October 31

This Quiz was Fun!

IMG_0326How many times has a student talked about an assessment being a fun venture in your class?  This morning, while I was visiting one of the teachers with whom I am working collaboratively this year, several students made comments about how fun it was to take the quiz and how much they wanted to earn a high score!

IMG_0325Yesterday, students in Lindsey Wells’ music technology class worked in small groups to choreograph a few simple dance moves which would be an illustration or rhythmic dance representing a set of beats or rhythms they selected.  Their performance was filmed.  Then, today, using the Aurasma App, students completed a scavenger hunt where they notated the rhythms presented by their peers.

IMG_0317Ms. Wells uploaded the student videos.  Then, she used Aurasma to create image triggers related to each video.  Next, a set of clues were provided to help students find the triggers, watch the video, and notate the rhythm.  Students completed each of the ten questions and turned their papers in to Ms. Wells.  She quickly checked the paper and handed it back for corrections when the notations were not accurate.  The first student to have a correct paper was awarded a small prize.

IMG_0314The interesting thing was, students didn’t even realize they were taking a quiz.  They worked diligently to complete their notation chart – working in pairs.  Then, they raced to turn in the papers.  They were eager to go back and re-view/listen to the video and submit a corrected answer.  They had to be reminded that the teacher had announced at the beginning of class that this assignment would count as a quiz grade!



I know that I have never seen a group of students so eager to answer a set of questions.  I’ve never known students to be so eager to re-do or make quiz corrections.  I know that I have NEVER seen students actually forget that the assignment they were completing would be scored for a grade!

So, what are the next steps?  My suggestion is going to be that the students film their own videos and create their own Aurasma trigger (Aura).  Give them a chance and they will generally rise to the challenge!

October 29

The Week In Pictures

Sometimes when we are teaching students about something historical the lesson can be dry, teacher-loaded, and uninteresting for students.  Why not let students do the discovery of some of the historical information or background knowledge relating to a piece of classic literature?  One way to do that might be to ask students to be creative.

Recently, a teacher I work with was looking for an innovative way for students to share that they understood what the world was like during the time period in which the novel To Kill a Mockingbird was set.  I think my best suggestion to her was to have students create their own news post.  Yet, I didn’t really suggest it to be a newspaper or online news magazine.  My suggestion was for students to create a mock-up of something we like to see presented by such sources.

Why not have students create their own This Week in Pictures relating to the historical period?  A good example is BBC News Your Week in Pictures.  Folks send in photos all week which are representative of news stories around the globe.  Then, the BBC News team select photos to post and include a little blurb explaining the significance of the photograph.

ABC News also offers a This Week in Pictures post.  The photographs represent the headlines of stories covered by the news team for the week.  They may show political events, natural phenomena, disasters, and celebrations.

Perhaps the most well-known of this type post is The Boston Globe’s The Big Picture.  For each day of the week there is a collection of photos with a central theme.  Each photograph also has a brief caption explaining the importance and relevance of the picture.

Wouldn’t that be a wonderful way for students to demonstrate that they really grasp the background and know what shows the signs of the times?  Wouldn’t this be an interesting assignment for students to create as a way to show what things were really like in the past?  The photos would reflect technological development, fashion, transportation, culture, society and so much more.  Then, the captions or explanations would document the students’ reasoning and justification supporting their choice of using that particular picture.

What photos might you use to fit The Week in Pictures for To Kill a Mockingbird or any other classic piece of literature for that matter?  Then, if the teacher asked you to take another step and create a second comparative set of photos for The Week in Pictures to show how times have changed since that historical period and how the first set of photos made an impact on the world to make the second set of photos be relevant…

What photos would you use to represent your past week in pictures?  What images from the past would you use to document the past that impacted the way our world is today?

October 28

Learn What They Know

It seems like our students are bombarded by tests these days.  The highly publicized summative assessments evaluate student learning at the conclusion of a defined instructional period.  These assessments are assigned a score and generally are recorded as scores or grades and can also be used to evaluate the effectiveness of an educational program.

Formative assessments are far more frequently utilized in a classroom and help teachers and students monitor student understanding.  Students can see how their knowledge base or skills have grown and teachers can learn the effectiveness of their teaching strategies and practices and plan for re-teaching as needed.  Formative assessments are some of the strongest tools in a teacher’s toolbox.


via Testing Autos


Edutopia.org refers to formative assessments as dipsticks, equating them to checking the oil in one’s automobile and quotes Robert E. Stakes who says, “When the cook tastes the soup, that’s formative; when the guests taste the soup, that’s summative.”


