ClassDojo.com & Teaching In The Target Language

A language teacher from Pennsylvania recently asked me a question about using ClassDojo.com.

classdojo staying in the target language

Although I don’t imagine that it would be an effective resource in every setting (or with every age group), it is a HUGE part of what I do with my students.  (It’s so huge that I was pulling out my hair trying to keep student’s on task for an hour last year when our district servers went down and I couldn’t access the website!  hahaha!)

Here are some reasons why it works so well in my “90+% target language use” classroom.

1- The sound effects give my students comprehensible feedback regarding their behavior.

If you’re familiar with the website, you know that each student is assigned an avatar/cartoon/monster/character.

classdojo senorhoward

Each student’s avatar gains and loses points based on their behavior.  Teachers can elect to have a sound effect accompany the gain or loss of any point.  Those sound effects are key for me because my novice students won’t understand my L2 corrective phrases and sentences.  However, when they hear a “BOOM” (and see that their avatar has lost a point) they immediately get the idea that their behavior is off-task and won’t be accepted in my classroom.  9 times out of 10 I can redirect off task behavior at the click of a button; without needing to say a word.

Furthermore, I like the sound of the positive sound effect: “DING.”  Whenever a student gets a point, the “ding” makes them feel proud and motivates my young learners to want to do well.

2- The students and I love using L2 to discuss points accumulation and numbers identification.

Sometimes, when there’s a few minutes to kill at the end of class, I’ll randomly choose a student and they will have to say all of the L2 numbers that I point to on the ClassDojo homescreen.  I love doing this because my youngest students are masters at counting but start stumbling when I ask them to say a random number that I point to.

Often we will also talk about which student has the most points.  We talk about it so much that even my 2nd graders can ask and answer complete L2 sentences like, “How many points does Roger have?” and “Who has the most points?”

Whenever I see a student get excited about earning a point, I take the opportunity to use the Two-Hand Method to teach them to say, “Look Sr. Howard! I have 8 points!”

3- My end of the month ClassDojo.com routine.

The student that accumulates the most ClassDojo points in any given month receives a prize.  Then we reset the points to zero and start the new month fresh.

At this point I like to practice the L2 months in a meaningful way.  I say something in the target language like, “we have to say goodbye to all the points because we are saying goodbye to _______ (i.e. August, December).”  Then I have the students say, “Goodbye points,” and I reset the point bubbles.  Then I sing a “goodbye to the month” song.  Then we say goodbye to all the months that have passed in the school year so far.  By the end of the year students know all of the months without ever having to complete a formal thematic unit on the months of the year.

4- It helps me keep the students’ attention.

It doesn’t take long for novice students to disengage when they hear incomprehensible L2.  This is a very important point because, if a novice student isn’t watching the source of instruction, there’s ALMOST NO WAY that L2 will be acquired. (Since *pairing will not be occurring.)  With this in mind, a teacher needs to do everything he can in order to maintain the attention of his students.  ClassDojo.com helps me toward this end.  The sounds are attractive (at least to young students).  The avatars are attractive.  The idea that a student has their name up on the screen (and that they’ve chosen their avatar) is attractive.  It encourages them to watch what’s happening at the front of the classroom.

5- I can use it throughout the class period.

Some teachers ask me, “So do you just enter the ClassDojo data at the end of each class period?”  And I say, “No.  I enter the information throughout every portion of the class.”

I can enter the data onto any mobile device. (Just download the free app)  This is handy if I’m showing the students a video clip.  I can have the class list open on the ClassDojo app and be giving students points for paying attention or using the target language while their watching the video.  It’s also handy if the students are walking around the room doing some kind of interpersonal mode activity.  I can circulate throughout the room and record ClassDojo data on my mobile device.

I can quickly switch between windows/screens using the computer keyboard, wireless mouse or SMARTboard screen.  Let’s say we’re doing an activity using power point and a student knocks my socks off with an amazing L2 answer/contribution.  I can easily switch screens and give any amount of points to communicate that I’m very pleased.  In that moment every student WANTS to make the same positive contribution because they see how richly I rewarded the exemplary behavior.

6- I can use the ClassDojo reports.

  • I can print an individual student’s behavior report and send it home.
  • I can invite parents to sign up to receive live behavior updates.  I can also send messages to parents through the website without compromising my personal contact information.
  • I can run whole class reports and use them to award prizes at the end of the year.
  • I can run student reports at the end of each marking period and use them as a performance assessment.
  • I can have an objective count of how many points a student has lost and assign detentions accordingly
  • etc.

How to make ClassDojo.com more attractive to older students:

You may want to avoid using ClassDojo with older students to avoid making them feel childish.  But there are some things you could do to use this free resource and still make it age appropriate.

  1. Have every student be the same avatar.  I’ve done this before.  I choose a Critter Option instead of an Avatar Option.  I make it look really neutral.  Then the students don’t feel singled out…and it looks less like a childish cartoon.
  2. Don’t display the home screen in front of the students as much.  Keep it more private.  Enter data on a mobile device.  Show individual students the data as part of a teacher-student conference to discuss progress/performance.
  3. Turn off the sound effects in the settings menu.

