Two fourth-grade teachers at Golden Isles Elementary School have taken a creative approach this semester to encourage their students to perform at their best.
Stephanie Levy and Laura Lang, who share a fourth-grade class at Golden Isles Elementary, have drawn from a little outside inspiration this semester and sorted their students into four “houses,” each of which compete weekly to earn the most points.
On a wall in both teachers’ classrooms, the points earned by each team are represented by stickers. Stickers can be earned by a variety of positive behaviors, including earning good grades, treating another student with kindness and behaving well in class.
“We call them ‘house points.’ But we just use stickers to represent it,” Levy said. “They get house points for making a good grade on something, or helping a friend or being polite to another adult or to their classmates … Really just for anything.”
At the end of each week, the team that wins the most points earns a prize.
The initiative ties into the county-wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program, Levy said.
Despite what “Harry Potter” fans may wish to believe, Levy and Lang did not draw their inspiration directly from J.K. Rowling’s classic series. Instead, they got the idea during a trip to Ron Clark Academy, a middle school in Atlanta, at the beginning of the school year.
“We brought back a lot of neat ideas that they were implementing at their school,” Levy said. “One of those ideas is that they have their whole school divided into four houses, so it’s similar to ‘Harry Potter.’ And when we got back … we decided that we wanted to try it with our kids.”
At a sorting ceremony at the beginning of the semester, Levy and Lang placed their students into four separate houses, each of which are named for character traits their teachers hope the students will aspire to reflect —Team Integritas, Team Fortitudo, Team Cognito and Team Amistad.
“Laura and I talked about different character traits we wanted to instill in the kids, and so we researched the Latin names for them and came up with the colors,” Levy said.
During the sorting ceremony, the students met their new fellow house members and their house leaders, who are staff chosen from around the school to act as mentors for the students.
Each student received a T-shirt to correspond with their house, and Levy said it’s become a point of pride for the students to represent their house.
And the teachers were able to get community support to provide the T-shirts.
“It was going to be kind of expensive, so we reached out to some local businesses and we were able to get the cost of all the shirts donated,” Levy said. “So that was awesome. It was going to be about $500 for all the shirts.”
Written on every T-shirt is the student’s team name, along with the slogan ‘#welcometoourhouse,’ a reference to what has become the class’s theme song for the semester, Flo Rida’s “My House.”
“That was kind of our theme song when we did the sorting ceremony, and so they really liked it,” Levy said. “It’s really been a positive experience for everybody included, even the adults.”
Olivia Smith, a speech therapist at Golden Isles Elementary, leads the Integritas house, and she said she serves as a motivator for the students.
“I put a little reminder on every desk about what integrity is — it’s doing the right thing when no one’s watching,” Smith said.
Levy said the class has also been able to bond through this initiative, as they are able to complete group work together, play games and work toward the same goal.
“I think the best part of this group is that we all get to come together, and if we aren’t friends with one person in the group we can become better friends with them,” said fourth-grader Katlyn Duke.
Smith said the students are helping each other succeed.
“They’re not only holding themselves accountable, their peers are holding them accountable,” Smith said.