After blogging about it, talking it over with our M&R teacher and doing a lot of thinking I have gone back to using positive participation tickets in my class. We had a big discussion about it on Friday and, after being out sick on Monday, I started using them for the first time today. While the system isn't totally fleshed out yet, basically this is how it works:
A student speaks French, gets settled quickly, helps someone out, goes above and beyond what is asked of them, I give them a ticket. These tickets can be redeemed for privileges, things like; indoor recess with a group of friends, time in the gym, Smart board games, Lego and so forth. The idea with the "rewards" is that they were mostly group rewards, not just for an individual.
What I haven't worked out yet is the "value" of each of these rewards. I suppose I need to come up with some sort of price list or something so that the students know how many tickets they need to save up. Now I know from video game theory that the most effective reward systems start of with small, easy to achieve goals and then over time make the goals harder and more time consuming. But rather than increase the value of the rewards (with some sort of strange inflation?) I think as time goes on I will make tickets harder to get, so for example whereas now, if a student attempts to speak French, even by repeating what I'm saying back to me, I give them a ticket. In time I will only give out tickets for full sentences or spontaneous French.
The other advantage of this system over last year's is that, rather than constantly having to get new tickets, I'll be able to re-use the same tickets over and over again until they fall apart.
Today's introduction to the tickets went pretty well. As I expected, almost all bought into the system instantly. I saw hands go up from students I hadn't heard from without specifically calling on them before. And yes, this is extrinsic instead of intrinsic motivation, but you know what? It was a happier, more peaceful classroom this morning when we were doing our French work. And hopefully I can gradually pull the program back as they become more confident in their abilities and eventually they will buy into the real reason that we're doing all this learning - to better themselves.
Any hints or tips on how to make this program even better?