Oral Participation in the Foreign Language Classroom

Synopsis prepared by Lee Risley
in Six Parts   [Menu]

Part #3. Grading Oral Performance

A. Teacher Subjectivity Versus Objectivity in Grading Participation
B. Self-Assessment and Self-Tracking on Participation Grades
C. How Much Should Oral Participation Count in the Overall Grade?
D. Just How Does One Grade Oral Participation? (Rubrics, etc.)
E. Student Accountability and Grading

A. Teacher Subjectivity Versus Objectivity in Grading

95/01 From-->   "Sonja O. Moore" <smoore@cabell.vcu.edu>
Subject:        Grading participation

I have a colleague who wishes to increase substantially the percentage
in his grade breakdown towards participation (in the region of 20% of
his total grade). He is a little "gun shy" about being too subjective,
having to deal with grade appeals and so on. Has anyone found an
"effective" method, such as a check sheet, of "quantifying"
participation throughout an elementary or intermediate language course,
so that it will appear less subjective and provide sufficient
documentation to satisfy students?

Sonja O. Moore


95/01 From-->   "Serafa-Manschot, Emily" <SERAFAME@nhs.northville.k12.mi.us>
Subject:        Re: Grading participation

Hola todos!

I, too, have faced the joy/problem of grading class participation. Yes,
I do keep track of every single answer in my grade book. It's a lot of
work--but I feel it's necessary. No matter what anyone says, grades do
motivate students. By writing the credit points myself, I'm sure to have
an accurate record and I know at a glance who has participated and who

There are a few interesting ideas in the Spanish series BRAVO!
(McDougall/Littel). There is a sheet for self-evaluation where teachers
and students can record effort, times the student volunteers,
attendance, daydreaming, little participation, and speaking English when
it is not appropriate. There is also an evaluation for the whole class,
and everyone gets the same grade depending on how much Spanish/English
is spoken during the week. I have not tried these ideas, but thought
they would be worth mentioning in this discussion.

Un abrazo,


95/01 From-->   Laura Kimoto <kimotol@uhunix.uhcc.Hawaii.Edu>
Subject:        Re: Grading participation

I read about this idea in the Teacher's Manual for _Yookoso: An
Invitation to Contemporary Japanese_ by Yasu-Hiko Tohsaku (1994,

Students can earn a total of three points for each day they attend
class: one point for being there, another point for participating, and
another third point for showing exemplary participation. The teacher can
record this simply by placing one two or three dots in the attendance
grid for that day in his or her roll book. Of course, what "exemplary
participation" is may have to be defined and this part might be
subjective, but I think overall this system makes sense.

Laura Kimoto


95/01 From-->   Marilyn Hannan <mhannan@omnifest.uwm.edu>
Subject:        Re: Grading participation

When I subbed for some French and Spanish in a nearby district a few
years ago they had a chart system in Middle and High School which they
used to record each time the students answered in class. They had each
student take a one week turn recording the responses in class for each
day then they totaled them at the end of the week.

I have used this successfully in my Spanish 1 and 2 classes the past 3
years and it really gets those hands up when they know that 25% of their
grade is based on oral participation (which also includes original
partner dialogues which are performed in front of class for each chapter
and sometimes videotaped for other classes and parents to see).

I usually look at it each day or week to see that someone is not giving
themself and their friends a lot of extra points! Some teachers have two
students marking simultaneously to check on accuracy, but I don't find
this too much of a problem.

I just make out a class roster on my computer (using the ClassMaster
program that I use for grades) and put the days of the week at the top,
then xerox enough for the quarter. Each person who does the recording
puts the date next to their name and they give themselves 2 extra points
per day because sometimes it is difficult to keep track and answer at
the same time if it's fast paced.

Marilyn Hannan


95/01 From-->   BuckBuck11@aol.com
Subject:        Re: Grading participation

There are several ways to document participation: I use all three to
give a grade equivalent to a major exam every ten weeks.

1. I keep a seating chart on a clipboard. Beneath each student's name is
a small grid. On the grid, I record hashmarks each time the student
volunteers an answer. This creates good accountability when we are
reviewing homework.

The kids who are prepared have their hands up for all the questions, so
they end up getting called on more. They get the credit, even if they
give an incorrect answer. The reward is participation and initiative (to
raise their hand) At the end of the period, I scan the chart and pick a
baseline number for approximately 60 % of the participation grade. I
might make five complete squares (about 25 hashmarks) to be 60 points,
four 50, and so on. Students who have more squares might get 5 extra
points for each additional square.

2. I have an index card with each student's name. To go over an
assignment, I shuffle the cards and the card on top gets question 1. If
the questions have multiple responses, I'll give the same question
several times. On the card I give the student a 2 if the answer is
correct. They student gets a 1 if the answer is incorrect, but I can
elicit a correct answer using leading questions. The student gets 0 if
no answer is given. This discourages students from skipping the
questions that require a bit of extra thought or effort. If I go through
the cards twice a week, I can have up to 40 possible points. This can
make up 20-30% of the grade, depending on how many times I used the

3. I do pair skits of five exchanges. (Each person speaks five times in
the dialogue) The student gets a 2 if the oration is comprehensible,
appropriate, and correct. The student gets a 1 if the oration is
comprehensible and appropriate. The student gets a 0 if the utterance is
incomprehensible or inappropriate. This gives a total possible point of
ten for each skit. Usually, I make a skit average worth 20% of the
participation grade. If I've done three skits, I might give them the sum
of the best two.

I keep the cards in the front of my teacher manual and the participation
charts on a clipboard on my podium. It's simple, easy, and becomes
habitual after a while.

My whole objective is to encourage frequent and accurate participation.
The teacher must use his discretion in awarding points. For most kids,
it encourages them to do homework and their participation grade is a big
boost to their average. I don't have a problem giving a grade over 100
on participation either, for the kids who ALWAYS seem to have their
hands in the air.

They fight it sometimes in first year, but after that, they realize how
much it helps their average. Ultimately, they realize how much it helps
their learning!!!!

Bill Heller


95/01 From-->   Edward M Dumanis <dumanis@acsu.buffalo.edu>
Subject:        Re: Grading participation

Why should we pretend that the grades we give are something more than
our professional but nevertheless subjective opinion? It has always

It always will be. Grades are used when students are compared or checked
against certain grade-based standards. This usage makes many people
believe that the grades ought to be objective. But can they be? Having a
wide variety of grade producing algorithms, we substitute subjectively
chosen grading instruments for our subjective opinion. When using a
cut-off grade on a 100 point scale, is it fair to give different grades
to students with 1 point difference? Of course, not. Is it objective?
Only as far as the instrument you have chosen. So, the only aim of this
"objectivity" approach is to protect us from grievances. And it usually
works. But don't you think that it is a high price we have to pay to
conform with the existing practice?

I am sure that the results will be much more valuable, if we use our own
judgement without any gimmicks. Since when is an expert judgement
considered to be inadequate. I do not want to teach the students who
would question the integrity of my professional judgement. I don't think
that students will sign up for the course taught by a professor with
questionable reputation. So, what are we afraid? If you are hired to
teach, it is responsibility of administration and only administration
for the quality of the faculty. And the absence of grievances does not
characterize the quality of teaching or grading. I hope to see the day
when on the question "Why don't I deserve a better grade after having
done so and so?", I can honestly answer "Because it is my subjective

It means that I am always ready to demonstrate why I am giving a certain
grade, I will always try to let my students understand clearly what they
have to learn to get an "A." However, any other grade will be determined
by my subjective judgement on how close the demonstrated work is to the
perfect one. It also means that I am not ready, not interested, and not
going at all to defend my subjective method in the court of law. It will
be just the waste of time.

It is a dream, you would say, it's a fantasy. You are right. Real life
is a compromise. But compromising, let not deceive ourselves. It is a
compromise, it is subjective.

