If you know anything about standards-based grading, you know it's all about demonstrating what you can DO with what you know. It's definitely NOT about the path you took to get there. It's all about the results. That doesn't mean there isn't guidance along the way. There definitely is in the form of formative assessments that provide feedback for improvement rather than grades and in informal observations.

But one thing that is not permitted in pure standards-based grading is adding effort, participation, or behavior into the academic grade. In SBG, these are apples and oranges and should never be mixed. Not ever. Why? These do one of two things when added to the academic grade: they either inflate the grade or they deflate the grade.

If a student is shy, it may appear as if the student isn't putting forth any effort because there isn't an obvious show of participation resulting in a lower "participation" grade. This will deflate the student's overall grade. On the other hand, if a student is boisterous, always raising their hand (even if the answers they have are incorrect), it looks like this student is putting in maximum effort and is obviously participating. This student's "participation" grade will inflate their overall grade. Then there is the student who always acts out in class. They disrupt the class, they're always off-task, they're always going for the class laugh, etc. We may be apt to lower their participation grade because of their behavior despite their being able to demonstrate ability.

Now, SBG doesn't say that these things are not important, but it views them as a pathway to the skills and if a student doesn't participate or is a behavior problem, natural consequences will come into play and the grade will naturally be lowered because they won't have as much skill ability. Same thing if they are truly actively participating (not just raising their hands to be seen), their skill level will increase.

So what's a world-language teacher to do? Participation (no matter what you might call it or disguise it as) has been a key element in our classrooms for decades.

I've come up with a solution that works in my classroom and my kids love it!

Instead of participation points going towards their grade, they go to the "class store" and they can use them to buy things. They can buy things from a good call home all the way up to throwing a whipped-cream pie at my face! (Yes, I do offer that!). The kids love it. They can choose what they want to save up for and can buy multiple or repeat things. It's totally up to them.

How do my kids earn points? They can earn points for doing ANYTHING that promotes a well-oiled classroom, language acquisition, motivation, self-esteem, confidence, etc.

I have a stack of little tickets (usually miniature currency from around the Spanish-speaking world) that I carry around with me always and I hand them out like candy. If I student talks to me in Spanish when I'm out and about on campus, they get one. If they answer a question in class (even if it's wrong), they get one. If they ask an on-topic question, they get one. I have lines of students wanting to talk to be before and after class to earn a couple extra points. I get both the quiet kids and the more vivacious kids do this to get more points. I also give out points for doing voluntary homework. I use these to reward the behaviors that I want to see continue in my classroom, on campus, or in the community. The students are solely responsible for keeping track of them. The points expire at the end of the grading period (I change my points to a different currency each grading period).

When the students have enough points, they gather them up and turn them in for their desired prize.

Although it's a lot of work for me, the lowest tier of my points menu is a good call home. It's only 25 points because I want to be able to call home when a student is doing everything right and not only when there is a problem. The kids love this and use it to their advantage when they want something from their parents. They will tell me what day and time they want me to call and what they want me to say. It can be anything as long as it's true (this takes the burden off of me to find something to say). One student had me call to tell his parents his hair was en pointe that day. They were so expecting a bad call from a teacher and we laughed together once I got the words out. He received a cell-phone upgrade for his and my efforts! For me, this is the best reward and I want to give it out often, so that's why it's the lowest tier.

Here is my point schedule: 25 points - good call home 35 points - wear a hat for a week (I have lots of goofy hats and the kids always want to wear them) 45 points - sit at teacher's desk for a week 55 points - teacher buys you a full-sized candy bar (no fun sizes!) 65 points - you can eat in class for one day 75 points - you can choose your seat for one month (the length of my seating chart) 85 points - drop-a-quiz pass 100 points - throw a whipped-cream pie at teacher

I also let kids come up with their own ideas and then set the points required accordingly. If it's a really good idea, I'll add it to the list.

How do you do participation in your classroom?