The Impact of Passion-Based Learning A Year Later

IMG_0758This time last year, my students took the stage to talk about their yearlong Passion-Based Learning assignment: the Be About It project. In just a few weeks, some of those students will hit the stage to talk about their projects again, only this time it will be at ISTE and I’ll get to share the stage with them! Alanis reflected on her Be About It project experience for me last year and as we prepare for ISTE, I’ve asked her to do it again. From her fingers to your eyes, the importance of Passion-Based Learning:

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I’ve forgotten most of the things that I learned last year. All those late nights of studying and memorizing pretty much went out the window. I probably couldn’t solve a piecewise function if my life depended on it. But the one thing I did remember from last year was the Be About It Project (BAI). The BAI was a project where we could do anything we wanted. We had no limits, no rules, and most importantly, no step-by-step direction. All we had was the end goal of producing something. Looking back, it was pretty intimidating. As an honors kid, everything in school has always been mapped out by very detailed and precise directions. Before this project, I was never given this type of absolute freedom. Now, I find myself thinking outside the box with projects. I search for loopholes in the directions in the hopes of making the project a more accurate reflection of me. Constantly, I am trying to find new ways to approach assignments that have most likely been given out for years. Some teachers love this creativity while others…well the others are not the biggest fans. But they’ll eventually come around.

My personal BAI was writing a short story and sending it out to free, online publishers. My short story, The Final Sunset, had received Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy and Editors Choice by Teen Ink magazine at the time of the project. I was completely content with that, seeing that it was the first story I had ever released to the public. But in November I received an email from Teen Ink with the subject line of “Congratulations!”. I opened it to find that they decided to publish my story in their print magazine! My little story was now being blasted to hundreds of schools and subscribers alike. Currently, the online version of the story has over 1,050 views.

I haven’t really stopped writing since the BAI. The project helped me to realize that writing is my one true passion. While I love drawing and graphic design, my heart belongs to the pen. Teen Ink recently awarded me with a VIP membership, which is only given to writers who provide them with consistently great pieces. My poem “third period physics” was also given the title of Editors Choice last month by the magazine. Stepping away from Teen Ink, I had won my town’s local VFW essay contest and placed third in Ocean County with it. I am also working on a chapter book of poetry, which will be completed by the beginning of July. It is around 21 pages and consists of over 15 poems. Hopefully, I’ll be chosen to have it published for free through Button Poetry’s annual publishing contest.

A year later, the BAI still proves to be the most influential project of my high school career. It helped me realize that writing is the thing that I want to do for the rest of my life. Without this project, I might be looking into law schools, getting ready to waste thousands of dollars on a degree that I am not passionate about. To any teachers who are considering doing a Be About It Project or something similar: please do it.  We students need to learn how to think for ourselves and find out who we are. Giving us numbered lists and directions will not help us to achieve that. Passion-Based Learning like the BAI is more than a project, it’s a life experience.

~Alanis

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Come see me and Alanis and the rest of my crew at ISTE!

Until then,

GLHF

 

The Skills to Pay the Bills

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Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of non-combustible data, chock them so damned full of ‘facts’ they feel stuffed, but absolutely ‘brilliant’ with information. Then they’ll feel they’re thinking, they’ll get a sense of motion without moving. And they’ll be happy, because facts of that sort don’t change. -Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

I believe that the future our students will inhabit is going to look much different than it does today.

Consider This:

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College is becoming an unsustainable business model. Students are taking out bigger and bigger loans to pay for inflated college tuitions in a world where it is getting harder and harder to pay them back. Recently, many like Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News, and even Mark Cuban have been warning that the college bubble is set to burst like the housing market. When the college bubble bursts, the post-high school landscape will look much different. I think we’ll see fewer colleges (think about all the houses in foreclosure on your block) and fewer students attending them, as many colleges fail to prove they’re worth the price tag. Instead, we’ll see the rise of micro-credentials (badges), certifications, and endorsements.

I think the job market will look different as well. Consider this:

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The  above graph comes to us from a study done by Oxford University on the Future of Employment which says almost half of all jobs are in great danger of becoming computerized or automated in the next decade or so. For fun, check this out to see what may be coming to a job near you.

Of the jobs that are left, I think many of them will look much different than they do today because businesses are changing, too. Businesses are starting to realize that to attract the best and brightest, those who will be working the jobs that can’t be automated, they need to offer a work/life balance, perks, and other benefits. This is becoming a business’ culture and using this culture is how business will train employees to do things their way.