Subjectivity is the heart of creativity. And this is why it is fun to

Edward Dumanis


95/02 From-->   "Cynthia K. Gerstl" <cindyger@wam.umd.edu>
Subject:        participation grade

Thank you BuckBuck,

I am downloading your comments and bringing them into my next department
meeting. Incidentally, I was held on the phone for 15 minutes yesterday by
an irate parent who feels that her son's poor grades (no participation,
no test passing grades, constant class idle chatter) are the result of
my "trying to get him." Thank God for documentation of lack of

For those of you NOT in the pre-college setting -- this is a constant

Incidentally, participation grades count for only 25% -- and participation
is not only "repeating" etc. but any input the student puts into the
class -- including raising a hand to participate (but not necessarily
getting called on) as it would be impossible to call on a student each
time a hand is raised.



96/03 From-->  Craig Nickisch <nickcrai@isuux.isu.edu>
Subject:        Re: participation grades

>What do you do about the shy student who could easily answer the question if it
> were in a written test format? Isn't 25% a bit high for a class participation grade?

'Doesn't have to be shy - can just be visual (i.e., text-oriented), et
cetera. But if we want to impart "communicative" activities, they aren't
generally measured by true-false, matching, etc. Instead, they are
measured by a trained observer looking at accuracy, fluency, et al - we
all know the terms here.

Good teachers can assign a participation/oral/communicative grade after
each hour, kinda subjectively. Experiments I've conducted find it to be
a *very* accurate method of judgement. More about that if folks are
interested. And taken in total a quarter (maybe more than that) of the

grade is for sure reasonable. The major is right-on.

Teachers may have difficulty explaining to parents (who may even say
"You just don't like my kid") that the communicative performance is
simply a part of things, and is fairly objectively measured, if in an
apparently subjective fashion. Of course, teachers may have to remind
the parents that such measurement is part of the profession. "We can
handle it." Like the coach who subjectively evaluates the bench.

Craig Nickisch


97/03 From-->   "Bonnie A. Eng" <england@hutchtel.net>
Subject:        Re: Daily Speaking Proficiency Grade ?

>I'm looking for a good way to record a student's speaking (F.L. of course)
>proficiency in class on a daily basis. I would like to be able to give a daily
>speaking grade at the end of the quarter. I give periodical speaking proficiency
>tests at the end of a chapter but would like to encourage my level 2 students to
>use to language in class as a real means to communicate. Recently it has come
>to my attention that the ONLY thing my former students can remember from
>French class is how to ask to go to the bathroom in French. Ha ! What a legacy!
>I have used daily speaking coupons - but they get lost or else I forget to give
>them to a certain student for something. Any ideas ?
>Amy White

I use a system of "R.O.M." response opportunity minimum in which the
students have to respond a set minimum of times each week in order to
earn the 5 pts of oral participation. I have a seating chart for each
week on which I keep track of all 'r' (= response) and absences and
tardies and even homework checks or other weekly info. I have no trouble
getting participation in class once they realize that their oral points
are a valuable part of their grade. If the student exceeds my
requirements, I give them a max of 2 points extra credit. This helps
make up for points missed on homework or quizzes or even points missed
the week before. I value their oral practice and NEVER want to hear a
student of mine say " I took two years of Spanish in high school and I
learned to read and write, but I never learned to speak it"

Bonnie A. Eng


97/03   From--> Mary Young <youngm@earthlink.net>
Subject:        Re: Daily Speaking Proficiency Grade ?

I keep tally points on my seating chart. This is purely participation,
not a measure of accuracy or comprehensibility. For a qualitative check
I have occasional skits, presentations, role-plays, etc. Those I can
mark with a plus-check-minus system.

I would not attempt to grade each student every day on oral proficiency,
if that is what you are saying in your post. Proficiency testing is
fairly complex. Once a semester is enough, and it is debatable whether
proficiency should be used in assigning grades.

Happy grading,
Mary Young


97/03 From--> Erwin Petri     eapetri@sprynet.com
Subject:        Re: speaking grades

I have always felt that grading students on oral work when they
volunteer allows students to pick and choose when and for what they are
graded. If we are reasonable in what we expect students to be able to do
orally, then all should be able to succeed to varying degrees at oral
work without depending on volunteering.

Erwin Petri


97/09 From-->   Bill Heller        BuckBuck11@aol.com
Subject:        Class Participation Rubrics

Dear Listeros,

I have developed Class Participation grading rubrics. Last year I
fiddled with a five part rubric with a defined 0-4 scale for each part.
After using it three times over 15 weeks, I tweaked it this summer to
have six parts with a 0-3 scale. On the side is a percentage conversion
scale. (Straight 3s =100 A, Straight 2s =75 C) I have developed three
separate rubrics: #1 - Level I and first half of Level II. #2 - Second
half of Level II, all of Level III. #3 - Level IV-V.

The six parts include:
1. Preparation for Class (Homework and materials) 2. Frequency of
Participation (Number of times) 3. Quality of Participation (Types of
Utterances....words, complete sentences, extended...)
4. Use of Spanish in Class (This has dramatically improved their efforts
to use Spanish!)
5. Accuracy (Agreement, verb endings, etc.)

Each part has descriptors for the 0-3 points. I'll be interested in
hearing back from you if your try them to get your feedback for
improvements. I give one participation grade every five weeks and it is
the equivalent of an exam grade. They also use the rubric for self
evaluation. They keep their copy of the rubric in the front of their
text book along with their participation clocks.

If you would like a copy of these rubrics, send me a SASE. One stamp
should do it.
Send to: Bill Heller 156 West Court St. Warsaw, NY 14569. Please don't
e-mail or post your request to the entire list .

Bill Heller


96/02b From-->  JENNY DONELSON <ASHC_DONELSO@tccsa.ohio.gov>
Subject:        Re: participation grades

I have seen several methods mostly based on charts and tally marks for
answering questions, etc... I believe that there is no objective way to
give a participation grade. I cannot be 100% fair all the time in
spreading out opportunities to participate and only one student at a
time can answer. The human factor makes it too risky. How do I explain
to the child who always has her hand in the air that I cant call on her
because I need to let everyone have a fair chance at a participation
grade. Instead I tell my kids that I EXPECT them to all participate and
I don't let them off the hook EVER by saying "I don't know". This lets
those who want to participate more do so while at the same time I
make sure that everyone gets some individual involvement yet it pulls
away the cutthroat competitiveness of a point system. instead my
students know that if they are borderline in their grades I can and will
make the necessary decision on their general participation in class. So
far this has worked very well.

Jenny Donelson

B. Self-Assessment and Self-Tracking on Participation Grades

95/01 From-->    <jterm6@infi.net>
Subject:        Re: Grading participation

My methods professor here at Virginia Wesleyan told us last night that
some teachers find self-assessment useful in this situation. The
students are handed a form on Monday which they hand in on Friday. The
form contains statements such as: "I spoke only in French this week," or
"I contributed well in group work." The student is asked to rate
him/herself on a scale of say, 1 to 5. One advantage of this system is
that it keeps in the front of the student's mind that it is to her/his
advantage to contribute.



97/09 From-->    Cherice Montgomery <montgomery@feist.com>
Subject:        Lesson Presentation Project Rubric

I promised you yesterday that I would post this rubric which I use when
having students do "peer teaching" as part of the review in Spanish II
at the beginning of the year. I choose the hardest concepts from Spanish
I (which they probably didn't get the first time/don't remember).
Students choose their own groups and pick a concept from the list. Each
concept has the date of presentation listed next to it, so if they
choose an easy concept, they will present sooner than if they choose a
hard one. Lessons last 45 min. (we are on the block so we do two lessons
in one period--usually related concepts):

stem-changing and irregular present tense verbs/reflexive verbs
direct object pronouns/indirect object pronouns
familiar commands/formal commands
preterit verbs/irregular preterit verbs

A. Did the group present the information in an appropriate way and
with significant effort? - 25

(This includes all members present and prepared, all members talk, no
nervous distractions--goofing off, acting silly, organization, etc.)

