How Maranatha Christian Schools Builds Camaraderie with House Points

“How are we teaching kindness to our students?”

A parent came into Kelly Rodriguez's office one day and asked that. Kelly, who is the Middle School Principal at Maranatha Christian Schools, first thought, “well of course we are.”

But as she reflected, she realized that it wasn’t being taught in a codified way besides certain lesson plans or in-the-moment interactions. Kelly set out to change this, which brought her to House Points.

With House Points, students get points for good behavior, and all the points add up in a House competition.

The results have been astounding. Not only has it taught kindness, but across the building and throughout those tough middle school years, House Points have helped Kelly and her team weave camaraderie into the fabric of the school.

4
Houses, 1 Family
117k
Points Given
350+
Prizes Bought
I am not getting in front of our kids and saying be kind to one another. But as they realize that their peers are humans too and it is beyond their friend group, you see those moments. That is what I love. That is why I love Houses.
Kelly Rodriguez, Principal

Getting Started with House Points

Kelly first heard of House Points from Harry Potter. As she set out to research them, she found the Ron Clark Academy, which has many great resources for schools looking to build this type of program.

One of the facets she wanted to avoid though was paper. Many educators know just how much work it is to design, print, laminate, and distribute paper bucks – and kids are prone to lose them anyway. In fact, one teacher said to Kelly:

“I just can’t pass out another piece of paper.”

That’s how Kelly found LiveSchool, which offers digital points tracking and a House Points system with built-in reporting.

About Maranatha Christian Schools

  • Location: San Diego, CA
  • Enrollment: 230
  • Grades: 6th - 8th

Setting Up the Houses

In place of a magic sorting hat, the task fell to Kelly. She decided to create four houses with 56 students in each. Kelly intentionally made sure the houses were blended, meaning they had students from across grade levels in them.

“And I thought: How can I get a sixth grade to talk to an eighth-grader? How can I get an eighth-grader to mentor a sixth-grader? Houses were a huge building block for this. We don’t just have the sixth grade, seventh grade, and eighth grade. They are all intermixed. They are all equal.”

The four houses are Borealis, Loma, Vanguard, and Odyssey. Each house has its own color, crest, and trait.

Yes, the houses create friendly competition. Yes, they build identity among their students. But Kelly always reminds the students, that they are four houses and one family.

Everyone Gets Points!

Students at Maranatha receive House Points throughout the day for anything positive. This can include:

  • Good Character
  • School Spirit
  • Compassion
  • Outstanding Performance
  • Teamwork
  • Academic Excellence
  • Humility
  • Effort
  • Responsibility
  • House Competitions

Students can get points at any time, and this is key! Any staff member can award points – in the hallway, during drop off/recess, and at assemblies. That way the competition is always on – and students are always motivated!

While students can receive points individually, students can earn points together as teams.

  • In weekly Chapel, the first 10 minutes are dedicated to House Competitions, where Houses compete in get-to-know-you and team-building games.
  • Each month, students participate in spirit days, where Houses earn points for participation.
  • Each semester, Maranatha holds a House Points blitz which is a week packed with games and activities to showcase house spirit.

These events keep the House system fun, team-centered, and consistent!

And throughout it all. Maranatha has a TV installed in their main hallway showing the point totals for the houses like the image above. Kelly notes, “I’ll hear students say: ‘Oh my gosh Tommy you earned us points!’ and high-fiving. That’s an eighth-grader to a sixth-grader or sixth-graders to a seventh-grader.”

That’s what Kelly was looking for when she launched this initiative: those moments that they cheer each other on.

“It’s horizontal and vertical alignment of student kindness, student togetherness, and student growth.”

Spending Points

Students have all these points. Now, they need to use them! The majority of the Maranatha system is built on pride in your house and earning points for the glory of it.

