Classroom Engagement, Participation and Proficiency

I recently wrote the following in a personal statement of my teaching philosophy:

  • I value a safe and culturally rich classroom environment where risk-taking in the target language is encouraged thus preparing students to communicate in real-life situations using communicative, collaborative and creative skills they have gained as they apply the content they have learned.
  • I value meaningful peer interactions in the target language, which connect student’s personal interests to the culture being studied so they are able to share with others who they are and what they value, while being sensitive to the diversity of cultural perspectives and linguistic contexts.

Sounds great, right? But how will I ever effectively assess my students progress on a daily basis while encouraging them to speak in the target language each and every day? I feel over the length of my career this challenge has continued to be a work in progress. Let’s take some time to explore some of the high tech/low tech options for assessing students in this way.

Traditionally, we have called this part of our students’ grade participation. Using this term can sometimes imply to students and parents that the grade is based on how many times students raise their hand in class. Of course, the grade is much more than that and here are some of the low tech rubrics/ideas I have used over the years:

Self scoring for students

Part 1

My reflections: This rubric can be good for student reflection in theory, but students don’t always have the maturity to be objective about themselves and may not have the knowledge to properly evaluate themselves. This rubric doesn’t address proficiency and is more based on behavior.

Weekly scoring

Part 2

My reflections: This one is a little bit more comprehensive, but still more behavior than proficiency based. Both of these rubrics can also be a bookkeeping nightmare! With ever growing class sizes, it becomes increasingly more difficult to keep track of all students and their daily participation. I find that both of these rubrics/systems just aren’t manageable. I also struggle with the lack of proficiency based criteria.



My reflections: This KUDOS rubric example can be given at the beginning of the unit and used throughout the unit for student reflection on their progress. It is a great diagnostic tool for students seeking help, extra explanations or more practice. It can also be used as a formative assessment tool to adjust your planning for instruction. This rubric definitely addresses proficiency, but I have not used it as a way to give points that factor into a student’s grade.

Here are some of the high tech ideas I have tried or researched, and want to do more with in the future:

Class dojo



My reflections: I tried this out with one of my classes and found it to be easy to setup and use. I plan to explore a little more to see how I can use it more effectively! Check it out!

Random name selector
Promethean Board ideas
Smartboard Idea

Some other high tech ideas to explore and ponder

Ideas of WL colleagues from presentations I have attended and sites that have been shared with me that incorporate classroom community and proficiency:

Target Language Use: Teacher Support and Student Accountability
Weekly rubric for target language use
Cooperative learning groups

Future ideas and considerations

Recently many districts have been moving away from giving grades that are related to classroom behavior and moving towards basing grades on performance in each subject area. As world language teachers we may want to consider what the trends mean for our traditional participation grading practices.

Book links:
A Repair Kit for Grading

Presentation link:
50 Shades of Grades

For the next school year our departments were asked to take a look at new MMSD guiding principles in grading policies. We were then asked to determine which one of the guiding principles we would try to implement as a collaborative team or department. Take a look! Which ones are you already implementing? Which one would you choose? How would you implement it? High tech or low tech? There are many questions to contemplate over these numerous weeks of vacation.

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