B. Did the group present and the information/practice activities in a
creative way? - 50

(I've had students use many different formats--especially for practice
activities--bingo with direct and indirect object pronouns using theory
questions like: the indirect object pronoun meaning "for him" is . . .
and students mark the box containing "le" with an M&M--Macarena for
drilling direct object pronouns--cookies with irregular preterite
endings written on them with frosting, students had to conjugate, give
infinitive forms, etc. in order to eat them--wheel of fortune game with
irregular preterite verbs--crossword puzzles and wordsearches for
commands--white boards--learning centers--board races--pop quizzes)

C. Did the group use examples for clarification? - 20

(I added this several years ago--students don't remember to SHOW what
they are explaining).

D. Did the group make sure that the whole class understood the lesson
(with a check for comprehension activity)? - 25

(I encourage them to do something brief--signal cards, 5 problems on the
overhead, spot questions, etc.)

E. Did the group conduct a practice activity? - 25
These are supposed to be creative (see "B") and I encourage them to
think about things they've seen me do to give them inspiration. I also
encourage them to try to avoid doing the same activity another group has
chosen so that we don't get bored.

F. Did the group assign homework and put it in the homework notebook? -

Students are reminded to be reasonable--they don't have to do their own
group's homework, but they must provide us with the correct answers to

G. Did the group give me a review exercise (repaso) for the following
day? - 25

H. Did the group give me at least five test questions? - 10

I. Were the test questions typewritten WITH appropriate punctuation
(including accents)? - 10

(This way, I can simply cut and paste them in order to create a practice
test or a real test).

TOTAL - 200

Hope this helps! They have worked extremely well for me--my III's
mentioned them again this year--but they can be disastrous if your
expectations aren't CRYSTAL CLEAR (I've had a year like that)!

Cherice Montgomery


97/10 From-->   Joyce Dittrich <dittric@ROANOKE.INFI.NET>
Subject:        Participation Points

I've been using a system wherein a student earns five points daily for
being on task, being prepared and be attentive. Beyond that, students
can earn more points by volunteering in class, leading group work, etc.
I have them keep track of this themselves. I am not sure if I like this
system, but I have tried so many different ways, that I am not sure what
to do because I am running into a problem. It is this: if a student is
absent, s/he cannot earn the daily participation points. Parents are
irate because there son/daughter is "excused." I am saying, if you
aren't there you aren't involved in Spanish, but, each student has the
control to increase their participation in subsequent classes. Am I
totally off on this? Could someone help me figure this out. It seems I
have rubrics for everything but this area has me stumped. Thanks,

Joyce Dittrich


97/10 From-->   Connie Vargas <connie_vargas@EEE.ORG>
Subject:        accountability (was:Re: Participation Points)

Have you seen that cartoon where the student returns to blame his
counselor for never learning to read, not learning a skill and other
complaints. He's says he wants to know who is responsible so he can
blame them for his failures.

The counselor hands him an object. And when he asks what it is, she
replies, "It's a mirror!!!"

Connie Vargas


97/10 From-->   "Mcaden, Ann L" <mcadenal@jmu.edu>
Subject:        Re: participation points

I think that your idea of having the students evaluate themselves is a
great one! I had a Spanish teacher in high school who used this method,
and it was very successful. It's very hard to motivate some of the
students to speak up in class, but this gives them a little more reason
to, especially since they know that you (the teacher) will be paying
attention to whether or not their self-evaluation is accurate. I think
it also gives the students a greater feeling of control because they are
having a hand in determining their grade. Thanks for reminding me of
this great participation system!

Ann Mcaden


95/01 From-->   Dale Lichtblau <del@ida.org>
Subject:        Re: Rewarding participation and grading procedures...

The recent discussions on these two topics sent me to Jacques Barzum for
his unfailingly sage advice:

In matters of learning and teaching...assessment can only be done,
however fallibly on occasion, by competent minds examining directly the
work of other, prentice minds.

The criticism is of multiple-choice tests, but could it also apply to
participation clipboards, self-assessment questionnaires, and some of
the other (well-intentioned) "methods" of the modern foreign language

Dale Lichtblau


96/11 From-->   rebecca block <bblock@tiac.net>
Subject:        assessing oral participation

My grades consist of exams (50%), quizzes (30%) and "classwork" (20%).
The last category, "classwork" has always been difficult to assess, as
it is so subjective. Recently, I decided to think of this part of the
grade as classwork and not oral participation, so as not to focus how
the number of times a student raises his/her hand per term. I want my
students to know that everything they do after they walk into my room is
valuable. I want to encourage them to speak to me in Spanish and also to
work cooperatively with their classmates. Since some kids are reluctant
to speak in a large group, I tell them they have the opportunity to
speak Spanish with me, before and after class, and while working in
pairs and small groups, and that these are valuable interactions that I
note. In order to arrive at the classwork grade, I hand out this sheet
the last week of each term. The student evaluates him/herself and then I
do the same.

In order to arrive at your classwork/participation grade, I asked myself
the following questions about you. You should do the same. Circle the
numbers to which you reply affirmatively. Count up the circles and
determine your participation grade.

1. Are you prepared for class with your homework and is it done in a
thorough and thoughtful manner?
2. Do you participate in class, contributing to class discussions? 3. Do
you use the target language with your peers and with me? (before, during
and after class)
4. Do you work productively in pairs and small groups (in class and in
the language lab)

4= A
3= B
2= C

your evaluation is = _____

my evaluation of you is = ____

I have found this an easy and quick way to assess this aspect of the

Rebecca Block

C. How Much Should Oral Participation Count in the Overall Grade?

95/01 From-->   Josie McGinn    <jmcginn@mailbox.syr.edu>
Subject:        Re: Grading participation

In our first year course participation counts for 25% of the grade and
in the syllabus is explained as follows: "... It is the policy of the
Department that attendance is compulsory, since class is where you
practice speaking and listening. You will be evaluated every day on how
well you participate in class activities. This means that when you are
not in class your grade for the day is 0 instead of 5. In class you must
also demonstrate that you have done the assigned reading and outside
practice. You earn a 5/5 by showing that you are prepared; by being
actively involved in the class; by taking risks with the language; by
using the language intelligently. If you are only partially prepared and
therefore cannot fully participate you earn a four. If you are present
but do not participate you earn a 3. You are allowed 4 absences per
semester (one week out of the fifteen-week semester) to cover minor
illnesses, emergencies and personal needs. ... " It sounds complicated
but is easy to do the grading after each class. I assume students will
be a 4.5 and go up or down from that according to their performance.

Josie McGinn


95/02 From-->   Katie Sprang <KSPRANG@eagle.call.gov>
Subject:        FW: Grading participation

>>Are we going to reward the unshy students who participate maybe two or three
>>times a day and punish the hard workers who are shy?<<

I have a couple of thoughts about recognizing the importance of in-class
participation by assigning a value of 20% of the final grade based on a
given student's in-class performance. Personally, my grading scheme has
been to assign 10% for in-class performance, but to give students
alternative ways of earning that grade if they are uncomfortable with
being very vocal in class, because my class time focuses on activities
stressing oral production. There's a good article in the latest TESOL
Journal (Vol. 4, No. 1) by Lenore F. Cardoza, "Getting a Word in
Edgewise: Does 'Not Talking' Mean 'Not Learning'?" in which she reports
on some action research she did in her ESL class. The point of the
article [my interpretation, of course] is that, while the vocal students
were the most noticeable, some of the very non-vocal students whom she
had labeled in her mind as reluctant to participate in class
demonstrated the most thoughtful and well prepared behavior when given
in-class writing assignments. My feeling is that, if oral
production-oriented activities predominate in your colleague's class,
and if he is going to assign 1/5 of the final grade based on that
performance, he might be doing some of his students a disfavor.
Something to think about, in any case.