Why not integrate a bit of technology in your formative assessment this week?  Here are some simple ideas to try:

1.  Use Padlet and ask students to self-evaluate.  Post a few questions and ask students to respond by adding a post to a wall.  Questions might include:

  • What do you think your strengths and weaknesses were in this assignment?
  • What would you do differently if you were starting the assignment now?
  • How does this assignment showcase what you know and indicate what you still want/need to learn?
  • What are the three most valuable things you learned as a result of this assignment?
  • How much time and effort did you put into completing this assignment?

2. Make use of Google Documents by asking students to write a sixty-second-paper.  Ask students to write a paper which explains the three most important things they learned and where they still have confusion.  Then, use their response!  Choose a well-written paper and share it with other students.  Choose a paper which outlines common confusion, share it with the class, and ask the students to help clear up any confusion (and offer your own re-teaching as well).

3. Use Socrative.com to gather student generated content questions.  Ask students to submit a potential exam question.  Then use the listing of questions as a review of the material.  Use the spreadsheet report to select questions and actually include them on a quiz or exam.

4. Blog on!  Ask students to create a blog post which features six words that describe the most important points of the lesson.  Then, ask them to write a brief explanation or justification for why each word was chosen.  Later, you could encourage other students to offer comments and carry on a discussion about the chosen words.

5. Tweet about it.  Collaborate to create a hashtag which represents the lesson idea.  Ask students to post to Twitter the important concepts of the lesson.  Expect everybody to post something within a given time period.  Explain that if the topic is discussed thoroughly, the class can move on to the next lesson, if not, remediation will take place later in the week.

6. Use a backchannel.  Offer students the opportunity to post questions or comments about the lesson using a Today’s Meet forum.  Just before class ends, check the posts to offer answers to questions or rewards for quality comments.

Of course, there are many low-tech ways to take quick and easy formative assessments and probably the most valuable is often just to give the students a chance to stop and discuss something when the class is reading, the teacher is lecturing, or presentations are being shared.  It is so easy to just pause and say, take a few seconds to discuss this with your neighbor.  Then, ask students to offer up a synopsis of their discussion or ask questions which bubbled up during their discussion.  Of course, if students are spending the time looking around, watching you, or sitting silently, this could indicate a couple of things that the teacher needs to consider.  Does that mean the material isn’t challenging enough?  Does that mean the material is so confusing that students don’t know where to begin?


measureIn this day of high-stakes assessment which determines important results for students and serve as an evaluative measuring stick for teachers, we are ever mindful of monitoring student progress.  We preserve teaching and learning time as much as possible and limit testing as much as we possibly can.  Fast formative assessments can be some of the most valuable tools a teacher can implement as a way of learning what students know so that we can facilitate the learning of what they need to know.

October 23

Go Figure: The Week in Numbers

I stumbled across an interesting post on the web this past month.  It was found on the BBC News Magazine Monitor site.  Each week there is a post with a set of infographics entitled Go Figure: The Week in Numbers.

The post features a simple infographic with a blurb of information and a photograph or illustration like the one below

numbers bicycle

 Below the simple infographic is a link to a popular article that was trending during the week.  For the photo above, the article link is included within a question:  Tuesday: Copenhagen may be bicycle heaven, but what about the parking?

There is also a Twitter feed using this concept: #BBCGoFigure

I love it!  This is one of those things that seems to just suck me in.  I can start off by reading the current posting…then, an hour or two later I find that I have trolled back months to see what was trending and learn new bits of trivia  valuable information.

Then, my mind began working…Wouldn’t this be a fabulous assignment for students?

For social studies:

  • Students could create a ‘Week in Numbers’ infographic which reports what was happening during a bygone era…WWII, Civil War, Signing of the Magna Carta…
  • Students could create a ‘Week in Numbers’ which connects current events to historical events.

For science:

  • Students could create several brief infographics to represent the stages of a lab or experiment.
  • Students might report a ‘Week in Numbers’ which would connect a series of headline news items to the content being studied in class.

For math:

  • Wouldn’t this be a great way for students to show a representation of real-life examples for the math operations/problems they are solving in class?

