Crafting a class brand

How a class of fifth-graders defined and expressed their distinct identity
By: | October 8, 2019

Tony Vincent is an educator who lives in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

As a teacher, I didn’t want my class to be known as “Mr. Vincent’s Fifth Grade.” Rather than making myself the focus, I set out to give my students ownership over our collective brand.

My 2018-19 class spent the first-week building. Our job was to develop a name, logo and slogan for our class. This meant we had to get to know one another. We had to collaborate on ideas, present them to the class, and learn to come to a consensus.

Before the school year began, I emailed families a short video. It introduced the idea that we were going to develop our own class name and logo. Upon entering the classroom for the first time, students saw traffic cones, yellow tape and construction signs. They were about to build our brand.

Building our brand

To get acquainted, each student made an “About Me” slide by combining word art, silhouettes and pictures. Each student took a couple of minutes to show their slide to the class and answer classmates’ questions. All slides were added to a master slideshow that I put on a loop and projected onto our classroom’s screen.

It quickly became obvious that students adored animals, enjoyed video games (especially Fortnite and Minecraft), and excelled at using computers. With this in mind, students chose brands to analyze. They noticed that some of the best logos are simple and immediately recognizable. They appreciated catchy slogans. They commented on how brands made them feel.

The process gave our class a unique identity while jump-starting a strong sense of community.

Students were inspired to create our class brand. The fifth-graders came up with lots of ideas. Some students proposed keeping “construction” as part of our class brand. Many wanted to create a logo that looked similar to the Epic Games shield that appears each time they play Fortnite. One student sketched a paw print made out of square pixels, combining a love of animals and technology. After looking through all the ideas, I finalized designs for two different logo possibilities. One had “Paw Crew” written on a construction sign. The other had a pixelated paw on a shield, and “Pixel Paws” was written with a blocky font. I presented both logos to the class, and they unanimously chose Pixel Paws.

We were called Pixel Paws for the rest of the school year. Our logo was proudly displayed above our door, in the window, on the whiteboard, and on our rear wall. I bought the pixelpaws.us domain for our class website. On Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, we were known as Pixel Paws. Our logo appeared in the header for our Google Classroom and at the top of our family newsletter. I started every school day with the phrase: “Good morning, Pixel Paws!”

As part of our classroom economy, students could exchange tickets for Pixel Paws merchandise. I made colorful stickers, wall decals, T-shirts, and 3D-printed keychains and necklaces. Sometimes, I’d see a student wearing a Pixel Paws T-shirt and a Pixel Paws necklace.

Slogans

The class chose the slogan: “Big or small, be kind to all.” We defined our brand and strived to live up to it every day. Students chose to work on a project to decrease bullying by encouraging bystanders to be “upstanders.” Likewise, when students found out that animal abuse is a misdemeanor in our state—it’s a felony in most states—they collected signatures to change the law.

Sure, I could have decided on the class theme before the first day of school. My class could have been named “Vincent Vikings,” “Persistent Vincents” or “Vincent Voices.” However, taking the time to empower my students to brand themselves made for a meaningful experience. As one Pixel Paw expressed to me, “I feel like I am part of something.”

Tony Vincent is an educator who lives in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and will be a featured speaker at DA’s FETC 2020.

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