Katie Sprang


96/02 From-->   "Serafa-Manschot, Emily" <SERAFAME@nhs.northville.k12.mi.us>
Subject:        Re: participation grades

Each student gets a sheet at the beginning of each marking period and
keeps track of their own participation. I based my sheet on the one
found in McDougal Littell's BRAVO! The kids enjoy keeping track of their
points and realize the value of class participation. Some kids may
"enhance" their points, but the teacher knows who does and who does not
participate. The other kids also police each other. This method is much
less stressful than the teacher always keeping track of the points.

Emily Serafa-Manschot


96/03 From-->   Denise Rainis-BedfordHS-French <drainis@IDEA.uml.edu>
Subject:        Oral vs participation grades

Regarding the participation grade thread...

I feel that I need to be really careful to grade oral work and not just
volunteered participation. I make a real effort to call on the
non-volunteers a lot so that their participation grades will truly
mirror their oral work and not just their willingness to speak.

Personally, I am not able to juggle the Puntos, pesos, stamp type
rewards. Instead, I give my students time every couple of weeks to
reflect on their oral work (I give them guidelines and reminders about
the kinds of activities that we have done) and grade themselves--and set
goals for improvement.

I find that students are really honest about their work and it gives
them a better feeling of control over their own grades. In the event
that my opinion is significantly different than the student, I change
the grade and comment on WHY my opinion is different. To me, the time
for them be reflect about their work is critical--to their French grade
and, more importantly, about their responsibility for their own

Denise Rainis


96/11 From-->   "McClurg, Sharon" <MCCLURGS@lhs.lamphere.k12.mi.us>
Subject:        Re: Oral participation

I have a box full of pennies. Everyday I open that box and students earn
pennies for responding to any questions that I might have. I give 1
penny for vocab and 3-5 pennies for complete sentence response.

The amount of pennies that they earn over a quarter is then tabulated
and becomes one fourth of their grade. It works very well for me.

Sharon McClurg

D. Just How Does One Grade Oral Participation?

95/01 From-->   Ron Mueller <Ron_Mueller@oui.com>
Subject:        Re: Grading participation

Grading oral participation. There almost necessarily should be as many
ways as there are teachers since the best system is the one that works
in your class with your students. I do, however, have some ideas that I
and some colleagues have found workable in our high school language
classes. At the beginning levels, we use a clipboard. On this is a
seating chart which we change on a regular basis. (myself about every
two weeks) When students give responses in class, we give a tick mark. I
use a chart to convert these tick marks to percentage scores. (20 = 100%
down to 0=60% descending by twos) Each chart is used about 10 class
days, normally two weeks, and a grade is then given. These ticks are
marked whenever we are creating with the language, although I often make
sure there are some "easy" activities so every student feels capable of
taking part. Accuracy of response makes no difference, only
communication and something more than a "yes/no" answer. Most of us
count participation as 20% of their grade. Although students have been
trained in other classes, especially by high school, to be quiet and
take notes; we encourage active involvement in class. It takes them a
while to warm up to the idea, but usually they are soon practically
falling over each other to "answer" for their points. Our taking of the
points gives us a very clear picture of who is taking part and who is
doing nothing each day. I use a four-color pen and change the color each
day so I and they can see how many points they earned any one day. The
system has enough lee-way to allow for even a couple days absence since
they can simply work harder the other days.

Some students do go over the 20 points for a 100%. For them, I have
class coupons which they earn for each 3 to 5 points they are over 20.
These are a little like lottery tickets in that some are good; like a
point on a quiz or a free quiz answer, and some aren't worth the paper
they are printed on; like a thumbs up from the teacher, etc. The kids
seem to like them. Before using the coupons I just told them the extra
points went to point heaven. (They would laugh or groan.)

I have also instituted a system of deductive marks for disruptive
elements or negative participation; such as a B if they don't have their
book; a T for inappropriate talking; an I for inattention if they are
called on and don't know where we are, etc; a W for doing other work in
class; an 0 for not having the days assignment completed. These make for
deductions of from 2 to 5% from the two-week participation grade. I
sometimes give a warning but generally if I have to interrupt the normal
class flow for any of these things it gets marked on the chart.
With our upper-level class we basically use the same system, but adjust
the length of time for each chart. ( I also use an altered point
conversion system).

Hope some of this is useful to anyone reading it. I have found carrying
a clipboard nearly second nature now when verbal interaction is
occurring. Remember try it and adjust the system as you go. I created my
system in conjunction with my students about 9 or 10 years ago and it
took the better part of 3 semesters before I had a system that both I
and the kids thought was fair and workable for all of us.

Ron Mueller


95/01 From-->   "Cynthia K. Gerstl" <cindyger@wam.umd.edu>
Subject:        grading procedures

My student teacher has designed a one page questionnaire that asks the
following questions:

1) Did you raise your hand today?
2) Did you say something in the target in class today?
3) Did you learn something new today? If so, what?

She has given this to all of the students and allows them about two
minutes at the end of class to fill it out. The students keep them and
hand them in in a packet at the end of the week with all of their warm

On Friday, the students are to grade themselves (circle a grade on the
top of the page), based on a set of criteria she has given them.

She checks the papers over the weekend and hands them back to the
students with her agreement (comment if needed) or disagreement on the
grade. The students seem to like the "consultation" component and can
speak to her if they disagree with their grade.

Cynthia K. Gerstl

96/02 From-->  Mj Tykoski <mtykoski@tenet.edu>
Subject:        Re: homework/participation grades

Participation is a big part of my Spanish class. I count it as 25% of
their final marking period grade. I give each student a sheet of
'puntos' . I have several activities that count for a 'punto' such as
getting up and acting for the class, individual games, team games
(everyone on the winning team gets a punto), etc. Students are required
to have a certain number of puntos by the end of the marking period. If
I require 10 puntos, to get a 100 for participation, the students need
to turn in 10 putnos. 9 would be a 90, 8 would be 80, etc.

To get credit for the punto, students must turn in a punto (mine are
monopoly dollar bills with 'Banco de Tykoski' on them). If they do not
turn in the punto, they do not get credit. I keep a list of students who
have earned puntos, this way I can catch students who try to turn in a
punto when they haven't earned it!

I also have a chart in my room that keeps students informed of how many
puntos they have. This way they know when they have to start earning
them. I also think it is important for students to volunteer for punots.
When I have students do TPR acting in front of the class, only students
who volunteer get puntos. If no one volunteers, we still do the activity
with me picking people, but they don't get puntos. You'd be surprised how
students hoard their puntos.

Mj Tykoski


96/03 From-->   Robert Brito <rbrito@earthlink.net>
Subject:        Re: participation grades

Class participation: I have this system; as I ask questions students who
respond or make an effort to respond receive either one postage stamps
or a "peso". My stamps are from my stamp collection, of little
commercial value, and usually colorful. Students must place the stamps
on a preformatted page, either with glue or a small piece of tape (this
is anathema to stamp collectors!) The points must be turned in for
credit. I count how many assignments were given, multiply that times the
arbitrary number of points for completion, for example 10 assignments X
10 points, = 100 points. Class participation grade obtained through
postage stamps or other "pesos" is considered "gravy".