Take Google. Google has concluded what many in education refuse to acknowledge: GPAs and test scores are not an indicator of how successful a person is going to be. Instead Google finds driven, skilled people and teaches them to be “Googley” and embrace the Google culture. Many companies on Fortune’s list of best places to work offer their own version of culture to engage, train, and retain employees.

So if the future of college and jobs is uncertain at best and companies will put less and less stock in test scores and GPAs, instead looking for talented people they can train to do things their way, how can we better meet the needs of our students today so they’re ready for the world of tomorrow?

Skills.

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Skills, like those above, never go out of style and are only going to become more important as the job market becomes more competitive and businesses, rather than colleges, choose to train employees to do things their way.

So how do we help children improve their skill-set in the classroom?

The first step is for we teachers to accept the fact that we are no longer the only vessels of knowledge out there. People used to have to go to the schoolhouse or college to learn because that’s where all the information was stored. In our brave, new world the entire body of human knowledge is accessible to anyone with a cellphone and an internet connection. Teaching facts is of little importance today when students can just look things up (teaching how to separate good sources from bad is an important skill to teach, though).

What more, in this connected world, anyone can be a teacher. If anything breaks in my house, I go to YouTube and internet forums and teach myself how to fix it. I’ve fixed everything from my sink, to my car, to my hot water heater, every time being taught by classroom-less teachers I’ve never met. These teachers have helped me save thousands of dollars all because they felt compelled to share their expertise, for free, out of the kindness of their heart. Beyond fixing things, with the help of these classroom-less teachers, I’ve taught myself things like coding, website building, and video editing which I’ve used to improve my classroom and my skill-set.

So, accepting the fact that we, the teachers are no longer the smartest person in the room and that a classroom is no longer defined by four solid walls will hopefully motivate us to rethink our fact-based curriculums and replaced it, or at least infuse it, with a skill-driven curriculum.

How can we create a skill-driven curriculum?

The future of education (and most things) is experiential. A skill-driven curriculum is one that provides genuine learning experiences, full of agency and reflection, for students. The best ways I’ve been able to create experiences to help my students to improve their skills is to ask them these two questions:

What problem do you want to solve? Problem-Based learning is the best type of teaching that we can do in our classroom. Tackling problems in the community or in the world is in itself engaging and taps into so many skills and tangential learning opportunities. Some of the most rewarding learning experiences I’ve helped create for my kids were times when I supported them as they tried to change a school or town policy, improve school lunches, or help solve global warming or animal abuse. In every instance, my students failed, but with Problem-Based Learning failure is reframed as iteration. If it doesn’t work the first time, you don’t fail. You do things like reflect, rethink, adapt, analyze, all skills that are important to their future success, and re-attack the problem until it’s solved.

To really take Problem-Based Learning to the next level we need to get better at helping students not to be problem solvers, but problem finders. This will involve helping students curate and understand big data. We must also embrace games and gaming as a serious way to provide engaging learning experiences that can help tackle big problems like, say, a Global Pandemic.

What do you want to do? For years, I ran a year long, self-directed Passion-Based Learning project called the Be About It project. During this project students could choose to work on whatever they wanted, with whoever they wanted. All I asked was that they get up on stage at the end of the year and tell people what they did, why they did it, and what they learned. My kids did all kinds of cool things, as you can see in the link. If you listen to the videos, especially when they explained what they learned, many of their takeaways are about the importance of skills, overcoming adversity, planning, failure, and realizing that most things in life are not a sprint, but a marathon.

I can’t shake this feeling that we are doing a disservice to our students by focusing more on facts than skills. I challenge you kind reader, to consider shaking up your curriculum. Find ways to infuse genuine learning experiences by incorporating Problem-Based and Passion-Based learning into your curriculum. Rethink the importance of facts and grades and instead focus on helping students grow the skills and attitude it will take to be successful in the world of tomorrow since a skill-driven curriculum is the best way that we can prepare our students for an uncertain future.

Until Next Time,

GLHF

 

Of PARCC and Pivot Tables

Unnamed image (3)PARCC is finished in my district! It couldn’t have gone better. My Central PARCC team did a great job running the tests, the teachers were amazing, and the kids were fantastic. It was a total team effort and a smooth event from start to finish.

