Brag Tags {All Your Questions Answered}

I know I have said it before, but brag tags are a great classroom management tool.  Wait, they are better than great.  They are effective.  Brag tags motivate students to work hard and make good choices.  They encourage students to maintain (and adopt) positive attitudes.  And, they help reinforce citizenship skills and personal responsibility.  Sounds too good to be true, right?  Almost.  Only it is true!  Having used brag tags for several years now, I can honestly say that they have been a total game changer for me and my students.

I frequently get asked lots of questions about brag tags. Today, I'm sharing many of those questions, along with my answers. My hope is that the information will help you as you begin, or continue, to use brag tags in your classroom.

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First, please know that there is no right or wrong way to use brag tags.  How you choose to use brag tags in your classroom will ultimately boil down to personal preference and what you know will work best for you.  Brag tags are versatile and can be used to fit your management/teaching style. Hopefully the information in this post will help you to find a system that works for you.

All of the answers that follow are based on my personal experience and management style.  I'm in no way suggesting that my way is THE way.  Instead, I'm hoping that you can use this information and take what works for you and modify/change the things that don't.  Knowing how you're going to use brag tags is important, but it's also important that you decide how that needs to look and how that will work for you.

So, let's get started!

What are brag tags?
Brag tags are a classroom/behavior management tool that allows you to quickly and easily recognize, encourage, and reward positive behavior and student effort.  You can also recognize and reward students for their participation, positive attitudes, setting and meeting goals, making academic progress, and more. Best of all, they motivate students to make good choices and do their best.

Literally speaking, they are little tags that students earn by making good choices, working hard, meeting goals, setting a good example, demonstrating a positive attitude, and so on.  Students collect tags throughout the school year and add them to a chain necklace.

Where do you get the necklaces?
I usually purchase my necklaces on eBay.  But, if eBay isn't something you're into, you can also find them on Amazon.
Do you have to use a necklace?  What are some alternatives?
You absolutely do not have to use necklaces.  This is one of those preference things.  I like the necklaces. They are easy to store and the the kids love them.  But, one alternative is to let your students collect their tags on a loose binder ring that they attach to their backpack.

You could also let your students collect them in a library pocket or a hanging shoe organizer that you might have space to display somewhere in your room.  

When do your students wear their brag tags?
My students wear their brag tag necklaces whenever they earn a new tag.  On Fridays, everyone wears their necklace.  I do have a strict hands off policy though. If a student plays with their necklace or is allowing it to distract them, off it goes.  I take the time at the beginning of the year to explain this expectation and remind students that our learning is most important.  If they are busy playing with their necklaces, they aren't focused on their learning.

Do you let your students keep their brag tags?
I do!  During the year, the students earn their tags and add to their collection.  At the end of the year (the last day to be more specific), they get to take their necklace home to keep for forever!

Do you let your students take their brag tags home throughout the year?
No.  If they take them home, they may never come back.  The brag tags stay at school until we are ready to send them home at the end of the year.

Where do you store your brag tags?
I store my prepped and ready to use brag tags in DMC floss organizers (the thread used for cross stitching) on a shelf behind my desk.  This gives me easy access to the tags and I can easily see what I have available.  You can read more about my ready to use storage HERE.

You can find these organizers on Amazon (but they are usually cheaper at the craft store).

The students also have a space to store their brag tag necklaces. Their necklaces hang on a small space of wall behind our classroom door.  I label each necklace with student numbers rather than names so that I can reuse the labels from year to year.

You can grab these free numbers HERE.

Are they difficult to prep?
Not at all!  First, you print your brag tags.  Next, you laminate them.  Then, you cut them out.  Finally, you punch a hole in the top of the tag.  That's it.

Tip: I like to use a Fiskars paper trimmer to cut out the rows on each page of brag tags. Then, I feed the rows (one at a time) through the paper trimmer and cut off each tag.  Sometimes, I might use scissors to snip off each individual tag (it just depends on my mood..hehe). But, I never, ever, ever cut out the entire page with a pair of scissors. Ouch!