Kids love getting stamps! But to avoid bogus points (what if a kid has a
stamp collection and wants to use his stamps?) I know exactly which
stamps are given. Stamps are real, carry lots of pictures and text in
the target language, and can be used as springboards for discussion and
lessons (language, vocabulary, money or currency, economy, history,

Robert Brito


96/10 From-->   oliver dunn <odunn@intrnet.net>
Subject:        Question about your speaking grades

Since most of the paired activities are based on material either in the
book or on Communicative Activity sheet they are allow to look at these.
As I move around and listen I pay attention to content, structure,
pronunciation and if the students are observing the "Read, Look, and
Say" routine. I also am listening to see if the students laps into
English. I assign a 0 - 5 grade based on what I hear. During the 3 - 4
min. activity I can hear 6 or 8 pairs. During the course of a lesson
there are a number of these activities so I will be able to hear each
student 2 or more times. I also assign grades in the closure part of
each activity when I have several pair of students do designated items.
There are often listening sections on quizzes and each exam has both
listening and speaking. Generally it is too time consuming to have all
students do the speaking part of the exam so while the class is doing
assigned activities for reviewing on their own I will manage to get
through about half of the class. The next unit exam I will hear the
other half. This means that on each exam part of the class has a score
figured on point wrong out of 100 while the others on points wrong out
of 82. It all works out in the end and if any student wishes, he may
come in before or after school to do the speaking part. Only a few do.
I have my gradebook program set up to have speaking and listening worth
25 percent of the grade. It seems to work well for us.
Let me know if you have any other questions.

oliver dunn

96/11 From-->   Richard Lee <rlee@bloomington.in.us>
Subject:        Re: Oral participation

I have used tokens which I give to students when they respond correctly.
It saves you having to slow down to make a mark in the gradebook each
time you call on a student, and it seems like the fact of receiving
something tangible actually works as a motivator. I have used poker
chips, but I think that anything else would do. Cheap coins from one of
the countries where the language is spoken might be an idea you could
try. At the end of the exercise they bring the tokens that they have
collected and turn them in. As I receive them, I mark the points down in
the gradebook. You could even use different coins (still cheap because
some of them will disappear) to indicate various values of points
according to the difficulty of the question. Also, this gives you a
profile of the class, so that you can make sure to call on someone who
has not been responding and give them a question so that nobody gets
inadvertently left out.

Richard Lee


96/11 From-->   Dan Joslin <wetchm@earthlink.net>
Subject:        Re: Oral participation

>I have experimented with several methods to document and grade
>oral participation in class, but am not entirely satisfied with any
>of them. Does anyone have suggestions or tips to solve this problem?

I find it very convenient and expedient to keep a record of all oral
participation right on my seating charts. I have created a
word-processed seating chart with room for 50 "bubbles" under each
student's name. Each time I call upon a student I fill in one of the
bubbles, and it really is pretty effortless and inconspicuous. Each
week, I start over with a new seating chart and a "clean sweep". I
simply carry my seating chart at all times on a clipboard, so I can
still circulate around the room. Since I have always had rather large
classes (30+ in each Spanish class), I utilize different colors of ink
for each day, so that I can track which students I have called upon on
various days. At the end of each week, I tally the "oral participation
points" and add them to students' grades as extra credit.

In addition to the oral points, I use the seating chart format to record
attendance, tardiness, assignment grades and test scores. The seating
chart has virtually replaced the gradebook in my classes. Each module
takes the following basic form, which I have modified several times.

0000000000 __ M
0000000000 __ T
0000000000 __ W
0000000000 __ R
0000000000 __ F
___ ___ ___ ___

The open lines can be used for assignment grades, test scores, various
comments, etc. For an absence, I circle the letter representing the day.
An "X" through a circle represents an excused absence. A diagonal slash
represents a "tardy". Believe it or not, 36 or these modules fit really
well onto a regular 8 1/2" by 11" page. I've used this system now for
about 10 years. It makes for a thick "gradebook" by the end of the year,
but it saves going back and forth between seating chart and gradebook. I
hope this helps your efforts to monitor oral participation and many
other behaviors.

Dan Joslin


96/11 From-->   Janel Brennan <jbrennan@erols.com>
Subject:        Re: Oral participation

I don't know if this is a valid form of oral evaluation BUT... a teacher
from our school came up with the following that seems to work for me.
Each student has a 3x5 card (they fill out) like this:

José García Per 5

10      9       8       7       0

(#'s are columns)

I have the cards in my little 3x5 box. I use this after they do a pair
practice or if I have a set of oral questions they need to be able to
ask or answer depending on the unit. (we do practices beforehand, then
it's for points) They get at least a 7 for attempting an answer. If they
won't even try (even after encouragement) they receive a zero. A 10 is a
perfect response (good pronunciation, etc) 9 and 8 are up to your
judgement. I place a slash in the column that I evaluate them at for the
exercise, then at interims and report cards, I total the marks on
everyone's cards (doesn't take as long as you would think) So if Jos=E9
has 2 slashes for 10 one for 8 and one for 7, there is a total possible
point value of 40 and his score was a 35/40. I divide 35 into 40 for a
percentage and his oral grade is an 87%. This card is weighted as 20% of
their grade. They mostly get A's and B's unless they don't even try.

Just an idea... it's so hard to come up with creative ways to orally
test 35 students in one class period! This way it's a daily thing and
once I'm through the cards, I shuffle them to mix them up.

Janel Brennan
Aberdeen High School


97/03 From-->   Deby Doloff     DebyD@aol.com
Subject:        Re: Daily Speaking Proficiency Grade ?

I have been giving each student an index card. They put their name on it
and the date. We pass them out at the beginning of the period and
collect them in a box at the end of the period. Each student begins with
a a grade of 10. Whenever they speak English in class, they get a check
on the card which lowers their grade to a 9. Each check --down one
number. I make sure to have several short times during the class where
they can speak -- either by volunteering, by me calling on them and
asking a question, or with a pair activity. In this way, I am not
grading them as to how correctly they are speaking but as to how much
effort they put in. I also lower the number if the student is too quiet.
Every week or so, I put these daily grades into my book and at the end
of the term I average them and it counts a percentage of their grade.

Deby Doloff


97/03 From-->   "Susan K. Smith" sksmith@capecod.net
Subject:        Re: Daily Speaking Proficiency Grade ?

There is a guide for TALK scores from a professor at the University of
Pittsburgh in Eileen Glisan's book on "Contextualizing Language
Instruction" and it has worked well for me. Each day, you choose a
different letter to grade...T=talk...do they make an effort to talk in
the target language? A=accuracy...are tey accurate for their level?
L=listening...do they listen to you and their classmates? and
K=kindness....do they participate well in activities (cooperative
learning) and do they treat you and their classmates politely? I give
plus, check or minus. Perhaps this will help you.

I also give my students Francs (photocopied and cut apart) as a reward
for speaking to me in French outside of class. It has to be more than
just a "bonjour, comment ca va?" conversation but then they can turn in
the francs for points at the end of the semester.

Susan K. Smith


97/03 From-->   heidi kinsley   <"cnp _stjhnhs"@MAVCA2.MAVCA.OHIO.GOV>
Subject:        Re: Daily Speaking Proficiency Grade ?

I'm also still looking for an efficient method of "tracking" students'
participation during the period. The best method I have come up with so
far is to use a copy of my seating chart, covered with a transparency,
and make "dots" with an overhead marker each time a student
participates. These can be quickly totaled at the end of the period or
day, and entered into the gradebook. If you find yourself unable to
record the marks by the end of the day, simply use a different color
marker! Erase when done, and you have a nice, clean "participation
sheet" for the next day.

heidi kinsley


97/03 From-->   Shawna Thue <Brooke460@aol.com>
Subject:        Re: speaking grades

I teach a third year Spanish class so oral participation is very
important. Therefore, we have come up with a money system where the
kids have to talk to us for points. This is how it goes:

1. I have bills xeroxed with my picture (of course) on it, and I have
put a stamp on the back of the bill (so it will not be counterfeited)

2. The students have 3 weeks to come up with 20 dollars for an A, 15 for
a B, 10 for a C, and 5 for a D.

3. They have a little stamp card, so when they reach 5 dollar increments
I give them a stamp. In other words, they have to have 4 stamps within
that three week period.

