Game-changing Grading Changes

lightgrenadeNo one will argue that your classroom should be a positive place for students to learn. However, I feel that the way we grade and give feedback to students is often at odds with the positive classroom climate we desire. Below are some things I changed about the way I graded that made a positive difference in my classroom.

Plus vs. Minus – When I handed back work to a student, instead of putting -25 on their paper I put +75. +75 says they’re not all bad.

Return Papers at the End of Class – I don’t know about you, but I never had a kid get a poor grade on an assignment and thank me for the feedback it contained. Instead, I got a sad face or the stinkeye as they stuffed the paper away or crumpled it up. Worse, I found many of my students shut down for the day if I gave back an assignment they did poorly on in the beginning of class, so I decided I would hand back work at the end of the period. I found more of my struggling students were able to focus on the day’s learning rather than shut down over the poor grade this way. It also allowed me to call a student over for a quick one-on-one to talk since I had four minutes of passing time before the next class came in.

Grade the Product AND the Process – As a recovering English teacher, I constantly preached and teached the writing process. However, when we grade, it is difficult to grade the process; usually all we have is the finished product. Not anymore! If you use Google Apps for Education, we can grade the process, not just the product, by checking out the Revision History. Most GAFE products under the File menu have an option to See Revision History. If you have Editing rights, Revision History will let you see the time a student has spent working on an assignment as well as a snapshot of their work at certain points in time. By going back and looking at a Doc or Slides’ Revision History, especially through the Show More Detailed Revisions feature, we can get an idea of just how a student approached their work and where they might be struggling.

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With Revision History, I’ve seen students work just two hours on a paper the night before it’s due and others spend considerable time and effort on a paper. Whatever the case may be, I can identify and address what I see in Revision History with a student to help them grow.

To get more bang for your buck, consider pairing Revision History with the amazing Draftback app that will allow you to play Revision History back in real time as if a student were writing the paper right before your eyes:

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Use Kaizena for Effective Feedback – Many teachers have discovered the awesome benefits of filming themselves and their lessons, but what about recording feedback? We need to kick feedback into the 21st century. A red pen won’t get it done anymore because when a kid sees the red ink it doesn’t tell how them how much you care. Enter Kaizena as the best way to deliver effective feedback. Kaizena lets you show a kid how much you care by allowing you to leave audio feedback on Google Docs and Slides in a fast, friendly way.

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Kaizena made my classroom a more positive place to learn because my students could now hear the intonation and inflection in my voice when I delivered feedback, not have their hearts broken by red ink. They could hear the positivity with which I reviewed their work and provided feedback. They could hear how much I wanted them to be successful and many started to understand that criticism isn’t a bad thing; it’s given to help them grow. Now that my kids could hear me the positivity, I helped me build better relationships with them. What’s more, when a parent wanted to see how well their child did on a paper, they’d have to play the comments and they too would hear the positivity in my voice.

Rethinking How We Grade Group Work –  To this day, I hate group work. It was always so frustrating. All the way through college I dealt with the moochers, slackers and control freaks who held my educational destiny in their often idle hands. On the flip side, I see the value in group work and think it’s important our students know how to collaborate effectively. I think it’s the grading of group work that often turns it into a negative experience. Only giving a group grade never sat right with me. How can we change group grading to make it a more positive experience?

I had students submit group contracts which clearly stated when and where they would meet and who was responsible for completing what, when. This contract was used in our post-project meetings. By having clearly defined tasks and roles, each student was held accountable. Make them be specific. Instead of Tina will do research by Friday get them as close  to Tina will find five usable sources for the project and get them to Tom on the shared planning Doc by 3pm Friday.

Remember Revision History? It’s great for group projects because a Revision History is created for every person the Doc is shared with. Revision History can help a teacher see who contributed to group work and when because on any shared item in Google Drive, each individual is assigned their own color and timestamp. We can now better see how much each group member has contributed to an assignment. We can take this into consideration when grading, or, better yet, be proactive and intervene when a group’s shared planning Doc looks like one person is doing all the work.

