Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Plickers Works!

Last Wednesday's What Works post talked about how I am using exit slips to assess my students. I also talked about using a Senteo response system. While I like both of those assessment options, I don't always like the preparation it takes to get things set up for both. My response system can be quirky. 

On one of those days, where technology was not my friend, I happened to come across a post about using Plickers. I had not heard of Plickers, but was eager to try something that I had more control over. 

The Plickers app is available for Apple OS and Android. It is a free app available for iPads or smartphones or tablets. Students names need to be entered. A predesigned code, like a QR code is printed for each student. I printed on cardstock.

The questions can be typed for display, like on a smartboard, or Apple TV (two devices needed - one to display, and one to scan). Alternatively, you could read the questions aloud. The questions can be multiple choice or true/false. 

Students turn their card so their answer choice points up. The letters are small, so students cannot "cheat" from across the room. I put small answer choices on the back of the card, so students can easily decide which way they want to turn the card. My students stand in rows, so I can quickly scan the room.
Cards 1 and 2 for 2 students

The cards are scanned quickly with an iPad, iPod, or smartphone. I recommend not laminating the cards, as the half sheet card reflects light when laminated, making it more difficult to quickly scan the answers. I have students hold the cards against their chest when they have made their choice. The Plickers program will let me know when it has recorded the answers, and who still needs to answer. 

My students like Plickers as a pretest or a quiz. I like the instant feedback and access to the data, the ease of use, and the price. My only real cost was for the cards, as a device is almost always within reach in my classroom. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

You Are My Hero!

Thanks Melon Headz Illustrating and KG Fonts

Teachers Pay Teachers is having a sitewide sale tomorrow and Thursday. As educators, we often get a bad rap. The public often doesn't understand all the things we go through to educate our students. The public doesn't realize how much personal income teachers pump back into their classrooms. I know my own classroom has benefited from thousands of dollars spent on units or worksheets, furnishings, decorations, storage and organizational materials, and thousands of novels purchased for my classroom library. Teachers Pay Teachers is letting the teachers know how much they are valued. They really are heroes to their students, families, and communities.
As a tribute to all those teachers out there, I am joining Teachers Pay Teachers in offering 20% off of my store. With the additional savings, you will save 28% off any item in my store. It is my way of trying to help you provide for your students, while saving you some cash.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Addressing Professional Goals - Testing, Testing

I work under a contract that includes merit pay. We use the Danielson model for teacher evaluation. As part of the process, we have to do a mid-year self-assessment. As I worked through the assessment, I pinpointed some strengths and weaknesses in myself or my teaching. I am going to do a couple of posts on what I am doing to address these professional goals.

One area that I am working on is aligning my assessment with my instructional outcomes. I am using a variety of formative and summative assessments. One of my favorite formative assessments are exit slips for math, reading, and writing. I purchased the sets of passes from Melissa O'Bryan last summer. They are common core aligned, so you just need to print the relevant slip for the day. They are easy to use. They do require printing and storing the slips. They give you a snapshot of how students are doing on the concept. You can graph responses to track student progress, so you don't need to keep the individual slips. You can check the exit slips out here, in her store.
I also use technology based assessment. My students love the instant feedback. I was using a Senteo response system for all of out selection tests for stories from our anthology. Our system is older, so I am limited to multiple choice, true/false, and numerical answers. My neighbor and I both use Senteos, sometimes at the same time. They are great for giving feedback, and grade the test for me. It helps save time. What I don't like, is that the technology can be quirky. Sometimes the computer acts up, or the receiver cannot "find" our class. 

Class and individual results are easily accessible. I can easily see what concepts were difficult and may need to be readdressed. I export the results on an excel spreadsheet. It makes transferring to the grade book easier. Overall it works well, but there are other ways that use other devices that I will get into in next week's installment. 

 In the meanwhile, I would love to hear what works for you.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Currently a very snowy Feb. 1st

It is February 1st and time to link up with Farley for her Currently Linky.

After last year's record sixteen snow days, we have only had one this year. Our luck will likely change for tomorrow, as it is snowing as I type. We have been north of most of the storm paths, but the bull's eye is right over Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan. Every hour it seems the local meteorologists have changed the forecast. They are now predicting 10 to 14 inches of snow by the time it ends tomorrow morning. Winds should bring drifts of three feet. 

My husband bought a new snow blower. Our old one is very picky, and doesn't like to start for me. He knows me well, and knows I will clean the drive before he gets home tomorrow. He didn't want me to have to shovel by hand. The new one has an electric start, and is lightweight. It should be much easier for Princess, Hubby, and me to use.

I have a long list of things I want to do if I have the day off. Today, I completed one, by making a delicious breakfast for us. I am making snacks for the game tonight as well.

I hope we get a snow day, or it will not be fun driving the country roads to get to school. The winds should drift over many. 

I have been making a few lessons for my kids. Although it isn't really "flipping" because many of my kids don't have computer access at home, it does allow me to add technology to my lessons. I was posting to my password protected website, but want it to be easier for kids to access. Videos are on my thinking and needing list. Only problem, I hate hearing myself on videos!

