GradesDo you want to see an elective teacher get fired up? Ask them about student participation.

I’m not kidding. This topic can wind up the calmest of teachers. It is unbelievable what some kids WILL do or NOT do in an elective class. Before I get started, I have to make a disclaimer. I am not referring to ALLSVN_Speaker students (thank goodness) but the few this does apply to sometimes feels as if it out weighs the majority who are ‘on-task’.

So, you have a student who seems to think sleeping is a class activity. Or maybe they think it is O.K. to surf Youtube on your time. Talking, playing computer games, doing homework from another class, any of these ‘off-task’ behaviors will frustrate you - especially when it is repetitive. What can you do as a teacher to record this or count it against their grade? The best thing that has worked for me is to set up a daily point system. Every student, starts with X number of points a day, I currently use 5 points a day. When they are caught ‘off-task’, they loose a point - at the end of the week, they have a total number of points entered into the grade book as Weekly Performance/Participation Grade. I simply keep a roster on a clipboard and find it is easier to give tally marks to my ‘off-task’ students than my ‘on-task’ students because luckily, I have more who are doing what they are supposed to be doing than the opposite. Your roster, serves as your record if asked to provide how you came up with the grade they earned. I find this system works for both the News Crew and class projects.

Prepare yourself for both Slackers and Bullies. Every class has a Slacker. This student is just waiting for the bell to ring so they can leave. They usually, don’t want to work and don’t care what job they do if any. But, I find that I also have Bullies. The Bullies are the students who really love your class and always want a job on the announcements or a video project. They are so eager, that they never let others take jobs from them. The Slackers love the Bullies because they’d prefer to just sit and let everyone else do the work. You, as the teacher now have to balance this Ying and Yang. The easy way out is to let the Bullies run the class and let the Slackers sit there but, that is not the RIGHT answer. There really is no EASY way out of this and expect to work on it all year long, as every student is different. But, in this situation, try making the ‘Bullies’ your ‘Stars’ - I give these eager students a leadership position and title like “Producer” or “Trainer” and make it their responsibility to train and motivate the others. Some students will rise to the challenge to get others involved. You can incorporate this into the ‘Performance/Participation” Grade for both students. You can even hand over the clipboard to your most trust worthy students and let them tally students who are ‘off-task’. I find this process is sometimes more effective when it is run by peers and monitored by me.

That covers participation now to look at performance. How do you assess skill level of each student when they are performing different jobs? Everyone struggles with this one, too! Simplify it for yourself and make a generic rubric like the one below. Then select review points within the marking period that they will be assessed. Be sure to let them know, assessment time is taking place.


100%   Excellent - no help needed, knows what to do and stays on task
90%     Very Good  - needs some verbal reminders but then performs very well
80%     Good - needs some help to perform tasks but then did OK
70%     Average - needs lots of help, struggles to complete task or focus
60%     Below average - tried but not able to do job or not trying hard enough
50%     Failed - didn't even try to do assigned job, off task constantly

Another idea that I actually got from taking on-line college courses is to assign a ‘Reflection’. Have the students reflect on their prior job performance and how they can improve themselves. I have learned to love Google Docs and use their forms for this activity.

To see one of my Reflection Forms - click here.

Finally, decide what you expect from students on a daily basis and how you will grade them. Make it clear to the students what actions will lose points and what will gain points. Remind them frequently and be consistent with your follow through. I won’t lie, it will take a lot of effort on your part and you will have to make adjustments all year but it is worth it. Carry that clipboard around with you and remind students that you are taking notes. If they lose points for the day - be sure to tell them what they are earning and why...if they care about their GPA, you will see a change in their behavior.

Misty_CUMisty Gentle started with long format television programs for Nickelodeon Studios in Orlando, Florida. She worked her way up from a Production Assistant to Producer. Along the way, she worked in a variety of positions from pre-production through post. After that, she worked on shows for the Fox Health Network, Animal Planet, ABC, Disney, The Learning Channel, Discovery Channel and More. Misty has been a writer / director / producer for on-air promotions and corporate productions as well as 2nd assistant stage manager, Script Supervisor, Segment Producer, Associate Producer, and Post Production Producer. In the summer of 2008, she was Associate Producer for Nickelodeon's "My Family's Got GUTS". These positions have given her a broad understanding of production from show concept and development through post and delivery.

She began teaching in 2004 with a full television production program at the middle school level. After 5 years, Ms. Gentle moved up to high school where she currently teaches digital video production to 9th through 12th graders.

Ms. Gentle holds a BA degree in Communications - Television and Radio Production and is certified as 'Technical Vocational Education - Television Production'.