Kahoot has been around awhile and is a go-to for many teachers when they want to review material in a fun way. Today I want to offer up an alternative that fixes many of the issues that teachers have with Kahoot.
If you're not familiar with Kahoot, it is an interactive trivia style game where the question is displayed in a central location and student can answer the multiple choice question from their device. While it is a big hit in with most in kids in many classrooms, there are some problems including students struggling to see the question on the projector, students guessing through questions because they are disengaged, or students guessing because answering quickly earns you more points and they want to answer fast.
Quizizz is still a game based system that allows students to gain points for answering multiple choice questions but:
-You can change the settings to let students earn more points based on how quickly they answer or not. (I love this feature!!!) It encourages students to take their time on the question rather than rush through it! Even when you do add the time feature it allows students to answer the question for points with no time left. If the end goal is to have students think through the problem and use their knowledge to answer it, this definitely encourages the process more than Kahoot.
- Quizizz lets you play the games in real time OR assign them as homework. I have been using Quizizz as homework assignments for my Algebra class and I love how engaged they are with the material. I can set the homework assignment to be offered once or to have multiple attempts.
Like Kahoot, Quizizz allows you to create your own assignments or quizzes to share publicly. Because of this, they have a huge bank of premade Quizizz games to choose from! If you are planning on using Quizizz as a review or homework assignment, you may be able to just search the site and reuse one that is already created!
Quizizz also has an app making it much easier for students who have a device but may not have access to a computer. I definitely suggest trying it out in your class!
We have chromebooks! Yay!!!!!
Now that I have chromebooks, I am ready to get back into a mastery based self-paced classroom. No, it is not truly self-paced because I am still working on a semester long time limit BUT it's as good as it is going to get...for now. A girl can dream!
I was originally using videos and guided notes from flippedmath.com to help students master the material. These guys, the Algebros, put in some solid work to create so many amazing resources for math teachers. I have a lot of students who love their videos and feel like they learn best by taking the guided notes from them. I have a few others who are not such big fans. I realized that while I was differentiating by pace, with access to the internet, there wasn't any reason I couldn't give them more resources to choose from in order to learn the material and differentiate by learning style.
My process looked like this:
-List the objectives for Algebra 1 in a Google Sheet (I LOVE SPREADSHEETS!)
-Link each objective to it's own padlet. If you have not started using padlet or something like it, today is the day to start. They can be private, public, or collaborative and they are fantastic for dumping all kinds of resources. I love using it to organize all the resources I find for teaching.
- Find resources for each padlet. I started by adding the matching Flipped Math link, IXL links, and Kuta worksheets to each objective's padlet. It took a while but what I love so much about organizing the information this way is that I can continue to add to it year after year. I am creating a library of free resources organized by objective...it would bet worth it even if it was just for me and not for students to access!
- Decide on mastery rules and base objectives. One thing Danielle and I have always loved about the self-paced mastery set up is that it allows us to differentiate the material more easily and discreetly. Do we have a student who has gone through some major family issues outside of school and has missed school? Do we have a student with a learning disability who needs a modified assessment? Do we have a student who needs more of a challenge? Taking all of this into consideration, I set up the BASE objectives. In order for a student to gain credit for Algebra 1, the bare minimum objectives I would expect them to master are bolded and underlined (this is a tracked class so this is the lowest level). I expect that most students who are in class and using time wisely would be able to master these AND an additional 5 objectives - I'll let them choose those. After they have completed this, I am done giving them assessments, I want to see them apply what they know and I don't want to see the same project over and over. Students who can demonstrate mastery of my basic objectives as well as an additional 5 of their choosing will have to come up with a project and tell me which objectives it goes with.
- Track and assess. I will still use Canvas quizzes to assess students on mastery when possible. The only time I have trouble using Canvas is when I want students to graph. I create multiple quiz forms for those few objectives to maintain the integrity of mastery. (Click here for more on how we avoid cheating in a self-paced classroom)
I added a calendar portion so students can see how much time they have until the end of the year and set goals accordingly. Each student has their own copy of this tracker on Drive and updates it daily. When they pass an assessment, they change the objective to green. Remaining required objectives are marked as red. I use Alice Keeler's Template Tab to create my own tracker for each individual student. At the beginning of each class period, I move from person to person and click on their tab. I ask which objective or goal they are working on and how they are working on it. I ask when they are planning on taking an assessment and assist them if they are stuck. I track this on my sheet and then move to the next student. This only takes about 10 minutes of class and allows me to check in with each student individually. It also gives me a great visual of students who are absent. Finally, I track their work each day. Are they using time wisely? Each student begins with 5 points for the day and loses a point for each time I have to redirect them.