Now, to me, the fun starts. If you’re an avid reader of my site, you know I have a small obsession with data. So, after the first part of PARCC (PBA for those in the know), we made sure we surveyed all of our kids. It was important to me and my district to survey our kids because 1) we worried that the PARCC-peeps may not share their end of the year survey data with districts and 2) we wanted to make the best decisions we could for our kids as soon as possible.

The spreadsheet of responses for our Post-PARCC survey is 20 columns wide and 600 rows deep. Sheets like this use to scare me. Now, I love them. Why? Pivot Tables!

A Pivot Table is a data summarization tool found in most commercial spreadsheets (Google Sheets, Excel, etc.). I love Pivot Tables because it allows me to drill down into data and find meaningful takeaways to share with my school and community. With this PARCC data, I’m looking for takeaways that can improve the PARCC experience and instruction for my district.

Here’s an example of how I used Pivot Tables recently that will highlight their power:

One of our survey questions asked kids if they preferred to take the PARCC online or on paper. Here’s a pie chart of their responses:

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Without using a Pivot Table, I’d have to take this information for what it is, but what if I wanted to break this data down even further, say by grade, to see if I can glean anything that might make kids more comfortable with online testing. With Pivot Tables this is a breeze! Here’s how I setup a Pivot Table for a deep dive into this pie chart.

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First, Data -> Pivot Table. Then I set the row’s value to Grade and the Column’s value to the question I wanted to dive into. Next, I filled the Pivot Table with the answers to the question I wanted to dissect, and finally set it to summarize the values by COUNTA which is how you turn written feedback into numerical data.

Now, my Pivot Table looks like this:

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3rd and 4th graders favored online testing. 5th, 6th, and 7th graders were split. 8th graders preferred paper-based testing by a wide margin.

Now, conjecture! I wondered if 3rd and 4th graders preferred online testing because, for lack of a better way to say it, they don’t know any better. In New Jersey, until this year, they’ve been testing everyone on paper starting in 3rd grade. This is the first year that everyone has taken an online standardized test. Most people don’t like change, so maybe it wasn’t the online nature of the test 5th-8th graders didn’t like, but the fact that they weren’t use to it. I mean, 8th graders, who were the least into online testing, were the most use to paper testing. 3rd and 4th graders who preferred online testing have had the least experience with paper-based standardized testing.

I won’t be able to test this familiarity hypothesis until/unless PARCC releases the end of the year data, then I can look at change over time in test preference.

But as they often do, this hypothesis led to another. I started to wonder if student preference for paper testing had anything to do with a lack of device use. I mean, I would think that a student who was unfamiliar with how to use a device in an academic setting would prefer paper-based testing.

Luckily, with the help of a Pivot Table, I can dive even deeper into this question. Check it out:

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By adding the question and data, “How often do you use a computer or Chromebook in school” to the row section of my Pivot Table, I can make a Pivot Table that not only breaks students down by grade and shows me if they prefer online testing over paper, but also juxtaposes that with how often they self-reported using devices in school.

Here’s what the Pivot Table looks like now:

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Looking at the original Pivot Table of 5th, 6th, and 7th graders ambivalence toward online testing, and knowing that my students in those grades share Chromebooks, my original recommendation to my district probably would have been to get them more Chromebooks. Thanks to the Pivot Table, I can see that would have been a bad call. The new Pivot Table clearly shows my district does a fantastic job getting devices into the hands of our students. I may still recommend getting more devices for other reasons, but device use and preference for online testing don’t seem to be correlated.

That may not sound sexy, since I didn’t figure out why our middle grades weren’t thrilled with online testing, but not knowing the cause of something is just as important as knowing the cause. Instead of making the wrong recommendation, I can continue to explore the reason, if any, our middle grades were neutral toward online testing with the hopes of making the experience better for them.

This is just one recent way I’ve used Pivot Tables, but I encourage everyone to constantly survey students. Before I left the classroom, I surveyed my students every two weeks on a variety of things. I then used Pivot Tables to dive deep into their responses to refine my teaching practices. Now, out of the classroom, I’m using them to help my leadership team make the best decisions we can for our staff and students.

I’m an English teacher, so if I can do it, anyone can do it. Give Pivot Tables a try, they’re amazing.

Until Next Time,

 

GLHF

 

 

The Future of Education?