4. Yes, it is a little difficult to find time to talk to them, but the
responsibility is on them. It works especially well for the shy kids,
because they can talk to me before class begins alone.
5. We went one step further. The kids were really getting into it, so
another teacher and myself decided to give them the European atmosphere.
We try and meet with them once a week at a local coffee house and sit
outside and "charlar" The participation has been wonderful. Last week we
had 23 students show up on their own time to earn money. It actually got
to the point of the students speaking to each other in Spanish and the
teachers walking around listening and handing out money!! That is the
goal we were searching for!!!! The kids are speaking Spanish with other
students!!! :)

Shawna Thue


97/10b From-->  Mike Miller <moose@cmsd.k12.co.us>
Subject:        Participation Rubrik (long)

I have had some requests for my participation point rubric. I'm sorry
this may take up some space, but it seems many are curious.

With TPRS, participation couldn't be more important. Here's what I do
(and remember I'm no guru. . .this is just what I've come up with):

I have seating charts in plastic covers so I can write on them with a
vis-a-vis marker every day. As we go through class, I give points for
volunteering to answer questions, for doing skits (we do that a lot),
for coming up with clever comments in the target language (it really
encourages them to think and use real-situation language), volunteering
for games or contests, etc. We also have a German lunchtable
(Stammtisch) once a week and they receive points for attendance. Mostly
it's for oral or kinestetic participation, although I also have a
10-minute "discovery reading" time once a week, where students choose
from a bunch of comics or youth literature in German and write down
several words they discover.

Students can get negative points as well for refusing to participate
with something the entire class should be doing, disruptive talking,
writing out-of-turn (such as doing math homework in my class), not being
prepared with paper or pencil or saying a derogatory comment about a
student. Each time a negative point is given, it is actually -3 points.
They sting, but I RARELY have to give negatives.

There is regular, expected participation as well. That is, for example,
when I have the entire class practicing new words with signs (from
TPRS), or write down vocab words, or repeat a mini story, etc. This is
expected and no extra participation points are given for this. . .only
negatives if they refuse (again, very rare).

At the end of each day I tally up the points and record them in my daily
attendance book, so the attendance book is filled with numbers or
slashes for absences. This only takes 5 min. per day. At the end of the
week I tally up each students points for the whole week and record the
totals on a scrap piece of paper. I don't write the student's names
down. . .I just go in order of the attendance roster. This only takes 10

Now here's my rubric. I have set a base of 75% for participation. That's
for a student who does everything he/she is supposed to, but doesn't
volunteer to do anything extra. In other words, that student will have
earned no positive or negative points that week. Then I glance at the
class totals for the week, and see who has the most points. Let's say 14
points. That person is set at 100% and everyone else is pro-rated
between 100 and 75% according to their points. That means each week at
least one person will have 100% in participation (and often more than
one if, for example, three students are tied with the most points).

Now this pro-rating stuff sounds complicated, I know. But years ago I
made a simple chart for participation point distribution and laminated
it. The pro-rating of all my classes at the end of the week takes maybe
15 minutes, if that. This chart has on the top row, the setting for the
highest participation points for the week, and on the side the setting
for the amount of points other students could earn. The middle has the
pro-rate. It looks like this (I hope your computer can keep this in
straight rows):

5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24
1) 80 79 79 78 78 78 77 77 77 77 77 77 76 76 76 76 76 76 76 76

2) 85 83 82 81 81 80 80 79 79 79 78 78 78 78 78 78 77 77 77 77

3) 90 87 86 84 83 83 82 81 81 80 80 80 79 79 79 79 79 78 78 784) 95 92 89 88 86 85 84 83 83 82 82 81 81 81 80 80 80 80 79 79

5) 100 96 93 91 89 88 86 85 85 84 83 83 82 82 82 82 81 81 80 80

6) 100 96 94 92 90 89 87 87 86 85 84 84 83 83 83 82 82 82 81

7) 100 97 94 93 91 90 88 87 87 86 85 85 84 84 83 83 83 82

8) 100 97 95 93 92 90 89 88 88 87 86 86 85 85 84 84 83

9) 100 98 95 94 92 91 90 89 88 87 87 86 86 85 85 84

10) 100 98 96 94 93 92 91 90 89 88 88 87 86 86 85

11) 100 98 96 95 93 92 91 90 89 89 88 87 87 86

12) 100 98 96 95 94 93 92 91 90 89 89 88 87

13) 100 98 97 95 94 93 92 91 90 90 89 89

14) 100 98 97 96 94 93 93 92 91 90 90

15) 100 98 97 96 95 94 93 92 91 91

16) 100 99 97 96 95 94 93 92 92

17) 100 99 97 96 95 94 93 93

18) 100 99 98 96 95 95 94

19) 100 99 98 97 96 95

20) 100 99 98 97 96

21) 100 99 98 97

22) 100 99 98

23) 100 99

24) 100

If this chart doesn't align, try using a different font, I forget what
it's called, but something like an unjustified font so that each
character and space gets an even amount of space. Then it should align.

Using the chart, let's say a student in a class earns 14 points and that
is the highest. I look at 14 at the top of the chart and set a piece of
paper just to the right of that row. So let's say another student earned
only 1 point, so I look at the 1) at the left, trace it all the way to
my paper set at the #14 row and that student gets 77%. Another student
earned 5 points so he/she gets 84%. Another student earned 10 points so
he/she gets 93%. Of course, the student with 14 points gets 100%. If
there was a student with negative points and absolutely no positive
points (again, very rare), I would start at 75% and deduct 3 for each
negative point.

Again, regarding absences, I tell students they have to make up
participation just like they make up a missed test or quiz. They come in
after school within 5 days, I look up what we did that day, and have
them do a few things (repeat a story, make up a story, go through signs,
act out a skit, etc.) from that lesson in front of me. It takes less
than 5 min. For doing this, I give the student the same amount of points
that the highest scoring student earned FOR THAT DAY only. Does this
sound like tons of after school hours? In reality, most students don't
make up participation. . .they just try to volunteer more during the
rest of the week. I would say I get one student in every two weeks to
make up participation. 5 minutes. The student does some good practice.
The student gets a fair share of points. And most importantly, my butt
is covered if anyone complains that an excused absence lowers his/her

Once again, I know this sounds like a lot of bookkeeping, but it turns
out to be 5 min. per day, to record the daily points. and less than 1/2
hour at the end of the week to add up the totals and pro-rate the
grades. In my class participation counts as 25% of the total grade.

Mike Miller


97/10 From-->   Kimberly Huegerich <kim_huegerich@s-hamilton.k12.ia.us>
Subject:        participation points

I have been intrigued by the wide variety of evaluation tools for
participation so I thought I might as well jump on the bandwagon...
During a conference I attended maybe two years ago I found a wonderful
rubric, amended it to fit my needs and have used it ever since. It is a
combination of Spanish used within the classroom, participation, and use
of vocabulary/grammar. This is their oral grade and it accounts for 20%
of their over-all grade. I give it weekly and the students grade
themselves and then I go through them to see if I agree. They are
surprisingly quite accurate in self-evaluation, especially when they
know I am going to look at them, too. When they have to circle a
behavior that is less desirable, it is a visual and mechanical reminder
that they were not doing their best that week. Some change; some don't.
If anyone wants the rubric, e-mail me and I will send it.