Seriously though, the paper trimmer speeds up the cutting process and allows for accurate and precise cutting. This particular paper trimmer has a built in guide wire. Simply line the wire up with what you want to cut.  Easy peasy! You can purchase this paper trimmer on Amazon, or in craft stores.

When it comes to hole punching, I love using the 1/4" Fiskars hole punch pictured above.  The cushioned grip relieves any pressure on my hand and it cuts really well through laminated card stock.  You can purchase this hole punch on Amazon, or in craft stores. Fiskars has different sizes available.  I wouldn't go any bigger than 1/4" and if you prefer to go smaller, they do have a 1/8" punch found here.

I don't have a color printer at school.  How do you print your tags in color without breaking the bank?
I don't have access to a color printer at school, so I definitely understand this concern. I do all of my color printing at home (brag tags, task cards, and everything in between).  I am a member of the HP Instant Ink program.  By paying a nominal monthly fee, I am able to print upwards of 300 pages per month. When I start to run low on ink, my printer lets HP know and they automatically send me more ink.  It's a very magical experience.  For real!  HP offers different plans, and you can change your plan at any time. You do need to have an eligible printer, however.

Another option for printing brag tags without breaking the bank is to use black and white designs that have been printed on brightly colored card stock.  I use these in my classroom alongside the full color tags and the students love them just as much, and they are just as motivating as the full color version.

How many brag tags do I need when starting out?
You don't have to start with a ton of brag tags (unless you want to).  When I first started using them, I prepped what I knew I would be most likely to use right away.  I wanted to have variety too, so I printed about one tray's worth of tags.  Once I realized how much I loved using them, I began adding tags to my collection.  Now, I have five organizer trays full of brag tags because they have become the main management tool in my classroom.

Do you send a letter home to parents explaining brag tags?
I don't send a letter home specifically about brag tags, but I do mention them, briefly, in my beginning of the year handbook (a multiple page document we are required to send home at the beginning of the year). I explain what they are, how the students can earn them, and when they are worn/go home. I also go over them during my Back to School Night presentation.

Do you use any other management tools in your classroom, like a clip chart?
Although brag tags are the main behavior management tool that I rely on, I do have another management tool in place.  I also have a clip chart.  Our school encourages us to use more than one management tool and clip charts tend to be the norm where I am.  The clip chart mostly gets used when my students clip UP for earning a new brag tag (they can clip up for other things too, but I've found a way to tie the brag tags to the chart).  And, my students know that if they clip to the top of our clip chart, they can earn a new brag tag.  It works great and it helps the students to look at the clip chart in a more positive light.

How often do you give your students a brag tag? Every day? Weekly? Every other week?
I give my students brag tags when I see that they have earned one.  I end up passing them out every day, but not every student gets one every day.  One of my goals with using brag tags is to develop personal responsibility and conscientious decision making.  One way of doing this is to reward these efforts.  My personal belief is that if I gave myself a quota to fill, the rewards would not be authentic.

With this being said, there are certainly those students who have an easier time than others earning tags.  If I notice that a student is having difficulty earning tags, I work with them. We identify a behavior and set a goal.  Some kids need a bit more coaching and support than others.

Do you keep track of which tags you give your students?
Nope.  I like to use my brag tags for on the spot recognition and the idea of keeping a log where I track who gets which tag competes with my "in the moment" philosophy.  For me, keeping track of what I've passed out is just an extra step that would need to be managed.  A step that I know I would never be able to keep up with, because, well, that's me.  However, I do have friends who keep track of what they have passed out to their students.  Tracking works for them, it's part of their style and approach.  There's nothing right or wrong about it; it's all about preference and what works for you.  :)

Can a student earn the same tag more than one?
Sure!  If a students demonstrates the ability to follow directions more than once, it's OK to recognize that effort more than once. If you're worried about giving students duplicates of the same exact tag, don't.  The kids truly do not care. They love adding to their collection no matter what.  I like to keep lots of "general" brag tags on hand that can be used to recognize a variety of behaviors, like the ones below.  These types of tags could be used to recognize students who follow directions, get started right away, work quietly without disrupting others, etc.

