Participation Grade?

Discussion in 'Middle School / Junior High' started by Zarathi, Jul 11, 2008.

  1. Zarathi

    Zarathi Rookie

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    Jul 11, 2008

    I teach middle school math. I've been thinking of a way to get kids more active in the learning process.

    When I was in school, one of my teachers used to hand out small pieces of paper whenever a student answered a question correctly. The student would write their name on the paper and turn it in. If you got at least one a week, you made a 60 for the participation grade for that week. At the end of the week, all papers are counted for each student and whoever had the most made a 100 and everything in between was sectioned off into A's B's and C's.

    I'm willing to put in the time to count all of these at the end of the week if it will work. What do you think? Do you think it's appropriate for middle school math???
     
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  3. CanadianTeacher

    CanadianTeacher Groupie

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    Personally, I don't think it's fair, but that's just me. Here's my reasoning: Only students who get right answers get the benefit? Those who got wrong answers are still participating so they should get recognition as well if it's just a partipation grade. Giving grades based on this doesn't take into account possible individual characteristics of each student - a student should not suffer in grades from being shy, or not confident in the subject, etc...

    Instead of a grade, what about another type of incentive. For example, follow the same plan, but instead of a grade, make it a draw for some type of prize or reward like a homework holiday, etc...
     
  4. Chef Dave

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    Jul 11, 2008

    As a culinary arts teacher, I use participation grades because I've had instances where lazy students will sit on their butts and let their classmates prepare and cook food items. The lazy students have no problem EATING what their classmates made but heaven forbid that any of them help with cleaning.

    My participation grade is part of an overall grading rubric that evaluates participation, teamwork, cleaning, food preparation, use of appropriate sanitation and kitchen safety techniques etc.

    The other reason I have a participation grade is that culinary arts sometimes attracts students with attendance problems. I've had kids take four day weekends ... typically Monday and Friday.

    When they finally come back to class, I give them a written make up assignment in lieu of a production assignment. Our class after all has moved on to other culinary projects and I'm not going to have these students miss what we're currently doing simply to make up something that they missed because of an absence. Knowing full well that these students are unlikely to do the makeup, failure to complete the assignment results in a 0/F that I can record in lieu of having a participation/food product grade.
     
  5. wig

    wig Devotee

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    Jul 11, 2008

    I agree with Canadian Teacher. I like the idea of a drawing.

    I have a participation grade, but I guess it is really a "ready to learn" grade. Each student starts out with 100 points at the beginning of the quarter. They lose a point each time they come to class without their book, paper/notebook, or pencil. They can also lose points for being disruptive. It is 5% of their total grade.
     
  6. Zarathi

    Zarathi Rookie

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    I tried the prize drawing before and they were like "That's for little kids. We aren't little kids!"

    It's not like I let a student answer a question wrong anyway...if they're close and I can tell they're trying, we talk it out and figure what we did to get the wrong answer and correct the problem.
     
  7. CanadianTeacher

    CanadianTeacher Groupie

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    Jul 11, 2008

    ChefDave,
    In your case, I completely agree with a participation grade. It's a non-academic subject and you need a way to encourage them to stay on task. I would do the same.

    Wig,
    I see what you mean by a 'ready to learn' grade. Our report cards are set up so that we have to evaluate learning skills; things like homework completion, initiative, cooperation with others, etc... (there are 9 different categories); so how well the students participate in class would be evaluated here with an E for Excellent, G for good, S for satisfactory or N for Needs improvement. I like this because learning habits are something separate from curriculum achievement and I think it should be treated separately.

    Personally, I don't waste time on elaborate incentive programs. Once in a while I will give an unexpected reward which may keep them on their toes and I try to encourage intrinsic motivation - you aren't doing this for me, you are doing it for you, so you can feel successful. I'll do everything I can to make it easier on you, but ultimately it's up to you, bla, bla, bla... If someone really isn't keeping up, they are either having trouble and I'll make sure they get extra help, or don't care and will get a call home to advise parents. I'm a big believer in taking care of your responsibilities without expecting something for every little thing you do...especially in middle school. Work habits need to come from within. Maybe a little harsh, but I think if you show the kids you care and are willing to go out of your way for them, they will rise to the occasion to hold up their end.
     