I believe in giving some form of individual grade for group projects. My two favorite methods of generating individual grades also allow students to have agency in the grading process.

1) After a project, I gave students a Google Form where they could provide anonymous feedback on their peers efforts during the project. The Form also allowed students to grade these efforts using a rubric. I would then average the grades for each individual student and share the anonymous feedback at the post-group meetings. I would give them an opportunity to reflect on the feedback as a group and speak to the fairness of their averaged grade. Through this process we would come to an agreement on an individual grade for the project and a list of takeaways the could use to improve for next time.

A different and equally awesome way to come to an individual grade from a group project comes to us from my former Chemistry professor with special thanks to Mike Matera who reminded me about the method way back in 2012. Take the group grade, multiple it by the number of students in the group, and let them divy the points up how they see fit. So, if 5 kids get a 90 on the project that would be 450 points they can then assign to each other. Whether you use this method or the one above, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with not only students’ honesty and fairness, but just how much more positive group projects are seen in your class.

Finally, maybe one of the most positive changes we can make to our classroom is how we think about grading in general. I wish grades were thought more of as a “for now” type of thing rather than a permanent thing. Hence, why I’m such a big fan of Mastery learning and getting rid of traditional grading in general. I think that’s a bit far off from mainstream acceptance, so let me leave you with this:

I remember being told by many a teacher growing up that I had a 100 in their class and all I had to do was keep it. The problem was, as we all know, keeping the 100 wasn’t possible. We put students in a mindset that failure is the only option when we talk about grading like that. What if we approached it from the opposite direction. What if told students that they had a zero in our class and the only thing they could do is get better? I used this system, I call it XP grading, in my gamified classroom and it’s made a big difference.

Until Next Time,

GLHF

Gamify Your Class Level IV: The Item Shop

lightgrenadeThis is the longest I’ve gone without posting. I’m sorry. My plate is full of PARCC, but I found some time to wrap up my series on Gamifying Your Classroom! Before we get to that, though, if you are in Jersey or up for a road trip, we’d like to invite you to Ednado. Ednado will be a great day of learning and we’d love to have you attend or present!

Without further adieu:

To many students, an engaging Gamified classroom comes down to the rewards. The problem is, to some teachers, coming up to the bucket and picking out a prize or giving out a homework pass or stickers constitutes an engaging reward. These types of rewards are quickly forgotten and over time become less and less engaging. We can do better.

In previous posts, I’ve talked about how the most motivating rewards provide a student with Status, Access, and/or Power and we should be giving them very little Stuff. Leaderboard’s provide most of the Status in my Gamified classroom, so my Item Shop, the place where students cash in class currency (called Achievements Points (ap) in my class) for rewards, houses my Access and Power based goodies.

Before I talk about some of my rewards, I wanted to share a few lessons I’ve learned after three years of Gamification. I’ve learned that a good reward doesn’t just engage students, but also benefits the teacher. You’ll notice on top of granting Access/Power to students, I designed a lot of the Items in my Item Shop to solve problems, either mine or theirs. Next, Price your Items appropriately. You can control the frequency with which an Item is purchased by how much it costs and/or by how much currency you reward students. For me, I prefer to put students in a situation where they really have to think about what they buy and when. I do this by keeping class currency low and items expensive. Don’t be afraid to adjust the price of your rewards until you find your sweet spot. Finally, guess what! You’re giving things away for free that you should be charging students for:

Access – The ability to have something others cannot.

Music Pass – My students enjoy listening to music when working independently. Before I Gamified, I just let students listen to music while they worked. Now, listening to music costs ap. This was an aha moment for me: I was giving away things for free that should be in my Item Shop! Many more soon followed.