We are not currently using the Self Regulation sheets but I am planning on adding it as a Google Form to end class each day. I am also still working on adding resources to each of the padlet's as well as creating assessments that truly fit each objective.
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I'm at a new school this year and I was looking for a way to get more involved. I was lucky enough to meet the Student Council sponsor who was very open to letting me help out. Student Council programs are different at every building so a lot of it was really new to me. I helped out at Halloween and Christmas events for the community where there were activities, decorations, and prizes for families and children to do. It was so cool to see the community show up in the school building. This last week however was one of my favorite events and after having a bad week (I read this post about a million times!) it was exactly what I needed. AND it would be pretty easy to replicate at your school if you wanted to!
Every year my school hosts the Love Bug Ball, a Valentine's dance for the students in the special education program. It started with just one or two teachers setting up a dance in their classroom for 4-6 students. They eventually reserved the commons area of the school and invited the special education programs from the local schools. A few years ago Student Council offered to do the set up and I am so thankful they did because it meant I got to help out!
Student Council students were out of class for 5 of their 7 classes Friday but it was time well spent. During 1st and 2nd hour we set up the room. With decorated tables, a photo booth, a DJ table, and a snack area, it definitely looked like any other high school dance I'd been to. A couple of students volunteered to be the photographers and write down the names of students and which school they attended so we could send their photos over. We had a playlist created on Spotify and borrowed some speakers from another teacher to set the mood. A few of the students parked themselves next to the snack table to keep it clean and the water/lemonade stocked. Each of the StuCo students were dressed up for the dance and at 9:15 just as 2nd hour was ending, we saw other dressed up students coming down the hallway! For the next two hours we all danced together! I loved seeing Student Council, Best Buddies, and 100+ students from local schools all dancing together.
After songs from Frozen, Annie, Michael Jackson, and more, the dance was over. We cleaned up and went back to class for 6th and 7th hours but I couldn't stop thinking about how great my morning was.
If you are wanting to do something like this at your school, first of all, I highly recommend it! The cost was minimal, mainly because we had so many re-useable decorations. Your first year may cost a bit more but if it's something you know you want to do next year, consider going through Valentine's Day clearance this week. We also partnered with Best Buddies who bought some of the snacks for the dance. We bought plastic table cloths, lemonade, balloons, and some more decorations for the photo center. Basically, do it. I am so thankful that I was included in helping with this event. It is definitely what I needed. It will easily become your favorite event of the year and who doesn't need something amazing like this to look forward to in February!?
Curriculum and differentiated instruction. These are two of the biggest emphasis in education since I started teaching 10 years ago. There are always educational fads and sometimes they are just renaming a concept related to curriculum writing and differentiated instruction. I would have to say though that in my opinion your curriculum and your approach to teaching are the biggest factors in whether or not you are a successful teacher.
When I first started teaching, I really didn’t think about curriculum. I was hired to teach 6th grade ancient civilizations and all of my material was essentially provided to me. I had an amazing mentor that had previously taught the same subject and a partner teacher on the other team that was also amazing. I really had great materials and I just fed off of what they gave me. My building would occasionally give us a work day to review the standards for our grade-level and make sure they matched what we were teaching. The problem was that no one ever gave us any instruction about how to do this, what to look for, or examples of quality curriculum. I just assumed that because we were covering the standards that we had amazing curriculum.
Fast forward to now. I have been teaching at my school for 7 years and working on my curriculum for 7 years. I really love what I have built and I think it is strong, but I still feel like I am just going off my gut of what I think curriculum should be like. I realized that I wanted to understand curriculum writing, what good curriculum looks like, and how to write a really strong curriculum. At the same time the past couple of years I have become obsessed with differentiated instruction and how to make it work in a high school social studies classroom. I have been searching for something to guide me on and give me a hint that I am headed in the right direction.
