Posts Tagged ‘grades’

One of the kind of cool things about the organization that I’m volunteering to teach high school level Introduction to Computer Science for is that they provide us with some (I think) unconventional supplies.  One of these is a ‘raffle ticket kit’ along with some prizes (the grand prize is an XBOX).  Pretty neat, huh?

That lead my co-teacher (I’ll call her X for now, since I forgot to ask if she has an objection to me using her name in this context) and I into a discussion of what we should be giving out raffle tickets for. (*)  It doesn’t seem like we should do this for things like showing up to class or handing in homework (although this was what was done during volunteer training).  I think we’ve got a reasonably good start at a plan for rewarding “above and beyond” type of behaviors rather than expected ones.  I may have more to say on this once it solidifies, it seems like one of the many planning tasks that I can’t believe full time teachers manage on a regular basis.

So then we went down the path of how to track and reward some of the expected behaviors.  If there are no consequences for missing homework it seems like we will be in danger of the wrong kind of feedback ending in no-one doing their homework.  So X, who has a couple of years of Teach for America under her belt, said “Why don’t we give them gold stars – you’d be amazed at how motivated even high school aged kids get by that.”

After a very brief, “you’ve got to be kidding” reaction, I had two other thoughts.  The first is that I have witnessed many yogis and yoginis that can probably measure their time on this planet by multiples of the kids we’re talking about being very motivated by being able to put a gold star or other type of sticker on their attendance sheet for a 30 day challenge.  Which is a pretty strong argument to do something like that.  It is also so low budget that I can’t imagine that it would interfere with things like an x-box give-away and so low impact in other ways that it shouldn’t cause an interference pattern with our actual grading system.

On the flip side of the coin,  the other thought that I can’t get out of my head is the image of my mom cracking up (and almost falling off her chair) when I told her I got a “gold star” at work.  I was in my mid-thirties at the time.  It really is a completely ridiculous name for an award for an adult professional.  She did mute her hilarity (a bit) when I noted that there was a monetary award associated with it that definitely wasn’t a laughing matter.

But that leaves me with a real knee jerk reaction against giving gold stars to students.  Perhaps we’ll have to get stickers that don’t involve gold stars or stars of any kind.  Or perhaps I’ll just get over it.

Does anyone have other good ideas for low impact and low cost reward systems for high school students to run in parallel with official grading?

(*) Since I was trolling the interwebs for this after spouting my mouth off about it being all right to end a sentence with a preposition in English under some circumstances, here are a couple of references.  The first is a blog post from my favorite linguist, John McWhorter and the second somewhat more practical take from  grammar girl.