Nov 7, 2008

classroom management

I implemented one of the strategies from Power Teaching in my classes. That is, the class participation points - I forget what it's actually called, but that's what it really is. I keep a tally on the board for positive and negative points given based on behavior.

I've always used a similar system, but it was given individually. In the past I would assign two participation grades per student per week. The first was active participation - how many times any given child volunteeed to participate. That grade was based on the average number of times students were able to participate that week. Sometimes an A was 3 participation points while other weeks it would be 10 points. This grade never dropped below a C, because some people are naturally more shy and not willing to speak in front of their peers. The second grade was on-task participation. This grade always began at an A and dropped a letter grade every two times I had to remind a student to get back on task.

I kept track of both grades on a seating chart I had printed out each week. It was a great system, the two biggest drawbacks were that I had to be able to keep up with the printing and tallying of points, and I always seem to fall behind on that at this time of the year, and because they are individual grades I depended on getting buy in from each student as an individual - if a student is not grade motivated, this system does not work well for them.

This year I tried the págame system, developed by Blaine Ray. It reduced the number of things I was tracking. With the págame system I was only tracking off-task behavior and absences. With this system a student is able to "buy back" their lost points by doing certain tasks in Spanish. I had the same two problems with the págame system that I had previously. I cannot fall behind on the printing and tallying of points, and it depends on students being grade conscious and motivated.

This class point system is slightly different. The class is "competing" against itself for either fun time at the end of the week, or a more difficult quiz. But the actual consequence doesn't seem to matter as much as seeing the points go up. I am no longer depending on all my students being grade motivated. Now my class is my ally. When one student is off-task (head on table, speaking in English, etc.) his/her peers are actively campaigning to get them back on task.

This system has also finally gotten across the point that asking for clarification is a good thing. I give the class points any time a student stops me and asks for a definition or comes up with a really cool question or connection. Now rather than groaning when somebody stops the class, the students are cheering the slower processors on. I literally had an entire class break into spontaneous applause the other day when a typical class clown first asked me in an appropriate way for clarification on two points and then volunteered to translate a sentence. His smile at that moment was so precious. And on Friday when his class got to play pictionary, he was so proud that he had helped tip those points in their favor. I may just have gotten his buy in (at least for a little while...)

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