Bathroom Pass – I allow my students to go to the bathroom in the first five minutes of class at no cost, after that it cost ap. Students learned to either come to class early or go to the bathroom in another teacher’s class. Inadvertently, I solved students being late to class by charging to go to the bathroom. Kids will challenge you, but stick to your guns. The phrase that pays when students ask, “Can I go to the bathroom?” is “Sure, if you want to spend the points.” Put the onus on them. I was shocked how little students went to the bathroom; they wanted to save their points for something more worthwhile. What if a student has to go to the bathroom and doesn’t have enough points? A tip: On the first day of school, give out an achievement that just so happens to be worth enough for a student to go to the bathroom. That way they have a Bathroom Pass in the bank and you start off the year on a positive note with a first-day Achievement.

Print Pass – My kids were always asking me to print something for my class or another teacher’s class. It drove me nuts. What better way to handle this problem than to charge them. Students started to print at home. If they forgot to print at home, at least they had a way to fix their mistake.

Tipping Point – How many times has a student come to you and said some variation of “I have a 92.3, what can I do to get an A.” My school has no set rule for this problem and I am faced with a moral dilemma every time I’m asked. If a student has worked hard to earn their on-the-fence average, I’m inclined to give them the grade as a way of rewarding their hard work. Other times, students who have learned how to play school haven’t really worked hard enough to deserve the points gratis. So what did I use to do before Gamification? I’d have them write a paper, of course! Which, ultimately, just punished me with more papers to grade. With Tipping Point, students can save up their ap and use them at the end of the marking period to push their grade to the next letter. This item is expensive because it’s valuable, but it also provides a fair way to handle this issue especially when you recall that students earn ap in my class by doing heroic deeds and displaying heroic traits aka being awesome. By putting the choice back on the student, I haven’t had an issue with this topic since I created Tipping Point.

Charge Pass – My class was Bring Your Own Device. My kids would ask me if they could charge their device which then involve them moving to a new seat by an outlet and having to borrow a charger. It became frustrating and took time away from teaching, so I started to charge students to charge their device. If they needed to borrow a charger it cost even more. Most students began to come with their devices charged. Problem solved.

Locker Pass – Sometimes students forget things in their locker. With a Locker Pass they can go retrieve them. If they don’t have the ap points, they can’t. Simple fix to a persistent problem.

Blast – I am a huge fan of using Twitter in the classroom. Every teacher should be on Twitter. Students who buy Blast get to take over my Twitter account and Live Tweet the goings-on of our school day. Never had a student behave inappropriately, parents love seeing what goes on in class, and I got to tease my kids about having more followers than them. Win. Win. Win.

Me First – You know these kids: “Did you grade my essay yet? Did you grade my test yet?” What better way to solve this problem than to give students the ability to buy the right to be graded first. I even use this one on parents. “I haven’t gotten to your child yet, but if they’d like to buy Me First, I will grade them first.” Most students won’t spend the ap. They rather save it for something they deem more valuable. But what’s great about these kinds of Items is that it takes the decision out of my hands and puts it back on the student. If a student wants to spend their hard earned ap on being graded first they can. If they don’t want to, they don’t have to. All this gray-area-decision-making is taken out of my control and the control is given back to the student. A student in control of their own destiny is more likely to be engaged.

Unlock – In my class, students work independently on Levels (units). A Level was usually open for two weeks. Once a level is closed, the student is locked out and any work they did not complete received a zero. With an Unlock, students can reopen the level and complete the work that they did not finish or even redo any work that they’re not happy with. This is how I could have a self-paced, self-directed student-centered classroom that allowed for students to get the grade they wanted.

Power – The ability to have control over yourself and/or others.

Slander – By far Slander is the most purchased Item in my Item Shop. Slander allows a Guild to change another Guild’s name. When it comes to the Leaderboard, Guild projects, or anything else Guild related, whatever their name was is how I announced them. Kids love having the power to change a Guild’s name. My favorite Slander story is the time when a Guild of basketball players thought that a Guild of football players changed their name to 0-26, which was the basketball team’s record at the time. In reality, it was a group of quiet girls who changed the basketball Guild’s name and started an inter-Guild war that lasted all year. A clever false-flag operation! Tip: check Urban Dictionary before you change a Guild’s name.

