Update: I wrote this post years ago. Since then, I’ve switched up my philosophy a lot. To read my current thoughts, try this post:
Here’s the original post:
For the coming school year, I am determined to focus more on CONVERSATION. We all know the drill: take several years of a foreign language, in which one or two students will excel and go on to speak and use the language, while 95% of the class forgets everything after ¿Cómo estás?. Well, this year I am upping the participation grade to at least 25% of their grade, if not more. My goal is less content, with more usage and practice.
The participation grade has always been a bit nebulous and a weak area of mine. I like starting students with a 100, because I do lots of direct questioning and games that force everyone to use the target language. It seems too complicated to start at 0 and track everyone’s participation until they earn 100 points. BUT– I found myself saying “Hablen español” frequently, which meant that the students were speaking English more often than not. I would deduct points but it wasn’t a concrete thing, and anytime teachers find themselves making threats, it’s likely because they haven’t delivered palpable consequences. Eek. I know. Also, we have pretty cramped classrooms and sometimes I would forget to write down all the points I was supposed to deduct by the time I actually made it back around to my desk.
But this is a new year! New years, new semesters, fresh starts: this is the glorious part of teaching. And here is where my newest printable comes in. On the first day of school, I will hand this sheet out to my students and have them cut out the euros and write their name on the back of each one. Then they can use a paper clip or whatever to attach them all securely to their notebook. Whenever we are doing a “Spanish-only” activity, or if it’s a Spanish-only class, and I hear English, I’ll simply ask for 50 or 100 euros, depending on how off-topic it was. Then later in the day when I enter in that day’s participation grade, or the participation grade for a certain activity, I’ll know who got full credit and who lost points. The points deducted might vary for different levels.
The cool thing is that with something physical like tickets, they can potentially earn them back before class ends by showing me they are really making an effort to speak lots of Spanish. It also eliminates any threats or scolding. I can just say “cincuenta euros, por favor” and go on with the discussion without missing a beat. The next class they get all their tickets back and get a fresh start.
What do you all think? Would this be an effective strategy for your classes?