The Little Race Car That Could

I think I figured it out.  With less than 20 days in to the school year so far, I have found myself pulling out every trick in the book to improve our listening and focusing as a group.  The clip chart I use is working wonderfully for individual behavior.... and our school gives out "Husky Paws" as part of our school-wide behavior program... but I was having trouble getting them all focused and paying attention in a whole group - and during transitions.  When they're sitting together, my little kiddos hum and sing and reply with silly comments and laugh at just about everything.... Transitions were not going well either... I would give a direction to put papers in the finished work basket and come to the rug and 3 of them would be at the fish tank.. a few more looking out the window... others chatting about recess... not what I was looking for (and just so you know, I sent them off BY TABLES so it wasn't everyone at once.... even that wasn't working and the thought of going one by one was giving me a headache.)

They are a great group, but we HAD to get this under control or it was going to be a loooooonnng year.

Enter the "Race to the Finish" behavior car!  When my students came in on Wednesday, they all wanted to know, "Why is there a race car on the top of the Smartboad?"  (Nothing gets past them... no way...)

I know it's hard to see in the picture... but trust me, they saw it FROM THE DOOR!

During morning meeting I explained to them how it would work.  Everyday, the race car would start at the starting line
When I noticed them showing whole body listening an being active learners (two phrases we use A LOT!), I would move the race car toward the finish line. 
(NOTE:  All I did was tape a piece of ribbon to the board and tape the car loosely to the ribbon so I could gently pull it along.  I wasn't sure if the whole race car thing would work for them, so I wanted to try it before I did something more permanent.)

If the car got to the finish line by the time we went out to recess at the very end of the day, then while we were waiting for buses, they could do a dance video or a game on the Smartboard.  This is a BIG reward, according to my guys.  They would do brain breaks all day long if I let them, so having a chance to dance around was a great incentive. 

Then one of them asked, "What happens if we have trouble listening?" and lo and behold, before I could even answer, one of my kiddos piped up and said, "Then the car moves back a little.  You have to work together to get it to move forward."  BRILLIANT!  I couldn't have said it better myself.

So we started.... they were great listeners... and I moved the car forward... they listened again and the car moved again.... we were heading toward the finish line when it happened.... the humming - and the elbowing each other - and the chatting.... so the car moved back.  Silence.  I didn't say a word, I just moved the car and kept teaching.  AND THEY LISTENED!  They raised their little hands and discussed ideas, they kept their eyes on who was speaking and stopped trying to sit on top of each other....

Now I would like to say that I never had to move the car backwards again... but that would not be true... and I would like to say that we made it to the finish line on the first day... also not true.  Sad face.  I tried REALLY hard to help them get that car to the finish line... but it wasn't meant to be.  We talked about it during closing circle, and connected it to the story of the "The Little Engine That Could."  Even though it was hard, we had to keep trying and we WOULD do it.

On Day 2, the momentum changed... the car moved forward and KEPT moving forward... there was a little hiccup here and there, but we made it to the finish line!!!

During closing circle I chose 3 name sticks and those students got to choose one brain break or smartboard game that we could vote on.  We voted as a class, and the winner was....

The Hip Hop Tooty Ta!!

I am also happy to announce that we made it to the finish line on Friday, as well.  My students are more engaged and focused and it is showing in their learning.  Even better - they are taking ownership for their behavior - I can hear some of my kiddos noticing when they get out of sorts... "Stay focused, or the car will have to move backwards!"  and  "Ms. G, I can FEEL that we're doing a better job!"  That little race car has had a BIG effect on our classroom community.  I have a feeling we have many more trips to the finish line ahead of us!
I'm linking this post up with Joanne from Head Over Heels For Teaching as part of

 Click on the image above to visit her post and get more ideas from other great teachers.


  1. Great post!! Thanks for sharing.


  2. This is a splendid idea! Thanks so much for sharing. Just found your blog through the motivation linky and am a new bloglovin follower--and fellow second grade teacher blogger. :0)

    Sarah @ Hoots N Hollers

  3. OMG Lisa! I love this whole post! What a great idea with the race car! Such a great visual and reminder! I teach 4th grade, so we don't do Tooty Ta, but I love the hip hop version! :O)
    Thanks for sharing and linking up! Hope to see you again next week!
    Head Over Heels For Teaching


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