But there are some opportunities to spend. For example, they have a student store that students use their LiveSchool bucks to enter. Once in it, they can claim a small prize like a snack or toy. Students can also save up their points to buy a house shirt. In a school with a uniform, this special shirt gives students a chance to dress down while repping their House.

The majority of the prizes, however, cost the school nothing. Every month, the winning house gets a prize together that’s something like free dress, a homework pass, extra recess, longer lunch, or house game time. Students love them all – and Maranatha doesn't have to spend a dime. Win, win!

These prizes also build camaraderie among students who get to play and engage with each other as a prize for their teamwork.

“We earned this.” Maranatha Students

Then, at the end of the year, there is the pennant party, which is a school barbeque with snacks, games, craft tables, and bounce houses. The House with the most points for the year gets early access, extra pizza, and an entire snack tent to themselves. Every student, regardless of House, gets to enjoy the party.

Better Together

House Points gives the Maranatha community countless opportunities for celebration and community-building. Students grow closer with their Houses, but the system also enables students to get to know all staff and staff to get to know all students.

Suddenly, students are actively seeking out different teachers and staff, and the non-instructional staff is now interacting with students regularly. So not only has it built camaraderie between students, the Houses have built camaraderie across the community. That camaraderie is built on good deeds, togetherness, and kindness.

We can quantify Maranatha’s usage of LiveSchool, the points they’ve awarded, and the LiveSchool points students have spent. But we simply cannot put a number on community, confidence, and authenticity.

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How Maranatha Christian Schools Builds Camaraderie with House Points

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THE TEAM
I am not getting in front of our kids and saying be kind to one another. But as they realize that their peers are humans too and it is beyond their friend group, you see those moments. That is what I love. That is why I love Houses.
Kelly Rodriguez, Principal
THE PROCESS
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THE RUBRIC
Kelly Rodriguez, Principal
THE TRACKING SYSTEM

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THE DATA
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How Maranatha Christian Schools Builds Camaraderie with House Points

“How are we teaching kindness to our students?”

A parent came into Kelly Rodriguez's office one day and asked that. Kelly, who is the Middle School Principal at Maranatha Christian Schools, first thought, “well of course we are.”

But as she reflected, she realized that it wasn’t being taught in a codified way besides certain lesson plans or in-the-moment interactions. Kelly set out to change this, which brought her to House Points.

Getting Started with House Points

Kelly first heard of House Points from Harry Potter. As she set out to research them, she found the Ron Clark Academy, which has many great resources for schools looking to build this type of program.

One of the facets she wanted to avoid though was paper. Many educators know just how much work it is to design, print, laminate, and distribute paper bucks – and kids are prone to lose them anyway. In fact, one teacher said to Kelly:

“I just can’t pass out another piece of paper.”

That’s how Kelly found LiveSchool, which offers digital points tracking and a House Points system with built-in reporting.

About Maranatha Christian Schools

  • Location: San Diego, CA
  • Enrollment: 230
  • Grades: 6th - 8th
4
Houses, 1 Family
117k
Points Given
350+
Prizes Bought
I am not getting in front of our kids and saying be kind to one another. But as they realize that their peers are humans too and it is beyond their friend group, you see those moments. That is what I love. That is why I love Houses.
Kelly Rodriguez, Principal

Setting Up the Houses

In place of a magic sorting hat, the task fell to Kelly. She decided to create four houses with 56 students in each. Kelly intentionally made sure the houses were blended, meaning they had students from across grade levels in them.

“And I thought: How can I get a sixth grade to talk to an eighth-grader? How can I get an eighth-grader to mentor a sixth-grader? Houses were a huge building block for this. We don’t just have the sixth grade, seventh grade, and eighth grade. They are all intermixed. They are all equal.”

The four houses are Borealis, Loma, Vanguard, and Odyssey. Each house has its own color, crest, and trait.

Yes, the houses create friendly competition. Yes, they build identity among their students. But Kelly always reminds the students, that they are four houses and one family.