New_Games_for_Change_logoI was fortunate enough to be invited to the Games For Learning Summit on April 21st at NYU. The Summit, hosted by the U.S. Department of Education and the non-profit Games for Change,  was a … day-long summit to identify strategies for the broader creation, dissemination, and use of quality games in classrooms and beyond. Leading developers, producers, publishers, educators, students, and other stakeholders [were] brought together to break down barriers and have meaningful dialogues about what each party wants and needs so we can make progress in games for education together. The Games for Learning Summit was awesome. It was a great day of dialogueing and collaborating especially for someone like me who believes that games are a big part of education’s future.

One of the keynotes was Jesse Schell. His keynote focused on making bold predictions, as he often does on his YouTube channel, about what education will look like in the near future. I’m a big fan of Schell, so in the spirit of his keynote, I’m going to make a bold prediction about the future of education:

By 2030, I believe games in education will be everywhere and used in three distinct ways: games will be played to help teach and assess students, students will create their own games (think coding and STEM) with a focus on solving important problems, and students will actually be the games. That last part, students being the games, will be the most transformative of them all.

What I’m talking about when I say students being the game are Alternate Reality Games (ARGs). In an ARG, the game happens in the real world, in real time, with real people. I’ve run 4 ARGs in the classroom. The last ARG I ran was extra special, and I’m finally allowed to talk about it! This last ARG went global and my students and I were lucky to have survived. Behold: Scorch!

Last October, my Public Speaking class and I teamed up with Pearson and classes around the world to play Scorch. In this six week experiment, students across the globe, acting as important corporations and agencies, had to work together to stop a global pandemic. There was a government strand responsible for making decisions about the pandemic, a Biology strand responsible for trying to stop the pandemic, a business strand responsible for the economy during the pandemic, and a communication strand, my class, who played the role of a news company and had to report on the pandemic and the activities of the other strands.

Everyday, students received pieces of transmedia storytelling as part of a networked narrative that told them about the pandemic that was ravaging their world. Each week the transmedia storytelling would reflect students actions or inactions as part of the story. My students produced a weekly news show that helped keep the other strands informed. It was a living, breathing story that was taking place in the real world and my students were the main characters, not some pixels on the screen.

The strands interacted daily and the decisions they made impacted the others; every action (or inaction) caused a reaction. For instance, when the government strand imposed a curfew and quarantine on its citizens, my students, as the news organization, criticized the government for curtailing civil liberties which nearly incited a riot.

Another time, when the Biology strand asked the government strand to hand out the vaccine to the most vulnerable citizens, elderly and children, first, rather than the lottery the government was thinking about holding, my students came out in support of the biology strand which we believed played a part in the eventual adoption of children and elderly first distribution process.

My students also had to decide what pieces of transmedia to report on. Reporting on the Presidential address was easy, but my students had a hard time deciding whether to put the conspiracy nut, who claimed the pandemic was a false flag operation by the U.S., on the news or to focus on the former Surgeon General’s warning that countries need to take the fledgling pandemic more seriously.

While it wasn’t my class, I heard the business strand had quite a battle over the ethics of price gouging on things like Tamiflu, water, and gasoline during the pandemic.

I know Alternate Reality Games may seem hard to wrap your head around, but if you’re interested do some research to learn more. ARGs have a rich history in the business world where they’re used to generate engagement from consumers. The Beast was the first major ARG, while I Love Bees! is still my favorite ARG ever (Call me, Jane!). But, ARGs are creeping closer to the mainstream acceptance with shows like Lost, Movies like Cloverfield, games like Ingress (Bold prediction: the future of gaming will look a lot like Ingress), and even in music like Year Zero and books like James Frey’s Alternate Reality book series EndgameI mean how cool is this:

The future is in experientials; people want experiences. Students, who are in fact people, are no different. With Scorch, and all the ARGs I’ve run, my kids were active in the story, were given voice and choice that made a difference, the learning was authentic, and the engagement was unbelievable.

I see a future where we teach not with subjects or even topics (I see you, Finland), but through experiences. ARGs provide amazing experiences. In the future, students will be placed in an experience, role play the experience out, and then reflect and dissect how it went and what they can do better next time. Soft skills like collaboration, curation, leadership, and creativity will become the focus of schools and the subjects we teach now will be learned tangentially to these soft skills because in 2030 we will have finally realized that any job you get is going to teach you to do it their way anyway. ARGs and the learning experiences they provide are just the thing we need to reengage our students and prepare them with the skills they need for the future.

…Or I could be totally wrong.

Until then,

GLHF

TLDR: Dungeons & Dragons, bro.

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.

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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:

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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!

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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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