Since the beginning of the school year, Whitemarsh Elementary School (WE) teacher April Litwin put a marble in a jar if her second grade class demonstrated respect and responsibility. When the jar filled shortly after Winter Break, the students earned a class reward — a "Chocolate Talk" — a half hour Zoom session to visit with each other over hot chocolate.
"It's important to demonstrate respect and responsibility, because I like to be a good person," said WE second grader Elliot Morgan.
The children showed respect and responsibility in different ways.
"We take care of our library books and help friends who are hurt," said WE second grader Layla Tadeo.
"We are quiet when people are talking," shared classmate Olivia Dwyer.
"We put our things away in a safe place," added classmate Emily Walsh.
In the Responsive Classroom approach throughout all of Colonial's elementary schools, teachers focus on building strengths with reinforcing language that helps the children understand what they did well and where they could improve, rather than highlighting individual rewards.
"For example, instead of saying 'nice job' or 'good work,' I might say, 'I noticed how everyone brought their materials to school today. You are showing you care a great deal about your work. Way to go!'" explained Mrs. Litwin. "I believe reinforcing language is the best way to let the children know they are on the right track. I want to teach my students to do good and make positive choices because it is the right thing to do."
By largely reserving rewards to specific goals where all members of the class benefit, Mrs. Litwin used the Marble Jar to build a positive community environment. All of the students worked together to fill the jar.
"It encourages us to reach our goals and do more," said WE second grader Ellie Etkins.
"It makes you want to work towards your goals," said classmate Anna Szperka. "And in the end, it gave us time to see our friends."
For the Chocolate Talk, the class spent the last half hour of their Friday morning on Zoom sipping hot chocolate and socializing.
"My favorite part of the Chocolate Talk is being together with my class," said WE second grader Connor Zameska.
"My favorite part is the hot chocolate!" said classmate Rose Cresimone.
With the Marble Jar project complete, Mrs. Litwin's second graders will begin working together toward another goal — and another class reward.