Do your students earn any other rewards when earning a brag tag?
For me, the brag tag is the reward.  This has always been enough for my students and makes it really easy for me to manage. However, if you wanted to tie brag tags to another reward system, that is entirely up to you.  Maybe that is something that your group of kids needs, maybe you like the idea of giving out extra rewards, or maybe it's something that your school encourages.  This is definitely an option that boils down to personal preference and management style.

Do you award the brag tags to individual students or to the whole group?
Most of the time, I award brag tags to individual students.  My belief is that this helps to encourage personal responsibility and sound decision making.  I also think it has more impact on the students.  But, there have been a few times where I have given an entire table group a brag tag for working exceptionally well compared to the rest of the class.  And, last year on our Field Day, I gave each student a brag tag to recognize their positive attitudes. No one fought, no one argued, they were encouraging, they were just plain awesome that day and they all deserved recognition for it.

If you have a question that wasn't addressed in this post, leave it in the comments below.  :)

More Brag Tag Related Posts
I truly hope that you have found this post to be helpful.  I have a few other blog posts that might interest you as well:
Bragging About Brag Tags
Brag Tags {Tips and Tricks}
6 Reasons to Use Brag Tags in the Classroom

A Freebie for You
Ready to give brag tags a try?  Here's a little freebie to get you started. And, if you're a brag tag veteran, a new design to add to your collection.  :)  This free download includes a color and black/white version. Click HERE to grab your freebie.

Brag Tag Resources
Looking for a more complete brag tag collection?  Be sure to check out my resources on TPT.  I have lots of options available.  Click on an image to learn more. :)

 I also offer black and white brag tags for those who prefer a more ink friendly option.  :)


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Back to School {Advice from Your Favorite Bloggers}

Back to school is just around the corner.  What an exciting, and overwhelming, time of year it is for teachers.  The first day always feels like a blur (or, is that just me?), there are procedures and routines to teach, kids who don't know how they are getting home, new students arriving throughout the week, the pressure to delve into the content, and lots of emotions.

Overwhelming, right?  Sounds to me like some good old fashioned advice is in order.  I've called on all of your, and my, favorite bloggers to share their favorite piece of back to school advice.  Whether you're a brand new teacher, or a veteran, I think you'll be able to appreciate these words of wisdom.

Jaime, from Bright Concepts 4 Teachers says:
"Spend the first couple of weeks going over, repeating, and reinforcing classroom procedures and expectations. It may seem boring and unproductive to do but it will pay off the rest of the year when your classroom runs seamlessly, even when you aren't there!"

Alexis, from Laugh Eat Learn says:
"Create a checklist of tasks and procedures you want to accomplish by the end of the first week of school, rather than a schedule to follow.  No matter how prepared you are, you'll be running around starting on day one, and time will slip away.  So, instead of sticking to a schedule, create a list of tasks and procedures and check them off as you go.  Remember, every year is different and one task or procedure may take longer to cover than it did the previous year.  Be flexible and know that your end goal is to complete the checklist by the end of the week, not the end of the day."

Ashley, from One Sharp Bunch says:
"Teaching routines and procedures during the first week of school is so incredibly important.  Don't feel overwhelmed or pressured to address every academic subject during that first, second, or even third will get there!  Routines and procedures must come first, especially with our little learners.  Otherwise, you will be wasting valuable instructional time as you reteach procedures and manage undesired behavior later in the year.  Remember to explicitly teach these routines, model them, practice them, as well as discuss and reinforce them.  Be clear and consistent with your expectations.  Remember not to get upset or frustrated when routines aren't going smoothly.  Simply stop the class, model, and practice that routine or procedure until the students get it right. The payoff for teaching and practicing these routines will be HUGE! A well managed and oiled classroom will run itself.  In the words of Fred Jones, 'Do it right, or do it all year long!'"

 You can grab this free printable here.

Nicole, from Today in Second Grade says:
"Things take time. It is so important not to rush through little things like getting organized or lining up because it's those things that are most important.  If we take the time to really teach and practice organization, structure, and routine, our year will be so much smoother.  I have often wanted to rush through that kind of stuff and get right into the 'teaching.' But, it's worth slowing down lessons and getting classwork done the first few weeks.  In the long run, we will gain back all that extra time spent at the beginning of  the year."