  8. kyblue07

    kyblue07 Companion

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    Jul 11, 2008

    I ponder this question every year. I decide on something and stick with it, but during summer reflections I always go back and reconsider. There are valid arguments both for and against counting participation as part of students' grades. It is discouraged at my school so it is not a regular grade or points. A grade measures content knowledge, not behavior, etc.
    I've found that it works best for me to count or award participation points when students are working in groups or on a project or research for several days. Everyone earns participation points for those days. While students are working, I'm in and out of their groups and I make notes on a sticky regarding who is working, who is not contributing, etc. At the end of class I let any students know if they lost points and why and offer advice for improving. It seems to work better for me to use participation not as a regular grade, but only during certain lessons, projects, etc. It seems to encourage them to work better and learn that effort counts even when they know points aren't on the line that day.
     
  9. LoVe 2 TcH

    LoVe 2 TcH Companion

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    Jul 12, 2008

    Like the "ticket" idea

    I actually really like the idea... I teach 7th grade English and 8th grade History. I am planning on implementing something like that in the fall. I think I am going to try giving 1 ticket for anybody who participates, and 2 tickets for those who get answers correct.

    I think it can work for math, just make sure it's done in a way that includes all those who participate.
     
  10. paperheart

    paperheart Groupie

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    I LOVE this idea. I also teach middle school math (7th grade). I grade for participation....I don't penalize the quiet kids. Participation is basically an effort grade for me. In a low achieving school there are a lot of students who fail because they don't try and a lot of students who fail but are trying so hard to improve that it breaks your heart. You need to recognize their efforts or you lose them forever. Its just teacher personality and style that dictates whether an elaborate system or a natural system is applied.

    This year I decided I wanted to do a more elaborate system than I had the last two years. In elementary I had Fun Fridays (30 min game time) and a big prize box from a raffle type system and Homeworkopoly and things like that. It brings so much energy to the classroom. This year I decided I would pick 3 systems to help with behavior and participation. I would use 1 for each of the first 3 6 week terms and then repeat for the 2nd semester's 3 terms. I figured it would help to rotate the systems to keep them from getting "stale". I was looking for another system and this one is perfect!!! I will use it for behavior and participation.

    (Another system I will use is something a colleague used. She called it Cool Cards. The students were split into teams or partners. They gave themselves a name for fun. Each team had an index card that earned stamps when the teacher periodically checked for on task behavior. If all teammates were on task, you got the stamp. Most stamps got something. And all teams with a min amount of stamps also got something. I forget what she did as reward.)


    How many slips of paper would she hand out in a class period? A lot of only a few?
     
  11. kyblue07

    kyblue07 Companion

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    Jul 12, 2008

    I love the stamp idea. Simple and easy and promotes cooperative group work!
     
  12. paperheart

    paperheart Groupie

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    Jul 12, 2008

    One other way to get the students active in the learning process is using randomization. Write their names on popsicle sticks or cards and shuffle to keep the kids "on edge" during class.
     
  13. CanadianTeacher

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    I usually call on the ones who don't seem to be paying attention. I make it a point to be quite random anyway, but if you are doing anything that remotely looks off task, you are sure to be called on. Works great!
     
  14. Zarathi

    Zarathi Rookie

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    Jul 13, 2008

    paperheart--In a normal class period, she normally gave out anywhere from 10-20 papers I would say. I remember getting 3 a day easily and I was one of the more quiet kids.
     
  15. ~~Pam~~

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    Jul 13, 2008

    I give participation (effort) grades on days that we participate in whole class activities such as Jeorpardy. The winning group may get a Jolly Rancher, pencil, pen, etc. each, but everyone that participates will receive all points. I have not used this as a way to get individual students engaged or motivated because many of the students I have had who lacked motivation really didn't care about grades. Personally, I have had success getting those unengaged students motivated with positive praise and maybe a Jolly Rancher or mechanical pencil along the way.

