Participation Points

So I’ve got an idea that I’m taking from a teacher I observed in education grad school a few years ago in North Carolina.  The idea is to have these things called “participation points” which students can earn through a large variety of ways.  Below is a list of ideas I’ve compiled so far, but please let me know if you can think of other ways to include points!

In-class Participation: (5 pts each up to twice a day) Answer or ask a question, or make a constructive comment, up to twice per class.  Sometime I will ask follow-up questions to make sure you earn the points.

Best notes: (40 pts once per week) Mr. Newman draws 3 Popsicle sticks and chooses the best notes of the three people and puts them online.  Only the person whose notes are online receive these points.  These points may be received only once a week.

Homework Writer: (50 pts for 1 week service) Student will write the homework answers on the board at the beginning of each class period.  The same student does this job all week.

Timekeeper: (30 pts for 1 week service) One student of these in each class, signs up for the week and lets Mr. Newman know when there is only 5 minutes left in class.

Lab Assistant (Chemistry Only): (50 pts for 1 week service) Student will be selected to make sure the lab is setup, clean, clear each day for the week.  The same student does this job all week.  The student will have to come once during the week outside of class to prepare for lab.  This is only available if there is a lab this week.

Come to Tutoring: (20 pts each day) If students come to Tuesday’s or Thursday’s brown-bag lunch in Room 2 at lunch time to do work and receive help, they will receive points.  Receiving help is optional, working is required.

Tutor at Tutoring: (60 pts for the week) I will have 2 students sign up each week to be tutors who must come to both tutoring sessions (after getting their lunch).  If no students are present who need tutoring, tutors may work on their own work, but they must be available to help if anyone arrives.

Alma College Math Challenge (Math Only): (60 pts) Complete a math challenge from the book.

Problem Packs: (60 pts) Not as difficult as the challenge questions, but more work (several of the same type of problem).  You can pick one of these up from Mr. Newman.  (Only available some weeks.)

Textbook: (50 pts) Once per week you may read the textbook and find two (2) ideas that we did not cover in class.  If you write a short paragraph explaining these ideas in your own words (do not copy the words from the textbook!) then you may receive

Optional Assignments: (Variable) These become available depending on the chapter, and will be hanging in the back if you desire to do them.  They are typically writing and/or research assignments.

PQ: (30 pts once per week) Answer one of the PQ’s e-mail your response to me.  Your answer should be a full paragraph (5+ sentences).  The PQ’s will be posted on my website.

PQ Response: (10 pts up to twice per week) Respond with a few sentences to one of the PQ’s.

In Your Own Words: (20 pts up to twice per week) On the blog, answer the questions (in your own words!) with a few sentences.  You may receive up to 3 of these per week.

Khan Academy — Video: (1 pt per minute up to 60 per week) Watch up to an hour of Khan Academy video during a week, one point per minute watched.

Khan Academy — Skills (Math Only): (30 pts per skill, up to twice per week) Become proficient in any of the skills for the chapter.  You may do this twice per week.

Choice Cards: (30 pts up to two per week) You get a choice card by a week of presence (not being absent) and doing your homework each day.  Only available if HW has been assigned during the week.


A student is graded by how many participation points they earn out of 100 each week.  Students may, however, go over that amount, up to 110 (the only extra credit I will give in the class).  This will be roughly 30-40% of their total grade, so these points are very important for the students to achieve.

I am hoping that this does a few things:

1) This allows students to choose how and what (within a range) they want to learn.  Students will get to choose activities that they enjoy (or enjoy more than others).  

2) There is also a range of difficulty in the activities so that better students can find activities that are challenging and interesting.

3) This puts the burden of learning/engaging the material on the students.  They must take the initiative and look for ways to earn points instead of just doing what the teacher tells them to.

If you notice, there are activities such as tutoring and being tutored, so students have the ability to experience both sides of the learning process.  One difficult thing for me will be keeping up with the students’ points, but my school gives some seniors the option to be a Teaching Assistant for one period, so I am hoping to get one of those and put them to good use.

Let me know what you think, whether it is other ideas for activities, suggestions on the balance of the points, or any other constructive criticism you may have.  I have not done this before, but I saw it successfully implemented, albeit with fewer options, back in NC when I was observing teachings as a grad student.



Filed under Teaching

4 responses to “Participation Points

  1. I wish I could do something like this in the classes I’m teaching. Sadly, all of our grading comes from proficiency assessments so there would be pretty much no buy-in for something like this. I do love the idea of providing choices for students and the work that they have to do. I might try to adapt the idea to our proficiency model. I hope you put up another post about this to say how well it goes.

    • I don’t know much about the proficiency model, but I’ve been reading up on Standards Based Grading (is it a similar idea?) and have been wondering how this would fit into that. It might look different, but perhaps there would be several options for students to demonstrate that they know a particular standard? Here’s another post on how it’s going after 1.5 weeks and thanks for commenting!

      • buffybioe

        Yes, at least in my mind, standards based grading and the proficiency model are the exact same thing. That’s kind of what I would imagine this would look like with standards based grading. I’ll have to have a look at that post. Thanks for the heads up.

  2. I do random notes checks the same way! Draw three popsicle sticks, those are the people I check that day. They get points if they are done, partial points if kind of done. I like the idea of checking at the end of the week and posting the best set though. I think I’ll try it that way next year.

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