Kimberly Huegerich


97/10b From-->  Kimberly Huegerich <kim_huegerich@s-hamilton.k12.ia.us>
Subject:        participation rubric (long)

I use this with all levels (I-IV). As you will see I have it set up on a
10, 9, 8 point scale. This is because I don't want to "kill" a student's
grade just because s/he is shy. No student receives less than a "C" for
their oral grade. Believe it or not I still have students who fail, but
for other reasons.If anyone still wants the original version you can
send a SASE to:

Kimberly Huegerich
South Hamilton HS
Box 100
Jewell IA 50130

or you can e-mail me at: kim_huegerich@s-hamilton.k12.ia.us Please be
aware that when you type this there is an "underscore" between my first
and last name. Create this by typing a hyphen and pushing the SHIFT key
at the same time. I hope this helps eliminate problems some have had
trying to e-mail me.


Use of Spanish during class:
Excellent (10)
Student always speaks Spanish inside the clssroom. Questions, answers
and comments are in Spanish even when the teacher isn't around.
Acceptable (9)
Student uses some Spanish in class, but prefers to just not talk.
Student may resort to English when faced with difficulties. Poor (8)
Student uses English, whispers to talk in English or says nothing.

Excellent (10)
Student is focused during class activity. Participates freely in
Spanish. S/he asks questions to understand; makes a valiant effort and
doesn't give up.
Acceptable (9)
Student is fairly focused in class. Occasionally participates in
Spanish; gives up when cannot think of exact Spanish word(s). Poor (8)
Student is not focused in class. Only participates when called on.
Rarely makes an attempt to communicate in Spanish.

Use of vocabulary and grammar:
Excellent (10)
Student always strives to use current and past vocabulary. Often
practices current grammar structures through use of class activities.
Acceptable (9)
Student uses current vocabulary but neglects past vocabulary or uses
unfamiliar words. Student chooses not to try grammar concepts that are
too difficult.
Poor (8)
Student has great difficulty communicating due to lack of vocabulary and
understanding of grammar.

Kimberly Huegerich


97/10b From-->  Debbie Fowler STJ <dfowlstj@pop.k12.vt.us>
Subject:        Re: Participation Points

For many years, everyone in our department has been giving daily class
participation grades on a scale of one through ten. I can send our
rubric if anyone is interested. The average of these grades counts 50%
of the final grade each quarter. And here's the good part: when students
are absent, they must make these grades up by speaking with the teacher
during conference period. The rest of our school adopted the same policy
three years ago (although they count the participation as 20%), and we
feel that it holds students accountable for absences in a way we are
comfortable with. It also provides a way to deal with misbehavior and

Debbie Fowler


97/10b From-->  Debbie Fowler STJ <dfowlstj@pop.k12.vt.us>
Subject:        participation rubric

I have had enough requests for our daily performance rubric that I
decided to send it to everyone! This is used in all departments in my
school, although as I said earlier, in foreign language the daily
performance average counts 50% of the final grade. I generally note the
grades in my gradebook in the final moments of class, occasionally
talking about them to the students as I record. I spend time at the
beginning of the year explaining the rubric, it is posted in my
classroom, and I refer to it often. I used to use a different rubric
specific to FL but this one works well as long as I explain to students
that class participation means "in French!".

Daily Performance Grade

(exceeds the standard)

Helps facilitate classroom activity
Demonstrates engaged, active learning throughout the class period Makes
consistently strong contributions to the classroom activity

(Meets the standard)

Participates in a generally constructive way Demonstrates engaged,
active learning through part of the class period Makes some strong
contributions to the classroom activity

(approaches the standard)

Has little negative or positive effect on the class and its progress May
be grappling with the ideas addressed in class but shows little evidence
of learning
Prepared, but makes little contribution to the classroom activity

(falls below the standard)

Has more of a negative effect on the class than positive Required work
or preparation incomplete
Disruptive behavior makes learning difficult for others Refuses to stay
on task

(Sent out of class or truant)

Debbie Fowler

E. Student Accountability and Grading

97/10      From-->      Kristine Conlon <kmconlon@MUSCANET.COM>
Subject:        Re: Participation Points

I also have participation points, but they are linked to specific class
activities. If we do a listening comprehension exercise, they hand in
their answers. If we have a video, we have an exercise to go with it,
and they hand in their answers. If we have a partner exercise, there is
some sort of written response, and they hand in their answers. If we do
a survey where they each ask six other people a question, they hand in
their answers. Some, but not all, can be done before or after school as
make up work. The scale I use to grade daily work at the end of the term
gives them the benefit of missing a day or two for activities, etc. So
far this has seemed like a reasonable way of proving that
"participation" can be objective and fairly evaluated. Yes, I know there
are flaws in the system, but the kids seem to think that it is ok.

Kristine Conlon

97/10 From-->  Jeff Amdur <jefam@HOME.COM>
Subject:        How about student accountability (was:Re: Participation Points)

>My answer to that was that we had all failed to do our job with that student, ...
>I talked to the girl and pointed out that absence means lost opportunity -- her
>answer was "But I always took a note from my mother!"
>I just saw her the other day -- she's washing dishes at Roy Rogers.
>Who's more responsible -- the mother for constantly writing notes, us for
>constantly accepting them, or her for taking advantage of them?

Our county system has a policy that requires a special attendance review
committee to pass judgment on whether students absent legally more than
8 times in a semester will receive credit for having taken the course.
(Field trips, administratively-authorized absences, doctor's notes,
suspensions do not count toward the eight absences; parent notes *do*

Students find out rather fast that we mean business when they are denied
credit for a high school course due to excessive absence.

On the other hand, I wouldn't feel "guilty" at all about what happened
to that girl. I for one am getting a little bit sick and tired of us
being held accountable for things that are beyond our control. It seems
as if the "accountability" drive is out to hold "accountable" every
segment of the school population but one: the students. Why does the
student's personal accountability never seem to figure into this

I feel that as a teacher I must do my best to present material and
provide opportunity for skill development and application the best way I
know how to; on the other hand, I don't think that any teacher--or any
parent, for that matter--can ultimately "force" a student to learn.
Parents and teachers can give incentives, encouragement, threats, etc.,
to aid the student; but it is ultimately the student and the student
alone who makes that personal decision whether to try to learn something
or not. Why has the ultimate decider--the student--been left out of the
accountability equation in so many instances?

Jeff Amdur


97/10 From-->  Connie Vargas <connie_vargas@EEE.ORG>
Subject:        accountability (was:Re: Participation Points)

Have you seen that cartoon where the student returns to blame his
counselor for never learning to read, not learning a skill and other
complaints. He's says he wants to know who is responsible so he can
blame them for his failures.

The counselor hands him an object. And when he asks what it is, she
replies, "It's a mirror!!!"

Connie Vargas


97/10 From-->  Richard Lee <rlee@bloomington.in.us>
Subject:        Re: Participation Points

I can't disagree with Marilyn about excessive absence. I do believe that
we are participating in the teaching of counter-productive habits that
will be a handicap in work, and in life in general, when we ask too
little of the students. On the other hand, it seems that there are cases
which must be evaluated individually, on a case by case basis. I
currently have a student who is ill, and the doctors seem to be unable
to come up with the right answers.

When there are physical symptoms, such as fever, irregular blood tests,
etc. it seems that some exceptions need to be made. I would find it
difficult to dispute an excuse which is backed up with a note from a
physician. In cases like that it seems to me that we need to make some
special provisions for work that can be done at home to help bridge the
re-entry of the student into a normal class schedule when the crisis has
passed, and not exacerbate the problem. After all, in legitimate cases
such as this, we do get medical leave of absence ourselves. When the
student attempts to keep up as best he/she can by doing work at home
which is turned in, I think that we have to recognize that effort.

Richard Lee

97/10b From-->  George Beyer <beyer@digisys.net>
Subject:        Re: Participation Points/Absences

I really don't know any answers, just wanted to share a story--there may
be a point--Oh, story is true.

Or school had policy that death of any close family member was
excused--no penalty period, opportunity to make up all work, special
attention from teachers to help.

