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.