The first term of this academic year is over, and I got the chance to test something for the first time: using a point chart (which I gave a thought a couple of years ago but don’t know why I didn’t use.) A friend of mine (hey Defne!) used them last year and as she told me, they were really effective. The learners were really engaged in the process. She rewarded the winners by spending a day with them at the mall. So, I decided to see for myself.
Some of you are probably experts with the topic, and might have been using it for years. However, I’ve decided to write about my experience for 4 reasons:
- I found the experience to be a positive one, and this post might get other teachers to test it out.
- I might be using some techniques that are new to those who are already using a point chart.
- You might give me some pieces of advice from your experience.
- And because I’d like to share the point charts I’m using in my classes with you 🙂
At the beginning of the academic year, I introduced the idea to my learners that we will be using a point chart. The learners were quite excited, and the urge to earn points kicked in from day one! Here are some of the things I’d like to talk about so far:
One of the things that need to be taken into consideration is point distribution. Obviously, the points of a given behavior/achievement/homework/quiz … etc should be fixed, and not just to give a random point every time a student does a positive thing. Otherwise, you’ll be in a big trouble, because the learners remember what you gave them and you’ll be face with the comment “but teacher! why did you give her 4 points, and gave me 2 points last week for doing the same thing?!” No teacher wants to be in that position, because the whole class will come to you and ask for their right, the points that you didn’t distribute equally.
To provide an example, I award the following points when the learners are writing and role-playing their own dialog:
1 point for pronunciation, 1 point for correct vocabulary usage 1 point for making no mistakes (self-correcting is allowed,) 1 point if the dialog is overall good.
Another example: I award the following points for quiz marks, and it’s always the same no matter what:
100 = 5 points
90+ = 4 points
80+ = 3 points
70+ = 2 points
60+ = 1 point
By ‘white’ manipulation I mean using the points to target many issues in our classroom. Whether that is solving an issue related to behavior (if you’re dealing with young learners/teens) or toward learning and motivation. Below are a couple of examples:
- At my school I have only 2 contact hours a week with each class (I have 14 classes!) So that means I have to cover a lot in 2 lessons. To save time, I used the points to my advantage by providing a ‘challenge’ that by the time I enter the classroom all students who have their workbook opened to the homework page will get 1 point. Employing that technique allowed me to cut my homework check time by 50-60%.
- I’ve also used the points to promote ‘honesty’. That is, if I unintentionally mark a question on the quiz as ‘correct’ while it’s false; or when I accidentally add an extra point to a student at the end of the lesson, the students gets to keep that point if they notify me that I’ve made a mistake. However, their quiz mark will change. This happened 3 or 4 times this term, and the students were more than happy to tell me that there was a mistake.
Adding an element of collaboration
I often ask the learners to do a task/activity with a classmate to promote collaboration, and to give them a break from individual competition. I assign teams of different number (2, 3 or 4,) and mostly pair strong and weak learners. Sometimes I invite an element of unpredictability to the process of pairing students by using a decision wheel (see image below). The students would spin the wheel and see who they are paired with. It’s a cell app called Decision Roulette.
When it comes to the rewards, there are some options to choose from. You could hand out certificates. Defne (the friend that I’ve already mentioned) hands a The Student of the Month Certificate every month for the student who earned the most point at that week. Alternatively, you can make it a weekly thing.
I give certificates for two students who earned the most points for their dialog (since my classes are speaking-focused.)
Another option could be giving a small present weekly such as chocolate, a pen, or anything your students fancy.
The option that I’ve decided to go with is collecting money in a moneybox to buy a USB drive for the top 3 learners. This option might be not allowed in some schools, however, my school, my students, and their parents are totally OK with it. The idea is that if learner forgets his/her book, disturbs their classmates, or shows up late to class (not the morning class though, since it might be due to traffic) they pay a small amount of money (exactly 0.50 TL which is currently like 13 cents in USD.) And to be fair, the rules applied to me too (I was never late to a class, but I forgot my markers once, and the students demanded that I pay the fine!) At the end of the term, the moneybox was opened, and the top 3 learners chose some awesome USB drive from AliExpress.
A NOTE: when I introduced the moneybox idea, it was important for me that the idea gets a unanimous vote. In one of my classes, 2 students voted against the idea, and I called it off with that class, since it’ll cause a lot of arguments among the students.
The ones to avoid
Don’t punish any student by taking or erasing all the points (or like a half of their points) they have no matter what they do. If you do so, the whole experience would become a negative one, and they would no longer care about the points and any activity related to it. Or, you’ll have to give them their points back when you see that they are heartbroken; you don’t want to do that since it’ll send a message about the consistency of your policy.
I don’t award points to students who clean the board before I come to class, or those who help me by carrying and connecting my laptop to the projector since it will promote the idea of the ‘Teacher’s Pet’ which I don’t prefer at all . I simply thank them, and smile 🙂
For the second term, I’ll be testing out and implementing more strategies and further employ the point chart and other techniques. I’ve been doing a lot of research and reading regarding motivating learners, and hopefully, by the end of this academic year I’m going to write about the experience. Stay tuned 😉
Download a point chart
Below are 4 point charts in different colors. You can print them in A3 size or A4. A3 is recommendable though. The point chart fits 24 names. I might add other colors/designs later, so give me some suggestions/feedback in the comments 🙂