Class Dojo for participation

How to assess and score participation is an often discussed topic.  Over the years, I’ve used different methods.  A few years ago, I was using a clipboard to add and subtract points for anything students did or didn’t do in class.  I was also creating alternate activities every day for students who were absent and needed to make up points.  It wasn’t a bad system, but I couldn’t keep up with it.  The last couple of  years, I’ve gone to a system in which I roughly estimate a participation score for each student at the end of each 3 weeks – not as precise or rigorous but much easier to handle.

Recently, I was thinking that I wanted something more, more active and more demanding.  One of my goals during Christmas break (when I wasn’t destroying and rebuilding the house in preparations for the new baby) was to find a better way to score class participation.  I did some research and found Class Dojo (classdojo.com).  I’ve been using it for 5 weeks, and I LOVE it.  There are still some kinks to be worked out, but the difference in my classes is incredible.

Class Dojo is a program that was designed for elementary teachers to monitor behavior of students.  However, it also serves greatly as a tool for a Foreign Language teacher to keep track of participation.  I was able to create classes and add all of my students to them.  I was also able to edit the list of actions that would add or subtract points to any student’s score.  The best part is that I can control it all with an app on my iphone.  I can quickly add or subtract points with my phone and the website keeps track.  At the end of the week, I have all the totals accumulated and ready to enter into the gradebook.

I told students they need to earn 10 points each week, and I posted in the classroom what actions earned and lost points.  Now, instead of dull, distant faces when I ask questions in class, I get more volunteers than I ever wanted (a good problem).

A few notes:

I realize that the relationship I’ve created with students is a bit superficial, but I don’t mind.  I’ve joked with them about how much more popular I am when I’m holding my phone now.  Last week, a student held the door for me as I was leaving the building.  She asked if doing so earned her a participation point.  I smiled and let her know it doesn’t work like that.

Because the program is designed for children, the appearance is childish.  Each student’s name is accompanied by a silly monster avatar.  There were some reviews of the app that said this would be a problem for older students.  I have had no such problem.  When I project the scores and images, nobody complains that it is too childish.

It must be clear to students that Class Dojo is not being used for behavior.  Behavior is different and does not affect grades.

I am only teaching levels 2,3 and 4 now.  Trying to force speaking out of lower level students may not be appropriate.  And, starting in the second half of level 2, as I did, might be just about right.

It might be wise to adjust the required points according to class size.  It can be a challenge to be fair in larger classes.

I want students to understand that absence from class does not excuse them from their responsibility.  In-class “work” is everything in a TPRS class.  If they miss, I tell them they need to do more the next day to make up.  I will not adjust each student’s required points because of absences.  However for students who miss most or all of a week, I am creating a video interview as a way to catch up a bit.

Contact me for more details or descriptions.

dojo

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13 Responses to Class Dojo for participation

  1. Caroline says:

    Hi Bryan

    I love your post. I was just wondering if you assign different weighted points based on what kind of participation, such as great verbal responses, or just not acting up in class or actors not being distractors?

    Just curious if you give a certain amount of points per day to equal the weekly total?
    Any help would be appreciated

  2. Kim Hook says:

    Bryan,
    This post was really helpful to me as I am considering implementing ClassDojo this year for the same purpose as you. I teach high school Spanish 2 and 4. Do you use this everyday throughout the class period or only for certain activities? I would also love to know more about the video interview method you mentioned using as a way to help an absent student catch up.
    Thanks so much!
    Kim Hook
    Harrisonburg High School
    Harrisonburg VA

    • bryankandel says:

      I use the app throughout the class period all week. I’ll post some info about the video makeup soon. I’ll be creating a new one for this year. It’s basically me asking general questions and students responding with as much Spanish as they can. Thanks!

  3. Margarita says:

    Would you mind sharing your specific positive and negative actions. I am also considering using classdojo to grade participation

    • bryankandel says:

      Positive is for speaking Spanish in class, being a volunteer or working on-task (IN SPANISH) with a partner/group. Negative is for English when not permitted, being off task (other work, reading etc.), being unable to answer a simple comprehension check question due to lack of attention.

      • KateGladieux says:

        Are these the only actions? I am a newer teacher and I am trying to figure out what to give participation points for… I teach middle school Spanish 1. I don’t want to pressure the kids into speaking, and I know a points/rewards system can be superficial, but the kids seem to enjoy it. I am trying to refine what I reward and also how, if at all, I take points away. I know this post is from 3 years ago… do you still use class dojo?

      • bryankandel says:

        Hi Kate. We met in Columbus, right? Yes, I still use class dojo. I understand the reasons many teachers hesitate to record participation points, but for me, it makes a big difference in classroom engagement. To be honest, I have never tried it in level 1. I started using it after I had moved to only teaching higher levels. Maybe try it slow. Require only a few points at first. I count a point any time a student speaks Spanish, including group and partner conversations. Guarantee success early by providing many opportunities for students to get the points. I also offer ways for students to make up points if they are absent or just didn’t say much during a week.

  4. Cassandra Bilyeu says:

    What tweaks did you do to help with your “behaviors” you identified for +participation and -participation? I’d love to use them on a test class!

    • bryankandel says:

      I gave students a two week test period before I started counting points, so they could get a feel for how much they needed to speak. I also provided a bit more time for speaking, especially at the beginning of class as we talked about what happened yesterday.

  5. Pingback: Google voice for participation makeup | Bryan Kandel TPRS

  6. Pingback: la luz | Bryan Kandel TPRS

  7. Heather W says:

    Hi Bryan,

    I am trying to set up Class Dojo now to manage class participation grades. This has always been my biggest challenge to manage the points so students are held accountable and I can keep up with it! If your students are to earn 10 points a week, how many positive skills and negative skills do you have set up and how much is there point value? Have you ever had an issue on Class Dojo when it ends up to be negative points at the end of the week if the student doesn’t earn any? I guess I am just thinking of how to assign the point values and how I could then enter it in my gradebook without it being too complicated. I have 30 students in my Spanish I class and I need something to keep track of their participation because some students are always on task and making a huge effort to participate in Spanish and the others who are not are a big distraction in class. I am hoping that having something like this where they see me keeping track of the points will change their behavior and attitude and reward the other students.

    Thank you so much for your help!!!!
    Heather

    • bryankandel says:

      Hi Heather. A few tips after 5 or 6 years of using Class Dojo.

      1. Start low. Especially with a class of 30, I would start by making 5 points the minimum to earn 100% for the week. You can always increase if you feel you want to.
      2. I keep the skills to a bare minimum. Speaking Spanish = 1pt (in class discussions, to a partner, anything). Speaking English when not permitted = -1. That’s it. I started with a system of adding and subtracting points for several behaviors, but it was too complicated and didn’t measure what I wanted to measure – attempts to speak. This might not be helpful to you if you are trying to use it to keep kids on task. It could work for that, but I don’t have a lot of experience with it as such.
      3. Because I count points for partner talking, I never have students end up with negative points. I have some who end up low, but never negative. I do offer a few ways, including Google Voice calls, for students to make up lost points. Also, CD points are part of my process grade (15%) and do not have large effects on overall grade.

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