!
I suggest sending a letter home to parents explaining brag tags and how students can earn them. I haven't yet written my parent letter for this year, but I will include a link here later when I have to give you an idea of what you could write. The main idea is that these tags will be used to congratulate students who make great choices and show important character traits that we are trying to develop in our students. This will help others easily see and understand which actions and choices lead to a positive, inspiring classroom environment that will help everyone succeed.
If you are planning on having other teachers/staff hand out tags to your students (for example, the music teacher or duty teachers), you should also explain the system to them. I will give a few tags to all specials teachers in the beginning of the year that are relevant to their subject and ask them to hand them out when a student is behaving exceptionally. I will also give some to the teachers near my classroom and who have duty to hand out when they catch my students speaking French outside of the classroom (always a challenge in a minority community!).
Step 3 - Notice & Give
This step is pretty self explanatory - the next step is to notice your students being awesome and handing out the tags! However, as simple as it seems, I do have a small strategy/piece of advice to share.
If you have purchased my Growing Bundle, you will notice that I recently added the fourth set - Bravo!. This is a set of mostly generic tags that you can use to reward your students for ANY great thing they do (there is a tag or two in there for something specific, but they are super self-explanatory and easy to understand). This is the set that I use to start the year. It is very important that your students know and can explain why they have won a tag. I don't know about you, but my students in September cannot explain what showing integrity, being honest, showing empathy, etc. means. Therefore, it doesn't yet make sense to give them tags that congratulate them on those qualities and behaviours specifically. However, just because they don't yet have the vocabulary to explain what empathy means, they still may show it and you still may want to reward them. You can use a card from the Bravo! set to encourage them for doing the right thing, and they should be able to explain in their own words what they did to earn the tag. Throughout the year, I will then gradually add other tags from other sets into the mix - teaching them along with our outcomes. I will be writing a more detailed post on how to do this next week!
If you decide to use my free clip chart along with your brag tags, you will also have to remember to add your students' clips onto the appropriate category of the chart after you hand out their tags. Or, it may be easier for you to use the clip chart to keep track of who has earned a tag that day/from what category, and then take 5 minutes at the end of each day as a "wrap up" to hand out their tags and have your students add them to their necklaces all at the same time. I plan to try out this method this year. Whatever words for you!
Step 4 - Celebrate!
The most fun step of all! You will need to decide how you want to celebrate your students for earning their tags. There are SO many possibilities for this step, and it is so important that you choose one that works for you and your students. I strongly encourage you to display your tags in a way that allows you to easily see if one child isn't earning as many tags as the others - then you can be on the lookout for positive things they do and say to bring them back up. You may decide to let your students wear their necklaces on days that they earn new tags, or have one day a week/month where ALL your students can wear them together. You could call this « Journée porter et partager » for example, and do a little montre et raconte where your students can all explain to someone (the class, a reading buddy, another adult, etc.) how they earned their favourite tag, or their newest tag, etc.
You may also decide, especially if you do student-led parent-teacher conferences already, to invite your students to attend parent-teacher with their parents and explain how they earned their tags. They can talk about ways in which they have shown great behaviour, and share which tags they are hoping to learn/what they will need to work on in order to earn them.
Another option is something I do - offer a little "bonus" reward for a certain number of tags earned. As you may have read in my last post, every five tags a student earns in my class earns them another coloured clip, and after 25 tags, they get lunch with me from the cafeteria. I love having special one-on-one lunches once a year with my students, and if you don't do this already, I highly recommend it!
I hope that this post has made a little more clear how to organize and implement les billets de fierté in your classroom! While there is some initial work to get them set up, I truly believe that they are worth it. If done right, they can really encourage even our youngest students to be great little citizens and hard workers. If you have any questions at all, don't hesitate to ask in the comments and I will do my best to answer. If you are looking for tags to purchase, I offer two options - individual sets if you want to start slowly, or a growing bundle if you are all-in!