The Importance of Class Mascots in Classrooms
We would like to find ways to improve classroom management, student attention and higher-level thinking with a few tools that can be used in many ways and inserted easily into lesson plans. One of those tools is a class mascot. This can be a doll or a puppet, or even just a picture on the wall, something to which anyone can grant personality aspects. Animals are good not only for their neutrality, but also because they can be a foil for many cultural situations. The utility of a class mascot breaks down into several areas that we'll discuss one by one.
In terms of classroom management, the mascot can serve as the speaker of class rules and an establisher of esteem and trust. It can live in a place in the classroom to which the class moves for specific activities. Particularly in primary school, it's always a good idea, if possible, to divide daily tasks in the classroom into different physical locations.
A class mascot stimulates and directs students' imaginations. Participation in imagination focused toward one thing, like the mascot, can bring classes closer together. Each class can have their private world in which the mascot is a key player. Many reading this article have seen firsthand the difference between a class of students who are invested in each other and involved with the teacher (or at least the mascot) and a class of disinterested factions and lonely islands.
Besides creating unity, mascots point out that it's easier to get students thinking critically and using problem-solving skills when driven by imagination than in abstract, lifeless situations. In the same way, students may relate and compare their experiences to those reported by the mascot, forcing teachers to keep their thinking simple in order to write for the mascot.
In terms of planning, students can produce original work by writing about or engaging in problem-solving for the mascot rather than themselves. This simultaneously motivates less reflective students (or those who can't go on vacation, asf.) and stimulates more creative students. The mascot can give opinions about student work, either in the hands of the teacher or as a personification of a rubric to be used amongst students for peer-editing, which can shield students from the teacher's red pen and help keep the affective filter low.
Going back to culture, mascots can serve as ambassadors for unusual cultural perspectives, practices and products. This writer is a languages teacher, and has seen how useful it can be to let the mascot break the ice when trying to get students to invest themselves in content and experiences that they might prematurely judge -or shy away from -if delivered by a human. In a way, the magical world created by the mascot is a safe place for students to test out their understanding of new cultural information, and new skills in general.
Class mascots work both at the primary and secondary levels. One might think that a class mascot wouldn't be taken seriously by a high school group, but such would actually be a consequence of age-inappropriate personality, activities and planning, not of the mascot itself.
Some essential hints for using a class mascot are to introduce it right away at the beginning of the year and to use it, even for different tasks or subjects, at a constant and predictable time of the day. Both of these hints have to do with ensuring the mascot's effectiveness in classroom management. The teacher must establish the name and the essential personality of the mascot; otherwise one will get confusion, unnecessary negotiation, or worse -division amongst the students as to the mascot's personality.
There are many handy activities that demand a learning outcome in order to complete a fun but meaningful task. Below are some links:
picture credit: http://davlinswoods.com/