Leslie, from First Grade Frenzy says:
"Model, model, model! I always forget how much modeling we need to do at the beginning of the school year with our students. It's important to get our classroom routines and procedures organized. However, we need to model our expectations for our students and then with our students, so that they are successful."

Elyse, from Proud to be Primary says:
"Classroom management is key.  You can set up the perfect classroom decor, have all your materials organized, and have the most fabulous lessons ready, but if those management strategies are not ready, it can be a hard beginning.  Having a few tricks up your sleeve will make for a smoother beginning.  Your students will be looking to you for the answers and you need to show them that you have them."

Such wise words from Elyse.  Remember, you are the expert, you set the tone, you set the pace, you are the one establishing the framework for a successful classroom.  Which means that you need to know ahead of time how you are going to do this and how you will respond to any hiccups that first week (and there will be hiccups).  Be prepared and confident, your students are counting on that.

Marcy, from Saddle Up for Second Grade says:
"It is so important to start building your relationship with each child from day one.  Make a point to have a one on one conversation with each child, every day, even if it is something small like saying good morning.  You want each child to feel special in their own way when they enter your classroom.  Learn their likes and dislikes, outside of the classroom, and then use  that knowledge to build a strong relationship with each child and tie it to their learning."

Elyse, from Proud to be Primary says:
"Show kindness, patience, and fairness when dealing with your students.  Try to remember that they are learning and part of that means making and learning from their mistakes.  Help them not only learn the curriculum, but teach them how to be socially responsible."

Deirdre, from A Burst of First says:
"Remember that they are only little and no matter what you do, they will love you."

Angela, from Hippo Hooray for Second Grade says;
"Put something on every child's desk in the morning.  Something that your students can be independent with, but will take 15-20 minutes to complete.  Some ideas could be a coloring page or an 'All About Me' poster. When your students arrive, they will work on this activity, which will allow you to dry the tears, answer parent questions and ease their apprehensions, collect paperwork, and so on."

Molly, from Lucky to Be in First says:
"Walk away at a set time every day.  Cutting out laminate, cleaning every crevice in your classroom, and perusing through teacher resource books can wait! Go home, spend time with your family and friends {or at the very least, kick back and watch TV}!  There is always something you can do, but you also have a life that you deserve to enjoy."

Aris, from Sailing Into Second says:
"Create a tidy tub for each table so students can throw away their trash as they work and one person can walk the tub to the recycling bin. Tidy tubs prevent your littles from making an even bigger mess by trying to carry all their little scraps to the big recycling bin in the classroom."

Cyndie, from Chalk One Up for the Teacher says:
"When decorating your classroom, do what makes you happy, because chances are, it will make your students happy too.  Do not feel the need to fill up every space in your classroom, and stick to colors you love.  A few years ago, I had an overdecorated primary colored classroom.  I loved it, but I grew tired of it quickly.  By winter break, I was over it.  Last year, I decorated with black backgrounds and added pops of color. I loved it and I got many compliments on it."

I'm hoping that since you're here, you might be okay with hearing some advice from me too.  Hehe.

My advice: Go slow to go far.  You can't expect to teach your students anything if they don't know how you or your classroom operate.  Kids need structure and it's up to you to set that framework for them.  Know ahead of time the things you need to teach them so that they can be successful academically. And then, take the time to explicitly teach them these things.  The key is taking your time.  You can't rush this, you need to go slow.  The payoff is worth it in the end.  Every year, I tell myself to resist the urge to jump into our curriculum.  It will get done.  It will!  But, it won't get done if I have a class full of students who don't understand my expectations, routines, procedures, and rules. Take the time to teach these things, and then teach them again.

You can grab this free printable here.

And, don't forget to build your classroom community. Get to know your students. Talk to them, listen to them.  Let them know that they are safe, welcomed, and accepted. Once all of these things are in place, your students will go far and you will get through all that curriculum.  You will.

I hope you've been able to take away something from this post. I wish you all a successful and fun-filled back to school season!


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