Poor girl, first her mother died--5 days absent; next, her brother was
killed in a car accident--5 more days; then her old granddad died--5
more; can you believe it--before semester was over, two more close
relatives--dead--10 more days; finally, even her step dad and dad
died--10 more.

On death of dad, I wanted to give her a hug--felt so sorry--how could
one person endure such pain. I think I did give the hug. I remember
immediate anger when someone in the class laughed. I remember
castigating that person.

At dismissal another student whispered to me, "Mr. B, no one in her
family has died. You need to apologize." Found out was true, no one had
died. I did apologize. Girl dropped out when caught.

George Beyer


97/10b From-->  Mike Miller <moose@cmsd.k12.co.us>
Subject:        Re: Participation points

>I am running into a problem. It is this: if a student is absent, s/he cannot
>earn the daily participation points. Parents are irate because there son/daughter
>is "excused." I am saying, if you aren't there you aren't involved in Spanish,
>but, each student has the control to increase their participation in subsequent
>classes. Am I totally off on this?

Joyce, we all agree that participation is important and should be
counted in the grade. . .ah, but how to go about accomplishing this?
That's the rub. Remember that no system is going to be perfect.

Here's what I do: I don't give participation points just for showing up,
because a student could space out in the class and not really
participate. I do give participation points for volunteers to answer
questions or act in skits or make an appropriate comment in the target
language, etc. At the end of the week I add up all the points and assess
a grade (I have a cut-and-dry point system I could share with you
off-list if you like).

Now, if students are absent or called out for some appointment, they are
able to make up participation just like they can make up a test or quiz.
I give them the same amount of time to make up participation as I would
to make up a quiz. The student comes in after school for 5 minutes or
so, I have them read off some exercises or make up a brief skit or
something similar to what we did in class that day.

Then I give the student the same amount of points as the student with
the highest participation that day. That may seem like a lot for 5
minutes worth of work. The reality of the situation is that most
students don't bother to make up those few points--especially when
participation grades are assigned once a week. On the other hand, no one
can say to me that it is unfair to lose participation points for an
excused absence. It ain't purfect, but it works for me!

Mike Miller

97/10 From-->   Steve Damascus <SDAMASCUS@prodigy.net>
Subject:        Re: participation points

My students receive 3 "pesos" each day which I call "preparation"
points. In addition to the 3 pesos, they earn "participation" pesos by
responding in Spanish, etc., etc. If a student is absent, she can earn
her "preparation" points by showing me the homework that was due and by
completing anything else she missed in class the day of her absence. The
"participation" part of it really doesn't present a problem in my class
since the students have ample opportunities to earn the pesos. If a
student is gone for an extended period of time due to illness, then I
calculate the percentage of time she was present and figure out the
value of her points based on that percentage.

I also know which students are low in pesos because of attendance, and
therefore I make a conscious effort to give them more opportunities to
answer when they return.
A student does NOT get her "preparation" pesos if she is tardy to class
or if she doesn't have her homework complete that day. I also have

"passes" which are good for the quarter. If a student doesn't use them,
they're each worth 3 pesos at the end of the quarter. They get one pass
for each of the following:

- 5 minute excused tardy to class (we all have a bad day once in a while!)
- pass to go to the locker for something she "forgot"
- pass to go to the drinking fountain
- pass to go to the washroom
- pass to turn in a homework assignment one day late without penalty.

I don't accept late homework for credit. Students know that this pass is
ONLY valid for routine exercises from the book or workbook. They may not
use it for projects or oral presentations. If a student is obviously
sick, etc., of course I allow her to go to the washroom or get a drink
without penalty... I've never had a problem ... I'm not unreasonable.
I've found these passes (someone suggested this last year on FL Teach I
think!) to be a blessing.... the students suddenly realize that they CAN
be responsible for their personal needs during the 60 minute
lunch/studyhall/activities period (we're on 85 minute blocks - this
period is in the middle of the day).

Some of them also realize that if they use a pass to go to their locker,
I'm not going to know if they've also gone to the washroom or the
drinking fountain! Most of the time, the majority of the students have
all of their passes at the end of the quarter. They've been very
responsive to this system, and the only parent I've ever had a complaint
from (this year!) is one who (in the words of our administrators) has
"nothing better to do than harass the school!" Bottom line is this, my
students know that they can't just come to class and vegetate. They know
that their homework MUST be complete even though I don't collect it
every day. They know that SPEAKING the language is just as important as
"knowing the grammar"/ writing it/ understanding it...

The goal I set for them (to get 100% in preparation/participation) is
200 "pesos" (This is for first and second year - upper levels I up the
anty to 4 pesos per day, and their goal is 300 pesos). Sometimes I've
had to adjust this number because of circumstances such as more

"interruptions" during the school day, etc., but generally this has
worked out for me. These peso points are added to their total points...
usually it works out to between 10 and 20% of their grade.

Hope this helps and makes sense!
Sorry so long!


97/10 From-->   Susan Carpenter <carpe1se@jmu.edu>
Subject:        Re: How about student accountability (was:Re: Participation Points)

As a college student only observing the high school world and it's
policies, I can say that what I see as far as absenteeism goes is a bit
ridiculous. At this high school the administration is using the
attendance policy as a form of coercion. If the students don't miss more
than 2 days the entire semester they don't have to take the final exam
in that class. I couldn't believe it! That means that if the student
goes through high school with good attendance they will never have taken
a big exam before entering college. That student is in for a major
shock! I realize that having excess absences in a school is a big
problem, but leaving the students unprepared for college is doing them
an injustice too. The irony of it is the attendance isn't really any
different. I don't know how it is at other schools, but I can only hope
that other administrations find other ways to get a grip on a tough

Susan Carpenter


97/10 From-->  "Ida L Tennant" <tennanil@jmu.edu>
Subject:        Re: How about student accountability (was:Re: Participation Points)

I agree. This kind of attendance policy hurts most the students who take
advantage of it. Studies show that students with higher attendance get
better grades. (something about being around to get the information ..)
:) This attendance policy leaves the kids most likely to go to college
without the experience of taking a big exam. It would be my suggestion
to award good attendance in another form, such as a banquet or reception
for perfect attendance. --

Ida L Tennant


97/10 From-->   Carmen J Kumm <cjkumm@pittsville.k12.wi.us>
Subject:        Re: How about student accountability (was:Re: Participation Points)

My high school had a policy similar to this one that you are talking
about and it worked very well, it also included tardies (no unexcused),
it was very effective in getting kids to class on time. In some classes
the teachers would have exams similar to a final that we took anyway
but good attendance meant that we didn't have to report on "exam days"
Teachers still had control of who had to take the final. for example if
they felt "John" needed to take the final to help his grade or because
he hadn't shown that he knew the material then he had to take the final
anyway. I only took 2 finals in all of high school and I wasn't hurting
in college. College is so all together different that I adapted to the
"new" way.

Carmen J Kumm


97/10 From-->   "Mcaden, Ann L" <mcadenal@jmu.edu>
Subject:        Re: How about student accountability (was:Re: Participation Points)

I am also a college student, and the high school that I attended used
this coercion method also. However, in addition to having good
attendance, a student also had to have at least a B average in the
class. Although that makes being exempt from the exam a little more
valid, I agree with you that this method is wrong. My main concern with
what my high school does is that most of the students who are missing
school and skipping are not students with B or better averages. I may be
wrong, but from what I remember and what I have observed the students
who present the most problems with attendance are those who are also
struggling to pass and couldn't care less about having good attendance
and making good grades. Is this a misconception of mine? And what other
ways are there to motivate kids to come to school without robbing them
of experiences such as taking exams?

Ann Mcaden


Return to  [FLTEACH Main Page]


W3 page maintained by address & address
Copyright © 1998 Jean W. LeLoup & Robert Ponterio