My Pageant title is because I love technology and often are sharing, and encouraging my colleagues to try new things. It often backfires, as then they want me to share the technology with them. That means less time for my kids to have it. Argh! 

How are you spending your first day of February? Link up!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Semester's end and honoring students

Today was the start of our new semester. I would love to be able to say kids came in to a new set up, and that I was raring to go. Unfortunately, Friday was the end of the first semester, and grades were due at 8:00 AM this morning. For the first time since we went to computerized grades, my grades were almost finished when I left here on Friday. I only had one set of writing papers to finish, and the comments to add to that section of the gradecard. I procrastinated all weekend. I blog stalked, read Twitter feeds, pinned on Pinterest, and more. I lived my outside life.  Finally late last night I slapped the last comments down, and called it a night.

I am emotionally wiped out. I just spent an hour discussing with my teammates about our upcoming awards program. Last year we started doing honor roll recognition at the end of each semester. The program is wonderful if your child has one of the top academic honors in a subject area, is an all A, or A/B student. What message are we sending to our RTI students, or Special Ed. students that won't earn one of these awards? Last year I spent an hour on the phone with a parent on the Saturday morning following that first awards program. She was worried her son might hurt himself. He cried himself to sleep every night for weeks following the program. He saw himself as a failure. Another child sat in a fetal position throughout the program, sobbing uncontrollably. She didn't get an award, and knew she never would based on grades. So many of my students in my two classes are great kids, just not the top in academics.

What message should I send my students this year? I could give awards in my classroom separate from the assembly. The other parents would never see them beam as they are recognized for their achievements in behavior, or character, or whatever I deem appropriate. Will that token award be enough to erase the idea of failure from their mind, as I try to get them ready for high stakes testing?

I would love to know if you do an awards program for academics. Do all students get something? Should they all get something? I am looking for some guidance as I try to do right by my kids.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


I live and teach in a state that used to do testing in the fall. We spent the first few weeks reviewing all of the previous years standards. We seldom got test scores back before spring, which rendered them almost useless. It was too late to really make an impact on those that had just missed proficiency. At-risk students had usually been receiving support in RTI.
This year we are finally joining the rest of the country in doing our state proficiency test in the spring. Testing windows vary. Our window for fifth grade begins the day we return from spring break. It runs for the next three weeks. This year we were going to do Smarter Balance Assessment, but the state decided to go with two versions of a new test, the M-Step. One is a paper/pencil and the other is computerized. We have opted to do the computerized test. This new test is very different from the old "MEAP". It is much more like Smarter Balance. It is also testing common core standards. They have opened a Spring Preview Test. I am going to give my students plenty of time to check out the sample questions. Luckily, this group of students did a pilot of Smarter Balance as third and fourth graders, so the test question format should be familiar.

Unfortunately, our math curriculum is not aligned. To prepare students for the test I am supplementing my math curriculum with task cards and other activities. I don't have as much time to make products as I would like, so I look for good deals. By following blogs and facebook pages, and stores on Teachers Pay Teachers, you can get lucky and win products. My textbook series doesn't get to operations with decimals for a few more weeks, so I jumped at the chance to grab some task cards and activities for centers. I happened to find to great products to help with decimals.
The first product was from Melissa O'Bryan from Wild About Fifth Grade. Melissa sent me her New Year's Decimal Centers.

New Years Decimal Centers Grades 4-6

What I loved about this set is that it included Task Cards, Independent Worksheets, and Math games. Students practiced rounding decimals, ordering decimals, adding decimals mentally, and multiplying decimals. 
My second product was from Verena Scrivens at Diary of a 5th Grade Teacher. She sent me her Dividing Decimal Task Cards.
Dividing with Decimals Task Cards

This set helped fill the requirements for dividing with decimals. I liked that Verena has the CCSS listed on each task card. This was helpful when determining which particular standards my kids still need to practice. This was a great way to practice skills, and made planning a breeze.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Re:marks Review

I recently had an opportunity to take a look at a new product. The product was from Re:Marks Personalized Designer Address Stamps. The stamp comes with a designer self-inking stamp featuring an interchangeable die plate. It allows you to use a single stamping device for all of your stamping needs. 

You can get a plate with your address, a monogram, one for greeting cards, etc. The setup is for a square stamp image. The stamping device is a sturdy design. I like that you can use one device for several different stamps. I think the only thing that would make it better would be for it to have additional storage for the other plates you might want. It would be helpful for organizing and storing multiple stamps.

The one that I received was a "Thank you" stamp design, a double sided black ink cartridge, and a redeemable certificate for a custom stamp design of your choice. So many choices made it difficult to choose my free one. They have so many styles from which to choose. You can even design your own stamp by uploading your own image. A direct link to Re:Marks product will allow you to purchase your own Re:Marks Stamp. I have used Re:Marks stamps before and love them. The ink lasts. 

I used my stamps to make Thank You cards for gifts my students gave me. It was fun, and a breeze to do with the Re:Mark stamp. 

If you are looking for a great stamping product, check out Re:Marks Stamps. They are a good dependable product with some great design choices.

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