Give Me 5s: Love ‘Em, Love ‘Em Not

“Give Me 5” is traditionally used by the teacher to quickly get the class’s attention.  You can read more about it and download a free visual to display in your classroom here.  The very cool thing about a student-led classroom is that this privilege is given to the students!  The idea comes from Paul Solarz’s book, Learn Like a Pirate, where Solarz describes how he has empowered his students to interrupt.  That’s exactly what every teacher needs:  Another interruption!  Right?  Well, spoiler alert, there are many times I feel exactly this and so do my students for that matter and I’ll explain more in a bit.  So why on earth would anyone in their sane mind ever consider introducing this?

Learn Like a Pirate is all about “empower[ing] your students to collaborate, lead, and succeed”.  The “lead” part is especially important to me since I believe that I, you, we are teaching our #FutureWorldLeaders.  Well, if I truly believe this, and I do, then I’ve got to provide opportunities for my kiddos to learn to lead.  There is no magic, double-digit age when this learning should begin and we know from experience that leadership standards are not easily found on the typical curriculum map.  Giving children the power to interrupt automatically builds these opportunities into the day.  When students can speak up to figure out who a missing marker belongs to or to notify the class that we need to move our lunch boxes because the ants from our 3rd grade classroom finally found us in 4th (yes, we had a “Give Me 5” for this), they are practicing this skill.

So now that you’ve read the “love ’em” part, how could there possibly be a “love ’em not” side to the story?  I’m not sure sure there is truly a “love ’em not” side, but I will admit we’ve had our “love ’em not” moments for sure!  What I’m trying to figure out, and hopefully with your help, is whether this is just an inherent part of the student-led classroom experience and/or if I am/we are just doing this piece all wrong.  We used the “Give Me 5” together in 3rd grade with mixed reviews; but, when we looped to 4th together this year, students kept asking when we could do them again.  We didn’t start off right away because I had embraced Free-Choice seating and was Team-Teaching Math and Science:  Teaching students guidelines for using flexible-seating choices involves some moving pieces (literally) which is multiplied times 2 when switching classes.  This takes some time to put in place.  Once Free-Choice seating and schedules for two classes were firmly in place, this is what we did:

4th Grade “Love ’ems”: If you’ve read any of my posts on Free-Choice seating, you may remember the “Big Joe”. Since I knew this would be a popular choice, I implemented a Star Student schedule in Quarter 1 for both classes.  For the first two quarters, the Star Student enjoyed sitting in the “Big Joe” during instructional time.  During quarters 3 and 4, the Star Student had the additional responsibility of handling transitions via “Give Me 5”:  Time to finish word work and set up for problem of the day; put away your math notebooks, get out markers and boards for math, line up to switch classes, and so forth.  With the Star Student schedule already in place, every student in each class had an opportunity to lead!  To me, this has always proved huge because absolutely every single child without fail rises to this occasion!  Several of them will say that it’s not their favorite thing to do and/or that they feel uncomfortable, etc. but it’s important to note that my students are 9 and 10 while trying on leadership!  The point is not to make everyone like leadership, but rather to give each individual the opportunity to experience it.  Imagine how much more empathetic they are becoming as a result!  After all, leading others is never as easy as it looks. This year, to teach and re-teach students “Give Me 5”, we watched one of Paul Solarz’s students demonstrating how it works:

How the video helped:

  • Instead of feeling a need to shout “Give Me 5” once, we generally used our “Presidential voice” and announced twice as demonstrated.
  • We got to see other kids, just one grade older, doing what we had been doing most of last year and were getting ready to do again or for the first time.
  • It’s a nice model of the class stopping what they’re doing and turning their attention to the student who has initiated the “Give Me 5”.

Two Types of “Give Me 5”

Information:  This was demonstrated nicely in the video.  Depending upon your classroom set up, it could be to ask a question, share a new discovery, reunite a missing marker cap, and so on.  We did very well with this “Give Me 5” both years.  Sometimes, students will just go for it and other times, they’ll check in with you to see if it’s an okay use.  Either way, they are quick and involve a short answer like thank you, here it is, I can help you over here, Okay …  Love ’em!