Misnomer – If your Guild is Slandered and you want to change your Guild’s name back you have to buy Misnomer from the Item Shop. The funny thing? Misnomer costs more than Slander and no, Guilds cannot Slander themselves to save on the cost. This adds another level of Power to my Gamified classroom because if I Slander a Guild, and they want to change their name, it’s a way for me to control and drain their ap usage. Most Guilds choose to live with their new name, but I’ve had Guilds who take themselves very seriously so they spend the ap to constantly change their name back. The whole Slander/Misnomer process is awesome and has been the highlight of the class for many of my kids.

Purge – Similar to Slander, Guilds have the ability to take away a Guild or class’ xp in my class through buying Purge. My favorite Purge story is when an entire class banded together and spent a couple thousand ap to take almost all of the xp away from the first place class knocking them down to last place right at the end of last year’s game. I loved watching the politics of the Guilds and classes as they decide who to go after or attempt to negotiate immunity for themselves. It’s this Game of Thrones dynamic that makes these types of Power Items more engaging than any Stuff I could offer students.

Forgiveness – When students are late handing in work we punish them with a late penalty. If students have earned enough ap through performing heroic deeds and traits during the marking period, I feel they’ve earned the right to avoid this penalty. I allow students to remove the late penalty by buying Forgiveness. If I were still in the classroom (I’m an edTech Coach now) I would also allow students to buy extensions for major assignments.

XP Booster – Extra Credit is a gray area nightmare for many teachers. My school didn’t have a rule on Extra Credit. It was at my discretion, so if I didn’t give Extra Credit, I was the bad guy. What’s a teacher to do? I decided to put it back on the kids. XP Booster is how I handled extra credit. A student can buy an XP Booster on any assignment throughout the marking period. An XP Booster gives them a 10% boost on any assignment they want, but they cannot go over the Total Points the assignment is worth. A student can choose to spend all their ap on XP Boosters if they want, it doesn’t upset the system, and the great thing about that is that it’s another form of Power. If a student is trying to win the xp Leaderboard battle by having the most xp points for the year, if any other student wants to win too it forces them to also buy XP Boosters. I’ve seen some epic battles between students that has come down to smart management of ap and using XP Boosters at opportune times.

Pen and Paper – This is the only Stuff I give my students. No drinks, no snacks, no trinkets, and definitely no Homework Passes. The only stuff kids can buy is pen and paper. Rarely did a student ask me for pen and paper. They would rather borrow them from a friend than buy it with ap from me. After charging for pens and paper, for the first time ever I actualyl finished a school year with a full pen cup!

There are more Items in the Item Shop, but I think you get the idea. Access, Power, and an easier life for teachers and students is the name of the game. Students also knew in my class that they could suggest a reward and I would come up with the appropriate amount of ap to charge them. In fact, most issues in class were handled by negotiation and ap. The students enjoyed it because the system was fair and they had a voice and a choice.

Even though I taught at the the high school level, I’ve worked with many elementary school teachers to Gamify their class. For those brave enough to teach our youngest learners, consider this: some of the best rewards for your kids are, again, ones you’re giving away for free: line-leader, caboose, board cleaner, attendance taker, first-to-recess, last-in-from-recess, lunch with their teacher, first for show-and-tell. Think about it.

My Gamified classroom aimed to provide a fair system where students are further engaged by the layer of fun Gamification puts on top of their learning. My Item Shop made my life easier and gives students a way to fix any mistakes throughout the year, making their life easier. Consider upgrading your reward system to something similar. You’ll be happy you did.

 

Until Next Time,

 

GLHF

 

PARCC: Won’t Somebody Please Think Of The Teachers

Those poor teachersI’ve made videos to help students better understand what to expect from the online nature of PARCC, but what about the teachers who will administer the test?

