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Using Point Charts in Your Classroom

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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:

  1. I found the experience to be a positive one, and this post might get other teachers to test it out.
  2. I might be using some techniques that are new to those who are already using a point chart.
  3. You might give me some pieces of advice from your experience.
  4. 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:

Points Distribution

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

‘White’ Manipulation

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.

The Rewards

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 🙂

Future action

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 🙂

 

Passion for CPD: Gamified Sharing Board for Developing Teachers

The idea of a sharing board first came to me when I saw the bulletin board at my school, and thought we could use it for sharing stuff. However, the idea as it is, came from reading the informative book, The Developing Teacher by Duncan Foord, where he talks about creating a sharing board, its benefits for teachers, and how it can be used effectively.
The board is a very effective way to share and develop with teachers at your institution. It costs nothing other than 2 sheets. It doesn’t take time to maintain since many teachers will be working on it.

Sharing Board

The Sharing Board that I’ve created is two A3 sheets with spaces for websites, YouTube channels,  webinars, seminars, books, articles, blogs, activities, games, materials and worksheets, rules, and thanks. You can download the sheets and print them on A3 or A4. However, A3 is recommended to have some space for what is going to be written.
If you don’t like the layout, or some of the sections, you can use some labels to cover  the sections’ titles, and write above them the section you want. Or you can design or draw your own, it is practically some squares/rectangles, but I thought a colorful one would make it a bit attractive. If you have suggestions for other sections, please write them in the comments so I can add them to the current design.

 

The Rules

These are the rules that I’ve written on the board. You can add/remove as appropriate:
• Post one idea at a time.
• Leave space for others.
• Put your name on the material, or near it so that people will know who posted it.
• If you post something, make sure it is clear how to use it.
• If you use something, thank the person who posted it.
•use a pencil to write so we can erase the old posts to make place for new ones.

Gamification

To make the experience fun, and to add an element of competition to it, I’ve created a point chart. The teachers can be in team a (Awesome) or team b (Brilliant). For each thing shared by a team member, the team get a point.They can circle a star. Every 25th star is golden to make it easier to keep track of points. The team that reaches 200 points (the big star) is the winner. If you like, you can make a small party for the winning team where the team that lost gets a cake and some juice, or something else! Then you can reprint/erase the point chart, and start over.
This is my first attempt to gamify a learning experience. If you have a suggestion to enhance the experience, please let me know so I can add it to the point chart, or change the design altogether. Having said that, I tried to keep the gamification experience to minimum so it won’t take time to track since we’re already busy teaching.

Extra Stuff

I have added two plastic sleeves next to the board. The first is going to be used for ‘Article of the Week’. Each week I will print out (or one of my colleagues will) an interesting ELT article that I’ve read to share with my coworkers. The other is for the materials and worksheets, so teachers can provide a sample copy for other teachers to photocopy.

Download

These ones are the same as the first, but I’ve added ‘online courses‘ with seminars and webinars. The second has ‘YouTube Channels‘, and the third one has ‘Games and Activities‘ in the same box. Pick the ones that you like most.

Photos

The board one day after sticking it on a wall in our teachers’ room: