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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Peso Rewards in Spanish Class

A few months ago I wrote about student reward systems and my experiment to try it out in my Spanish classes. I decided to go "low-tech" and gave out paper tickets, called Pesos, for each reward.

Students earned rewards for
  • a perfect quiz or test
  • winning a game or activity
  • extra practice outside of class, such as the Duolingo app, or activities on my textbook's website
  • extra practice worksheets
  • homework completed and turned in on time, and with name on it
Students saved up their pesos and use them to buy things at the Peso Store. They could purchase candy, small toys/supplies (the maraca pens were a big hit), stickers, etc. Also they could buy out 1 quiz per quarter or 2 homework assignments per quarter. 

When I began the program, I had not included homework completion as a way to earn a peso. I give homework about 3 times a week...and I feel it should be completed, reward or not. I also had a very good grout of students who generally did complete their homework. But then I realized that completing homework would be an achievable goal for all students. Some students will rarely get a perfect test, but they can complete their homework on time. 

As I reflect on my program, I do plan to raise the prices in my peso store. Some of the high achievers in my classroom had pesos coming out of their ears, but rightly so--they worked hard. Candy was by far the best seller, but several students were happy to buy out that one quiz that they bombed or a homework assignment that they missed. Overall though, I was extremely pleased with my peso program and plan to keep it. The students really liked it, too!

This program went against every fiber of my being. Students should be intrinsically motivated, they should want to do well, homework completion is a requirement, not an option. (You get my drift.) But my classes are electives, so I am competing for students, in a sense...and a foreign language class can be difficult. As much as I try to make my classes fun and engaging, there is a fair amount of work involved--learning vocabulary does not always come easily. My beliefs are starting to evolve...is there harm in rewarding a job well done?

I'd love to hear your thoughts! Do you use student rewards? Do you love them? Hate them? 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Easy Websites with Weebly

I have used Weebly a few times with students. At the end of this school year, as part of a digital literacy unit, I asked students to make a "fake" website. We had been learning, again, how you can't believe everything you see on the internet. How true! Students created endangered species websites. They were hilarious-- with flying turtles, the elusive "water wallaby" and an Amazonian silver tiger that curiously resembled a house cat. A few even had "stores" where you could donate money or purchase merchandise to help the cause. Kids really enjoyed being over the top creative and it was surprising, even being in the joke, how realistic these websites looked!

This brings me back to Weebly. I wanted this to be a take-your-idea-and-run-with-it kind of thing and didn't want students to be caught up in the finer points of web design. Weebly was definitely the right tool for the job! Weebly is so easy to use and looks so professional. Earlier this quarter we had also made portfolio websites with Google Sites, and the difference in ease-of-use between these two platforms was very noticeable. I like that Google Sites is tied to their Google Apps for Education accounts accounts, but Weebly is definitely easier.

If you are looking for an easy, free website platform for you or your students, Weebly is a great choice. There is also Weebly for Education, specifically designed for teachers.

I want your feedback! What do you use for a website platform? Why do you like it? Share your thoughts!