Teachers everywhere have a ton on their plate, but administering the PARCC shouldn’t be something that you worry about. It’s not bad. To prove it, I’ve made a new video to show teachers who are “lucky” enough to administer PARCC what to expect.

In the video, I walk through the responsibilities of a PARCC teacher aka Test Administrator and what a testing day will look like. The good news: 95% of your day is the same as when you’ve administered paper-based state tests. The only thing that changes is a few, new online responsibilities that I go over.

Now, I do want to be clear: I don’t work for PARCC, Pearson, the government, or anyone else. I’m just a teacher trying to make my teachers less anxious. As my school’s District Test Coordinator, I’ve read everything out there on PARCC and talked to a lot of people about it both in the Department of Ed. and Pearson so everything in the video, at this time and to my knowledge, is correct and accurate. I, however, reserve the right to be wrong. If I screwed something up, was unclear, or you have a question, feel free to let me know and I’ll fix or update the video.

Enjoy the video and feel free to use it in your training with your district or however else you want. Most of all, teachers, I want you to know you are going to be fine.

*Note: I may or may not have gone overboard with the whole “Mark Complete” thing…

 

 

10 Things I Learned From The Practice ELA PARCC

lightgrenadeI love Science. I love creating a hypothesis and putting it to the test. That’s probably why I was a chemistry major before I became an English major. What’s nice is, every once in a while the stars align and I get the opportunity to play Scientist again. Last week was one of those opportunities!

As PARCC inches closer, thousands of teachers are preparing their students for the controversial assessment. Like these teachers, last week, I helped prepare about 200 fourth and fifth graders for PARCC by giving them the practice ELA test. It was fun (for me) because I got to test out a couple of theories I had and learn what I can do to better prepare my teachers as they better prepare their students.

This was the first time these students sat down and experienced the actual PARCC testing environment and questions. We tested for 20 minutes (in reality they’ll have 76+ minutes) and students were told that the test didn’t count this time because we wanted to help them get familiar with it, but they should still try to do their best since always doing their best is important. I showed them my video to help ease any anxiety, then, after 20 minutes of testing, students were asked to fill out a Google Form so I could collect data and their opinions. Here are the ten things I learned by giving the practice PARCC:

1. I had a theory that students would do just fine with the testing environment. I was right. After just a few minutes, most students were navigating through the test with little problem. They figured out the flagging system, moving through the questions, scrolling, drag and drop, tabbing between readings, and other technical skills with little issue…

2. …except for one technical skill: Highlighting. Highlighting is confusing on PARCC. Highlighting to most kids means you hold down the left mouse button, “highlight” the text, and release. Kids were use to that. On PARCC, after they released, it brings up the option to highlight the selected text a variety of colors; however, some questions ask you to highlight the text (that already appeared highlighted in the traditional sense) by selecting it which turned it yellow. To make matters worse, you could highlight the highlighted text after you highlighted to signal it as your answer… If that sounds confusing, it should because it was. Highlighting is a mess on PARCC. It posed a constant problem; some students even accidentally highlighted the entire screen. Highlighting is used interchangeably to describe four separate actions on the PARCC, so I think we need to make an effort to better prepare them for “highlighting.” Here is a screenshot of the dreaded question in question: #2 on the 4th grade practice test and what a mess it can turn into with all the highlighting.

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3. Furthermore, while many students figured out how to highlight text by holding down the left mouse button with little issue, what became interesting is why students chose to highlight certain things. The most common answer: “I think it might be important.” The problem was what they were highlighting was unimportant, costing them valuable time. Students were wasting time highlighting unimportant information because, as I learned, a vast majority of them were reading the text before the question. This is interesting because students had been taught for NJASK to read the questions first, then the story. Many weren’t reading the questions first which led to screens full of highlights that students anticipated might be important as seen in the picture below. Had they read the questions first, they would have had a better idea on what was going to be important. I’ll have to remind students: questions first!