This led me to search amazon for education books and I came across Integrating Differentiated Instruction and Understanding by Design by Carol Ann Tomlinson and Jay McTighe. This immediately caught my eye. I am interested in curriculum writing and because of my recent move to student-directed learning I am trying to differentiate my instruction as much as possible. This seemed like it was meant for me.
Tomlinson and McTighe are seasoned educators that have multiple degrees and books on their perspective areas. Tomlinson focuses on differentiated instruction and McTighe focuses on curriculum writing. They are definitely experts in their fields.
A template and reasoning for planning backwards when creating curriculum
One of the best things is that this book takes you through step by step in planning your curriculum backwards. They provide charts and templates that you can use to start the process for yourself. That is really big for me as a person that loves to chart things out and see what it will look like at the end. The even better part is that give you logical reasons for why they have each step included. The break down what you do and why. I had a vague understanding of what it meant to backwards plan and it was something that I was sort of doing in my own planning, but what they presented was much more intentional. That was key for me.
There is too much to really give you the full low down but the three core pieces of the planning backwards in this book are:
They do a great job of taking you through each stage and talking about each piece of the stage with tips and suggestions of how to do it. They also give examples tied to different contents and grade-levels.
A reminder that I am responsible for designing and facilitating learning in the classroom
This reminder came at the best time for me. I had just wrapped up one of the hardest semesters of my teaching career and I wasn't sure what to do about it or fix the problems I was having. As I read this book, it reminded me that I am responsible for creating valuable learning experiences in the classroom and making sure that students are learning it. I had been wrapped up in the high school mentality that they need to learn to be adults and figure things out for themselves. This book reminded me though that it is my job as the teacher to guide them and find ways to make learning meaningful for my students.
Tomlinson and McTighe believe that teachers need to "balance student opportunities to make sense of the big ideas of content, to monitor the evolution of student understandings, and to engage in teacher-guided student reflection on and direct instruction related to the enduring understandings." This was what I needed to be reminded of. In my journey to create a student-directed learning environment, I let go of the teacher guided material and was pushing to hard for the students to create meaning all of the time. This book helped remind me of the things I knew to be true to be best practices and why I need to do them.
This book does such a great job in discussing the reasons why we do the things that we do. The first chapters of the book are dedicated to 'What Really Matters in Teaching' and "What Really Matters in Learning?' This honest discussion of why we do what we do and why it is important was a great refresher and affirmation of why I am a teacher.
What I also love is that Tomlinson and McTighe want the students to work for it. My favorite quote in the book might be "Understanding must be earned." That is the best! There is so much blame going around and while teachers have a lot of responsibility in the learning process, the most important thing is that we have to provide opportunities for students to earn their understanding.
Where differentiation occurs in the process of creating curriculum and what differentiation really looks like
I have never really been taught as a teacher what differentiated instruction really looks like. We talk about it a lot in schools and we all know that it is a good idea, but what does that mean. What does real differentiation look like? What pieces of the curriculum can be differentiated? All of these questions are answered in this book. Tomlinson and McTighe first talk about what differentiation really means then go through their stages of curriculum and discuss where differentiation can and should take place for students. They give scenarios to show what it looks like in different contents and grade-levels. I will say that there were times that I would like even more specific examples, but that is because I am very specific and like to see how things are broken down.
One of the things I have really taken from this process is the importance of pre-testing. It is hard to actually differentiate your instruction with out first pre-testing students for their prior knowledge and their interest in the content. Without this it is hard to create activities that will address student choice and readiness level.
Along with this I was afraid in taking the steps towards true differentiation that I would have to individualize everything for every student. That thought alone sent me into panic mode. There is no way I would have the time to do that in a way that was effective. Tomlinson and McTighe put me at ease though by saying that you do not have to individualize everything in the classroom. It is better to look for patterns of instruction that can help with multiple learners. This was such a relief. By identifying major patterns of instruction and areas that many students may struggle with, I can create supports and activities to build those areas.
I really recommend this book if you are looking for a book to take you through the process of designing a curriculum that works for all students and how to use differentiated instruction to better instruct all students.