 

Click here to read an older post on how I use ClassDojo to increase student motivation.


*Disclaimer: This term is my own and I’m using it for the purpose of reflecting on my own foreign language teaching practice.  The reader should not assume that this is a term found in formal, academic writing.

Señor Howard

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com/blog – @HolaSrHoward

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com@calhwrd

See what others are saying about Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language.

Share your target language teaching experiences!

Have the contents of this blog ever impacted your teaching or philosophy of teaching?Leave comments below or add to the conversation on twitter by using #TL90plus (for staying in the target language” comments) and/or #langchat (for general language teaching comments).

Q/A: What To Do During The First Week Of Class and When To Use L1

Here’s a great question about L2 use in the foreign language classroom from a middle school German teacher:

Hello Señor Howard,
I’ve been teaching middle school German for 10 years, but I don’t like the amount of L1 I have been using. My goal is to use 90%+ TL in my classroom. In the past I have used many activities the first week in English to help get to know everyone and help them become acclimated to my classroom. What type of activities do you do the first week in L2? When do you feel it’s okay to use L1? Thanks for your help! So far I love the resources and advice on your page!
Carrie


Dear Carrie,

Thanks for writing! Best wishes on the upcoming school year and I hope the thoughts I’ve included below answer your questions.  (Your statements/questions are in bold with my response underneath each one.)

“I don’t like the amount of L1 I’ve been using.”

This may not be the way you are feeling (but it’s still worth mentioning)…Be careful NOT to assume that you’re doing something wrong if you use a lot of L1.  Some teachers feel that using L1 makes them NOT AS GOOD as other foreign language teachers.  It’s not necessarily true.  I don’t think that staying in the target language is the best way to teach a foreign language in every academic situation.  I wrote a couple of blog posts on debunking these types of teaching in the target language MYTHS.  To read more click here (for myths 1-5) and here (for myths 6-10).

“In the past I have used many activities the first week in English to help get to know everyone and help them become acclimated to my classroom.”

I really like your idea of helping everyone get acclimated/comfortable.  Intimidation and anxiety are big foreign language learning stumbling blocks.  If a teacher can kick those two things out of the classroom, at the beginning of the year, she’ll be doing herself a huge favor.  What you’re suggesting of using L1 at the beginning of the year to introduce students to routines, your teaching style, expectations, etc…is one great way to do this.  Here are some more:

What type of activities do you do the first week in L2?

Here’s a post I wrote about this topic entitled, The First Week Of Trying To Stay In The Target Language With Your Students.  In it, I give specific examples of how you can do the following:

One more thing: here’s a video of me teaching my students on the first day of the year.

When do you feel it’s okay to use L1?

There are generally 3 occasions when I use L1 in my foreign language classroom.  Click here for the full post on this.

My guess is that teachers feel like they have to use L1 in order to help students find meaning in incomprehensible L2.  I DO think that it’s absolutely necessary for students to find meaning in incomprehensible L2.  Without it, I don’t think L2 acquisition progress can be made.  The problem is (in my opinion) that many teachers don’t realize the amount of ways meaning can be found apart from using L1.  I’ve tried to list the various ways over the last several months (click on each item for more detailed info and examples):

The key for me has been repeatedly *pairing these extralinguistic forms of input with a corresponding piece of incomprehensible L2 in ways that are engaging for the students I work with.

Señor Howard

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com/blog – @HolaSrHoward

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd


*Disclaimer: These terms are my own and I’m using them for the purpose of reflecting on my own foreign language teaching practice.  The reader should not assume that this is a term found in formal, academic writing.


See what others are saying about Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language.

Your voice is valuable! Share your target language teaching experiences!

Leave comments below or add to the conversation on twitter by using #TL90plus (for staying in the target language” comments) and/or #langchat (for general language teaching comments).

Turning Tedious Tasks Into Teaching In The Target Language Triumphs

Time taken to pass out textbooks, iPads, papers and supplies does not need to be wasted time.  Here are some simple “Do’s & Don’ts” that turn what could be tedious tasks into teaching in target language triumphs.

(*Side Note: these tips apply to teachers working with novice or intermediate low students)


DON’T #1 – Although it may feel natural to do so, try to avoid passing out the materials while you use L2 to talk about what you’re doing.

teaching in the target language don'ts

Example of DON’T #1:  Teacher has an armful of books.  Teacher begins to circulate throughout the aisles passing out books.  Teacher says (in the TL), “I’m passing out books.  We will be working with books today.  Wait quietly as I pass out the books.”  (Side note: I used to do this all the time.  I would think things like, “This is great!  The students are listening to me speak in L2.  They are getting great exposure to L2.  I know they don’t quite understand, but it’s valuable for them to listen to what L2 sounds like even if they don’t know exactly what’s being said.”)

Repercussions of DON’T #1:  Students with low L2 proficiency will watch with anticipation (at least for a while) and quickly lose hope that they’ll be able to understand what’s going on.

WHY? The target language is incomprehensible.  Students can’t find enough meaning.  There are too many incomprehensible L2 words with no way of finding out what they mean.  (See THIS POST for more.)