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4. Another testing skill that had been taught that they also seemed to forget was skipping questions. Many students when faced with a confusing question just sat their staring at the screen. They knew they could move to the next question, yet many did not. Most fourth graders never got past questions 4 or 6 because they were by far the most difficult questions. We need to remind students that the same testing strategies that work on paper will also work on the PARCC. When in doubt, come back to it.

5. Another theory I confirmed in a big way: the hardest part of the PARCC is the directions. Students had an incredibly difficult time figuring out what was being asked of them. We absolutely have to give kids PARCC like directions. It easily ranked as the most difficult part of the PARCC:

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6. Above, you’ll see Drag and Drop ranked rather high. I asked for clarification since students seemed to do just fine with the actual dragging and dropping. What they said confirmed another theory: like the directions, interpreting the drag and drop questions, which basically amounts to an interactive graphic organizer, was difficult. We need to spend more time with interactive graphic organizers. Luckily, this is easily done with an LMS like Google Classroom or Schoology and Google Drawings or sites like Edulastic.

7. Below, you’ll see most students gave their first PARCC experience a “3” on the difficulty scale (with 1 being easy and 3 hard). Most students said the readings were “just right” for them, but interpreting the questions and answers were the hard part. The most repeated phrase during testing was “They’re all kind of right.” Kids were referring to the answers. PARCC doesn’t just ask for the right answer, it often asks for the best answer through multi-select (checkbox) questions or drag and drop. Students struggle with this idea since they are rarely asked for the best answer from a field of answers that are “all kind of right.” We need to spend more time with the best answer, not just the right answer.

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Sure does look like a middle finger…

8. Most kids simply can’t type as fast as they’ll need to for the PARCC. That means they’ll need to become more efficient in other areas to make up for the time it takes them to type.

9. As theorized, all the negativity surrounding PARCC has affected some of my kids. I had three kids who were so anxious they cried before they even got in the room while others had no qualms in letting me know how much they didn’t like the idea of PARCC. I couldn’t help but smile listening to their very adult talking points. As teachers, it is important that we are sensitive to the feelings of our students no matter our thoughts on PARCC…

10. …because their feelings are just as unique as they are. I asked each student to give me one word that best described their PARCC experience. I was surprised by some of their answers:

parccthoughtsMy biggest takeaway from all of this? 1) Students need to spend more time with PARCC-like directions, questions, and graphic organizers. 2) Kids’ll do just fine with the testing environment if they see it enough. 3)Kids need to be reminded of effective test taking strategy.

There you have it. Just some thoughts and takeaways on my students at my school which are different than the students in your school. Remember that and perform your own experiments! Hopefully, though, some of the things I learned will be helpful to you or you can apply to your school.

Up next: Math! Since you’ve made it this far, here’s a prize: the MATH version of my practice PARCC trailer which I made to help ease the anxiety of elementary and middle school students. I made a generic version for you to share with your district! Enjoy!

Until next time,

GLHF

 

PARCC: Won’t Somebody Please Think Of The Children

helen1Missing leading title much? Kind of.

It’s no secret that PARCC isn’t very popular with many teachers and parents. With so much negativity surrounding PARCC who knows what students might read or overhear. I wouldn’t blame them if they felt mad, overwhelmed, or nervous. I wanted to do something about it!

With the holiday break over, PARCC prep’s in full swing in my district. Tomorrow, we are taking the first of many classes down to the computer labs to take a sample PARCC so they can become more familiar with the testing environment. I wanted to do something to calm the anxiety of any worries students, so I made a PowToon / Screencast hybrid video to tell students a little bit about PARCC, why it’s important to do their best, what kinds of questions they might see, and, most of all, not to worry because they’re going to do great! The video is short and meant for elementary and middle school students. I’m going to play it before they take the practice PARCC!

