[Explore the MTBoS] Mission #1: Stop-Motion Video and Participation Points

Note: I just finished typing this blog post and re-read the prompt carefully and realized that Sam asked for one of these two prompts.  Oops.  Sorry if you’re reading this because my comment is above yours: don’t feel like you need to read both sections if you don’t want to. 🙂

Favorite Open-Ended/Rich Problems: The Stop-Motion Parametric Video

One of the topics in Precalculus that we cover is Parametric equations. One day I was watching a stop-motion video, and I had the idea to get my students to do stop-motion videos showing a parametric equation.  Here are some example videos from last year:

(The third one is my favorite…)

The students were asked to create a Parametric equation and then use stop-motion to illustrate it. I didn’t care which came first: the video or the equation, as long as they matched each other.  We used iPads and a stop-motion app, which takes pictures and puts them together to make a video for you.  However, you don’t need access to iPads because there are plenty of websites that can take your pictures and create a stop-motion video out of them, so all you’d need is one camera per group and access to a computer or computer lab for each group.

Last year that’s all I had them do: make a video and tell me what the associate equation is. This year what I want them to think about it a little more, so I’m going to have them create a Google power-point which includes various thing, such as a graph, table, equation of the situation, explanation of the variables, and a few challenging questions for their classmates.  Here’s my example Google Presentation that you can check out (yes, I used one of my student’s videos from last year as my example, but don’t worry: I’ll give them credit!).


One Thing That Makes My Classroom Distinctly Mine: Participation Points

Something I call Participation Points.  I am the only one at my school who uses this system, and I’ve yet to convince any other teachers at my school to use them, but I may have some converts in the MTBoS–we’ll see.

PPs (Participation Points) are something that students must keep track of and they must earn 100 each week. My premise:

  • Students should often be able to choose what level and type of work they complete to “earn” their grade.
  • When allowed to choose, students will typically choose work that challenges them “just enough”.
  • Homework should be option and seen as “practice if needed” (and usually it should be needed).
  • I should have the flexibility to create opportunities to learn on the spot, and have it count toward some part of their grade even if I do not have a standard for exactly what they want to do (I use SBG).

PPs are 30% of their grade, while their Standards make up the other 70%. Students hold onto a grid which documents how many points they earn each week for 9 weeks.  At the end of each class, students come up and tell me what kind of points they’ve earned.  On Friday I collect their sheets and put their grade out of 100 points into the computer, and return the sheet to them on Monday.  Here’s what their sheets look like:

Some of the things students can earn points for include:

  • Speaking up in class (making a positive contribution).
  • Reflecting about class through their blog.
  • Working on exercises on Khan Academy.
  • Working on the Warm-up on time.
  • Putting your answers to the HW on the board for others to check.
  • Answering a handful of thought-provoking questions I have on my website.
  • Coming to Tutoring (at lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays).
  • Signing up to be a Tutor at those times.

There are many others: I have an incomplete (but more comprehensive) list on my website here.

The tutoring, especially, has helped students grow in the areas they need to grow.  At my school I am currently the only teacher to have students come regularly to tutoring, and there will be 30+ students in my classroom at lunch on those days working because they know it’s good for their grade in multiple ways.

I’ve blogged before about Participation Points, but they are something that I’ll probably do for as long as I teach because of all the little ways it helps my classes. I don’t do PPs in all my classes, but there is a big difference in the attitude of the students toward learning and work in those classes that I do use PPs. A small example of this is in the warm-up: I’ve got a facebook-style Like-Stamp that I use, which gives students 5 PPs, and I’ll stamp students’ papers who are working on the Bell-Ringer (warm-up) before the bell rings.  Students know this so they come quickly into the room and get to work right away, begging for me to come look at what they’ve done so they can earn that stamp.

Please ask if you have more questions about PPs, as I’m eager for another teacher to try them out and give feedback on them! They’re up there with SBG (Standards Based Grading) for “Most-Impact-On-My-Classroom” ideas.



Filed under Teaching

11 responses to “[Explore the MTBoS] Mission #1: Stop-Motion Video and Participation Points

  1. I like the idea of participation points as a way around the rigidity of most SBG systems, which provide no way to record unexpected learning. I don’t think that a participation point system would work in any of my upper-division and graduate university courses (doing the required work is more than enough already), but I can see it in some lower-level courses.

    • I agree with you on that. In fact, I have two “level’s” of Precalculus and I don’t use PPs with the higher level students because they don’t need the extra motivation. Hopefully most students have learned how to study by the time they reach the university!

  2. JPo

    I believe as you do that students seek out work that is challenging at just the right level – hard enough to stimulate interest but not so hard that students become discouraged. That fine line of challenge is the place of optimal learning.

  3. Very intrigued by the PPs! What kind of students do you have in these classes?

    • Hmm, what do you mean by “what kind of students?” I teach Precalculus to Juniors and Seniors in HS, Chemistry to Juniors, and Physics to Seniors. I only use PPs in my Senior Precalculus class and my Chemistry class. They’re across the board as far as ability goes, although the seniors in Precalculus typically aren’t as advanced as the juniors in Precalculus: one of the reasons I use PPs with them to motivate them in the right direction of studying regularly and participating in class.

  4. The lesson is awesome. Creating movies is always cool. What I like most about the PPs is how many different ways students have to earn them. I think that when students make choices about their own learning methods it gives them an important skill for college when classes are much more ‘hands off.’ Glad you misread and answered both prompts.

  5. I love your stop-motion video idea! Definitely a cross-curricular project, I think. Thanks for writing it up!

  6. Pingback: Stop-Motion Parametrics: Post-lesson Analysis | Hilbert's Hotel

  7. Pingback: Memes for Participation Points | Hilbert's Hotel

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