For ELA:

  • Creating a ‘Week in Numbers’ for an outside reading book by sharing characters, setting, events, etc. of a work of fiction or facts and information from a non-fiction text would be a unique way for students to document their reading and make recommendations for their peers.
  • Students could find current news items which were impacted by past events and classic or historical pieces of literature.

I think the possibilities are only limited by the vision of teachers and students when it comes to creating a similar work to Go Figure: The Week in Numbers.  What would be your blurbs and infographics for this week?

October 22

Navigating the Essay Writing Process

writing navigatorDo you have students who are struggling with writing a research paper?  SAS Curriculum Pathways now has a helpful tool for struggling essay writers called the Writing Navigator.  There is a guide for planning, drafting, revising, and publishing.  So, it walks students right through the writing process.  What a wonderful tool this would be for remediation or for supporting young learners who are expected to write a formal research paper for the first time.

October 15

Did I miss anything?

Did I miss anything when I was absent?

Have you ever fielded this question from a student?  Did it cause you to gnash your teeth and bite back a smart-mouthed response?  Did it frustrate you that the student seemed to think that his/her absence meant that everything in your classroom just halted and anxiously awaited his/her return?

In a recent post by Grant Wiggins, my eyes were opened in ways that I had not considered in a long, long time.  He shadowed a couple of students to get ideas about coaching them as an academic coach.  The first questions it made me want to ask myself about the PD sessions I facilitate and the teachers I work with as we plan collaboratively is: Have you put yourself in the role of your students?  How would you absorb this lesson?

Probably the most important question Wiggins asked his student was whether she felt like she made important contributions to the class or if, when she was absent, the class missed out on the benefit of her knowledge or contributions.  This made me sit up and realize that I need to reconsider my reaction to a question students used to ask me upon return after an absence.  So, I’m going to ask you to stop and ponder as well…

Think about the most recent lesson you and your students worked through in your classroom.  If a student was absent, would he/she ask you THAT question?  Would he/she feel like it didn’t really matter whether he/she (or any student) was present and participating or not?  How much autonomy do your students have?  How much of their learning are your students directing or choosing?

Wiggins suggests that he would change lots of things about how his classroom might look if he were the teacher of record.

  1. Definitely, it wouldn’t be a sit-and-get!  Sitting down passively all day is exhausting!  Students need to be interacting, working, digging into the content!
  2. Offer mini-lessons!  Assessment-for-learning-type activities is how he references them.  Why not pose an essential or driving question and expect students to dig in?  Then, using a rubric or checklist, make sure they know what you want them to take-away.  If they don’t demonstrate the knowledge you expect, then kick in with reinforcements.  Wouldn’t this be far more engaging than a droll lecture?
  3. Offer a topic/word/term and ask students to pose the questions they think they will need answered right at the beginning of class!  Then, as a group, you and students could determine which question should be addressed first.  Have the rubric or checklist ready and offer students the opportunity to contribute a couple of things before you get started.  Then, post the rubric/checklist to your class webpage quickly and students can access it as they are working to make sure they are covering the material and showcasing that they know what they need to know.

I keep reminding myself that we have become a culture of instant gratification, personal questing, work-in-short-spurts.  So, instead of fighting that constantly, why don’t we build on that as a strength and roll with it?

You can bet that my next lesson and my next PD will certainly be planned with the opening question in mind!

October 1

Virtual Field Trips!

Traditionally, when we go on a field trip, we ask students to take field notes and use this information for assignments when we return to the classroom.  Create a Padlet or a collaborative Google Document as a way to collaborate and share field notes.  Then, take your students on a virtual field trip!  Discovery Education will celebrate National Manufacturing Day on October 3rd with an interactive virtual field trip.  The Manufacture Your Future LIVE Virtual Field Trip will be hosted from an Alcoa facility.  The “Manufacture Your Future” program provides middle and high school students with an inside look at careers in advanced manufacturing.  For more information about the virtual field trip or Manufacture Your Future’s program and free resources, visit: www.manufactureyourfuture.com .

For more virtual field trip ideas, check out:

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Panoramic Virtual Tour

Biz/ed Virtual Factory or Virtual Bank or Virtual Farm

Effects of Environmental Change: Melting of Glaciers in Glacier National Park

Google World Wonders Project

Google Art Project