I’ve put a generic version on YouTube in case you wanted to use it in your class or even show it to teachers/parents so they can see what kind of questions will be on the PARCC and the technical skills students will need to be proficient in (drag/drop, scroll, etc.) to be successful. This video focuses on the English portion of the PARCC. I will post the Math version sometime next week if people are interested. Again, if you like it and want to use, feel free. If you do, I’d love a follow and shout out on Twitter! The feeds at the top! Enjoy:

Until Next Time,

GLHF

 

Simulating A Testing Environment With Google Apps For Education

lightgrenadeWith PARCC looming on the horizon in New Jersey, many educators are trying to simulate its unique testing environment with frustrating results. The PARCC will be totally online and feature many questioning and answering methods students have not seen before. Skills like drag-and-drop, window pane, and computer-based tool (protractor, ruler, calculator) manipulation will be new. Understanding drop-down menus, fill-ins, and check box style questions and typing efficiently will be required. The PARCC will place multiple texts side-by-side or in a separate window, so familiarity with scrolling techniques and alt+tabbing will be imperative. Short cuts for Copy (Ctrl+C) and Paste (Ctrl+V) and Find (Ctrl+F) will help students work more efficiently while students with special needs will have to get use to accommodations like text-to-speech, speech-to-text, in-line reader, answer masking, and more. Understand, we aren’t even talking about content! We are talking about the test itself! Kids continue to struggle to get use to the harsh testing environment, so while many teachers have been turning to different websites to help them create PARCC-like assessments, I’ve turned to Google Apps for Education to make my own.

My PARCC-like assessment

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I’m Fired Up

lightgrenadeI was a Junior in high school the first time I got fired up. My best friend stormed up to me and smashed a burnt CD into my chest and said, “Listen to all of this…” I still remember the fire in his eyes as he continued, “…loud.” Later that day, I did just that. What came blistering and blaring out of my speakers rattled my windows and set me on fire: How I Spent My Summer Vacation by The Bouncing Souls.

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Feedback To You!

lightgrenade

During presentations and essays, I like to have students use Google Forms to provide peer feedback. While Google Forms is awesome, there are two big problems when using it for peer feedback: 1) It isn’t great for collecting wordy feedback. As you know, when you collect big pieces of text via Google Forms it can be hard to read. 2) Once I have all that peer feedback collected, it is difficult to share it back to that student so they can reflect.

For a while. I was printing out the feedback, cutting it, and handing it back to each student. This was annoying and time consuming. I said to myself, “Self, there has to be a better way!” Thus, my first foray into scripting came about like most inventions: Necessity.

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The Best Assessment Ever!

lightgrenadeWhat if I told you I had an assessment that hit most Common Core standards, increased test scores, was cross-curricular, and, most importantly, fun and engaging?

What is this magical assessment, you ask?

Student-made board games!

Students make their own board games at least once a level in my class. I use it to add some life to something boring like our mandatory vocabulary curriculum, to assess students’ understanding of a piece of literature or non-fiction, or to work on their ability to write informative texts.

My students work in Guilds for the year. When it comes time to make a board game, each Guild is given a class period or two to design the game. I tell them they have to make the game fun, fair, educational, and playable by the biggest Guild. I tell them they must also write the rules and directions out since they will not be there to explain them. That’s it! That’s all the direction they get. What kind of game they make, the rules, the questions, and everything else is up to them.

This creative freedom has led to some great games:

Forget playing the board games for now. The real learning and reinforcement comes from creating the game. If you think about how much high-level thinking goes into creating a fun, fair, and educational board game it’s easy to see why it hits so many Common Core standards.

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Gotta Be In It To Win It


Update 11/6/14:
KI Furniture has released our commercial!

We always encourage our students to take a risk, but when is the last time you took a risk for them? With them?

As I’ve started to revolutionize my classroom, I’ve had to take a lot of risks. I’ve had to put myself out there in ways that I never thought I would because I realize now the things I want to do and have in my classroom will likely never be given to me; I have to the risk and go out and get them!

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