    During class discussions or students working/explaining problems I encourage participation from more than just my high achievers with another plan. At the beginning of the school year, I actually make a big, positive deal out of a student who tries really hard but either gives an incorrect answer verbally or works out a problem using a common misconception. I thank them and tell them that many others make that error, but the fact that they brought it up allows me to clear up the error for all. Early on in the year I also offer them a visit to the prize box for a Jolly Rancher, mechanical pencil, or some other goodie in the box. They really brighten up and I have not had a case yet where it has shut them down. As the school year progresses, I withdraw much of the prizes for this purpose and use more verbal praise and the students stay engaged.

    Good luck. Student engagement and motivation is a challenge for many MS math teachers (other contents, too).
     
  16. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    Jul 13, 2008

    What is the point of a participation grade, honestly? If a kid can sit in his/her desk and never speak aloud and yet get great scores on homework or tests but is so wrong with that?

    If you build your class as a welcoming environment where the students are there to serve each other then the participation will flow naturally. If you have to reward it something is missing already in my opinion and a reward system won't much fix it.
     
  17. kyblue07

    kyblue07 Companion

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    I'm not sure if that reflects the reality of the developmental level of most middle schoolers. Most haven't developed that intrinsic sense of accomplishment yet and look to extrinsic rewards still. I do think we need to encourage it and help them mature and develop it. As one poster said already, he or she gradually pulls the extrinsic rewards away as the year progresses.
    I use the History Alive program and usually participation isn't the problem so much as cooperative behavior and habits. Many middle schoolers have poor or undeveloped social & cooperative skills and I plan on using a reward system to encourage good cooperative behavior, habits, etc. The reward system can't be all that you do and TCI (makes History Alive) does have good materials for teaching and practicing these skills, but the rewards can help maintain and encourage at the middle school level.
     
  18. SciTeacherNY

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    I am surprised they were resistant to that. I pass out stickers for correct answers to the opening activity and every had shoots up We also have a wall of fame and kids will do just about anything to get their name on it.
     
  19. KMInfinity

    KMInfinity New Member

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    Jul 14, 2008

    I try to encourage reflective behavior, so I give a "Participation Self-reflection" score sheet at the end of each quarter. Each category has a place for the student to assess themselves, and a place for me to assess them on the same category. (I usually have them make a simple Yes/no decision, though with 8th graders I will move to an "always, usually, sometimes, never" Likert system.) They're usually tougher on themselves than I am.

    The categories earn points, which I've adjusted to make it easy for students to be successful. The categories also vary enough to cover a wide variety of positive behaviors, such as "active listening" and "contributes to the class non-verbally in a positive way" which could involve such things as facial expression, etc. In the first week, I go over the participation sheet and make sure students understand the categories, the reasons for them, the importance of reflection, and how this contributes to an overall excellent classroom environment.

    It really does promote long term development, and acts as intrinsic motivation.
     
  20. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    Jul 14, 2008

    Regular daily participation is not graded I tell the kids that if they participate their grades will go up, if they are distruptive their grades will go down. I do take a classwork grade when we have discussions, debates, and socratic seminars though.
     
  21. Lareigna

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    I like the idea of using tickets as incentives, handing them out for students who participate. To me that is a lot of work and somtimes it gets so busy that you don't have a chance.
    I was thinking about each week starting the kids with 10 tix each. They would loose a tix everytime the didn't bring in their supplies, do their hw or if they misbehaved and didn't follow class rules.
    As a reward they could use their tix to earn prizes (to find out what they would want, take a survey at the beginnig of the year. I did at the end of last year and my kids suprised me with what they would want. Little cheap things, pencils, erasers, pezz dispensers, candy, no hw pass...) They could also used their tix for game day Friday (educational games of course that go with the topic of study). If they didn't have andy tix left and couldn't participate in any games, I would have review sheets ready so they would have something educational to do.
    Hope this helps.
     
  22. MrL

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    Jul 16, 2008

    I gave out Science Dollars. I made them in Photoshop with Steamships from Girl Genius and a big Reed Richards on the front. I gave them for participation and volunteering. Giving out a Science Dollar for wrong answers but giving one more for right answers really got the kids participating. They could spend then for a limited amount of extra credit per semester or pencils.

    I'm getting a stamper to mark them to avoid counter fitting, though.
     

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