Transition:  Students use the “Give Me 5” to announce transitions built into the school day.  “Give Me 5. Give Me 5.  It’s time to transition to Math. Put away your reading and get out your math notebooks for Problem of the Day.”  Some days we nailed it!  Some days we struggled …  Kinda, sorta feeling a Love ’em not in those moments.  Here’s why.

4th Grade Love ‘Em Nots:  When the room was busy learning, some students could either be too soft-spoken or too loud when doing a “Give Me 5”.  For the quieter ones, other students would chime in with a “Give Me 5, Give Me 5! SLANT Ginny. She just gave a Give Me 5.”  This can be great affirmation for Ginny, but it’s something that needs to be watched because it can get out of hand.  Both scenarios (loud voice/soft voice)  provide teaching opportunities, but the students who continually yell the “Give Me 5” will lose the privilege for a short time.  In every case, so far, each of these students wanted to earn the privilege back.  Teachers who work with younger elementary students report they’re still teaching their little ones to take turns, and so forth.  Since children are individuals who develop at different rates socially, emotionally, psychologically, and intellectually depending on countless factors, it’s important to keep this in mind when you’re feeling frustrated.  Chris Loeffler recently posted a reflective piece where he creates the phrase Young Originals for students in his classroom.  I know that Chris is very specific in his article, but for me, thinking about Young Originals led to an even broader meaning.  Literally, each of my 50 students is a unique individual who was either 9 or 10 years old.  With this in mind, it becomes quite reasonable to expect that teaching students the power to interrupt won’t always go by the book.  As with other aspects of a student-led classroom, it just might feel “messy” and often “messy” can easily be misunderstood as a “love ’em not”.

Where we needed to improve in 3rd grade and again in 4th:

  • SLANTing the student with the first “Give Me 5”
    “Wish I Were Taller” font from Kevin & Amanda
    • speaker’s voice level needs to be loud enough
    • speaker needs to build in some wait time
    • other students need to build in additional wait time to allow the class to acknowledge the original speaker
      • Note to self for next year:  Teach and re-teach wait time and voice levels
      • Here’s where we’d especially love to have your input regardless of the age group you’re using the “Give Me 5” with!  Please leave your thoughts about what’s working in your classroom in the comments below.
  • Consistently respecting the student leader
    • Paul Solarz shared a tip that I in turn shared with my students:  He let me know that he teaches his students that the “Give Me 5” is an extension of him [Solarz] and therefore, the student using a “Give Me 5” is an extension of him as well.
    • My Young Originals took his advice to heart, often adding messages about the importance of respect while waiting for everyone’s attention.
      • “Love ’em”:  Respecting others is a good message to be hearing from peers.  In a student-led classroom, they’ll hear it more from each other because they’re doing more of the leading.
      • “Love ’em not”:  Even though the primary speaker changes daily due to the Star Student schedule, the message can feel preachy.  No one appreciates a lecture, even a mini-one, and they’re just not effective at changing behaviors.  As educators, we all know adults who can be disrespectful until it’s their turn when they demand everyone’s undivided attention.  So, this is a challenging teaching point for students.  If this becomes the straw that breaks the camel’s back for having a student-led classroom, then back to the teacher-led classroom it is where compliance is a more readily available tool.  If the goal is to empower students, then the “messy” of this “love ’em not” can be a vital part of the learning process.
        • Note to self for next year:  Continue to build in discussions about respect at morning meetings; decide together what that will look like and agree on some reasonable, logical consequences with the goal of having everyone be successful most of the time.
        • Again, here’s where we’d especially love to have your input regardless of the age group you’re using the “Give Me 5” with!  Please leave your thoughts about what’s working in your classroom in the comments below.

Other Trouble-Shooting Ideas for the “Give Me 5”:

The great news is that students quickly embrace the “Give Me 5”.  Be forewarned:  If you use it for transitions like we do, you’re going to have clock watchers.  This is an authentic way to learn to tell time, but if half of the class is focused on the minute hand in order to be the first to announce, it can be difficult to believe that they’re paying attention to the task on deck.  In 3rd-grade (pre-Free-Choice seating days), students were assigned to seats at one of 5 table groups.  Each day, a different table group was assigned “Give Me 5s” for transitions and highly encouraged to take turns throughout the day.  The group would typically discuss who was going to do a transition “Give Me 5” when during the course of our day and another student at the table would help with reminders.  Occasionally, the designated group would be so engrossed in an activity that they would forget.  In those instances, someone from a different group would quietly walk over and remind them.  Establishing routines around transitions helps to keep them tight with the ideal being that they are so predictable every student can lead them with little variation and minimal language.  Build in more time at the beginning of the year, but teach students to announce one minute ahead of the scheduled transition as the class becomes proficient.