 

DON’T #2 – Avoid whispering L1 instructions into the ears of a couple student helpers and proceed to use L2 to explain what’s happening to the onlooking class.

teaching in the target language don'ts

Example of DON’T #2:  Teacher places a stack of iPads on the desks of two students and whispers the following L1 instructions into their ears, “Start passing out these iPads to each student while I explain what you are doing in the TL.  Thanks guys.  Great job.”  Teacher proceeds to use L2 to explain what’s happening to the rest of the class, “Lucas and Andrew are passing out iPads.  Lucas and Andrew will give you an iPad that we will be using for our culture research project today.  Great.  Oh, Andrew…Stephanie still needs one.  Thanks.”

Repercussions of DON’T #2:  Students will quickly learn to rely on L1 for orientation regarding what to do.  L2 will be perceived as non-essential to the function of the classroom.

WHY?  If L1 is made available, whenever a student is unsure of what to do, he will be trained to tune out L2 and just wait for the L1 help.


DO – Help students find meaning by *Pairing a piece of comprehensible extralinguistic input with each L2 word/phrase that you use.

teaching in the target language do's

Example of DO:  Teacher stands herself in front of the class and ensures that all students are paying attention.  Teacher holds up a box of crayons and says, “Crayons” in the target language.  Teacher continues in the TL, “Class.  Repeat: Crayons.” (Students repeat.)  Teacher holds up a red crayon and says, “Look class…a RED crayon.”  Teacher holds up other colors and says similar things in the TL.  Teacher adds a layer of complexity by saying and gesturing, “THIS is a RED crayon and THIS is a blue crayon.  RED crayon.  BLUE crayon.”  Teacher uses “circling” questioning techniques to get students to answer.

Teacher looks at the first student.  While still looking at the student, teacher holds up the box of crayons and says, “Crayons…” (teacher gives the student the box and finishes the statement) “…for Robert.”  Teacher looks at the next student and says, “Crayons…(hands crayons to the next student)…for Rebecca.”  (Read THIS POST for more on why you should use this TWO PART gesture.)  Teacher does this with a few more students.  Teacher adds a layer of complexity by saying, “Crayons for YOU.  Crayons for YOU and crayons for YOU.”  Teacher adds another layer of complexity by saying and gesturing, “Robert…pass THESE crayons to Andrew.  (Teacher waits for Robert to follow through with the instructions.)  Rebecca…pass THESE crayons to Isabella.”  Teacher continues in this way until all students have received the needed materials.

Click here to watch a video example of how Sr. Howard does this with his students.

Using strategies like these can help you turn tedious classroom management tasks into teaching in the target language triumphs!


*Disclaimer: This term is my own and I’m using it for the purpose of reflecting on my own foreign language teaching practice.  The reader should not assume that this is a term found in formal, academic writing.

 See what others are saying about Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language.

Señor Howard

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com/blog – @HolaSrHoward

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd

Your voice is valuable! Share your target language teaching experiences!

Leave comments below or add to the conversation on twitter by using #TL90plus (for staying in the target language” comments) and/or #langchat (for general language teaching comments).

Top 10 Teaching In The Target Language Tweets From @HolaSrHoward

10 of my favorite “teaching in the target language tips” in 140 characters or less.
senor howard on twitter

A rule of thumb in my classroom: if something I say won’t be comprehensible, it’s not worth saying.

(Check out THIS POST for more)


grammar approach: give Ss MEANINGFUL EXPERIENCES in which target grammar structures are used often enough 2b noticed and acquired.

(Check out THIS POST for more)


  Jan 8

Ss in a class shouldn’t think “this L2 word means this L1 word” Instead “In this L2 situation, this L2 phrase is used”

(Check out THIS POST for more)


21 May 2014

Ts who stay in the TL don’t need ‘near-native-speaker’ skills as much as they need ‘making-input-comprehensible’ skills.

(Check out THIS POST for more)


Make a philosophical distinction between an ‘L2 immersion environment’ and a ‘COMPREHENSIBLE L2 immersion environment.’

(Check out THIS POST for more)


  Mar 12

I’m realizing that the rich feelings/emotions that L2 words represent get easily lost when Ss learn L2 in an L1 environment.


  10 Jun 2014

Half the battle (in the 90+%TL ) will be won if input is comprehensible.

(Check out THIS POST for more)


L2input becomes comprehensible when a S finds meaning in the L2(linguistic)input apart from the aid/crutch of extralinguistic cues

(Check out THIS POST for more)


  Aug 19

Ts force themselves to translate L2 into L1 when they include lists of TL vocab on their handouts. Try this instead

(Check out THIS POST for more)


If L2 immersion feels like wandering in a dark room, explicit and comprehensible performance objectives is like handing your Ss a flashlight

(Check out THIS POST for more)


Señor Howard

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com/blog – @HolaSrHoward

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com@calhwrd

See what others are saying about Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language.

Share your target language teaching experiences!

Have the contents of this blog ever impacted your teaching or philosophy of teaching?Leave comments below or add to the conversation on twitter by using #TL90plus (for staying in the target language” comments) and/or #langchat (for general language teaching comments).