Note to self for next year: Think about these transitions ahead of time-What will they look like and sound like?  What code words or cues can substitute for lengthy directions?  Could anchor charts with picture support help out the student-leader and the class with this?

If you have a Free-Choice seating classroom and/or switch classes at all, our 3rd-grade trouble-shooting idea may still work.  It’s just harder to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to lead transitions.  Eager students could easily sit at the designated table each day which is why we used the Star Student schedule mentioned earlier.  We made sure not to assign dates that were Teacher Workdays or Holidays and also took into account Early Release schedules.  If school was closed due to inclement weather or if a student missed school on their day, we didn’t shift the schedule or create “make-up” days because there were other opportunities built in.  Someone was always willing to stand in for an absent Star Student, and if that someone seemed like they had more than their fair share of turns, we could ask the Line Leader or Door Holder (both jobs rotated weekly) to take the lead.  This may sound like a lot of work but keep in mind that older students can help set up and maintain the schedule.  If your class isn’t using “Give Me 5s” for transitions, it’s a non-issue; but if they are, then it’s a small time investment that is exponentially worth it when seeing each and every individual rise to the occasion!  Managing 50 students leads to all kinds of empathy for Specials, Middle-School, and High-School Teachers who have 3 to 16 times (or more) as many students on their collective rosters, so always remember you’re the expert when it comes to your particular scenario.  The Star Student schedule worked for us and had the added benefit of getting to know each of 50 Young Originals at a whole new level:  Students reflect on and share feelings about their experiences and become invested in problem solving the “Love ’em nots” with the group.

What My 4th Graders Think:

At the end of the school year, we did pluses and deltas as a way to capture our reflections.  In both classes, the activity was student-led after a brief teacher explanation.  The student leader in my homeroom recorded all of the responses; the student-leader in my afternoon class had students take turns.  Case and point:  Leadership will look different in different classrooms even when the teacher, the grade level, and the activity remain a constant!

















My homeroom’s responses are pictured to the left and my afternoon class’s responses are pictured in the two photos to the right.  Although 77% of my homeroom looped up with me to 4th, due to an increase in class sizes in 4th, we had 8 join us, 6 from other 3rd grade classes and 2 were new to the school.  No one in the afternoon class had prior experience in a student-led classroom, yet both classes have listed “Give Me 5s” as a plus and a delta.  Yup! We “love ’em”! We “love ’em not”!

Silent Day (read more here) and Free-Choice Seating with Flexible-Seating Choices (read more here) both made the plus column 🙂

So, if you’ve made it all the way to the end of this post, you may be interested in trying out the “Give Me 5” or you’re already using it and looking for tips or ideas.  Either way, thanks for reading!  Hopefully, you’ve figured out that when it’s all said and done regarding “Give Me 5s”, we kinda, really, truly “love ’em”!  Be sure to share your thoughts and/or questions about “Give Me 5s” in the comments below.  We’d love to hear how you’re using them in your classroom!  Don’t forget to follow the blog by email to get the next post delivered to your inbox.

2 thoughts on “Give Me 5s: Love ‘Em, Love ‘Em Not

  1. Elizabeth,

    One, thanks for the shout out. I agree that certain students will need more practice with this than others. I can picture certain students struggling to the point that a teacher might give up on the strategy as a whole, which would be disappointing.

    I am wondering if you created a list for your Give Me 5s. I can picture allowing any student at any time to Give Me 5 for something like a quick announcement (lost marker, ant issue, etc) while other students are assigned to other tasks (transitioning, keeping the class quiet). A chart on the wall might help students know the difference.

    I have never specifically allowed students to do take on this type of leadership, although some have, and I love the idea. Can’t wait to hear how it improves this year.


    • Your welcome for the shout out! I loved your post: Very inspirational 🙂 I like your idea of a chart for the different types of Give Me 5s to help students know the difference. Thanks for sharing this!

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