Sunday, May 6, 2018

Hey Y'all!

It is TpT's annual Teacher Appreciation sale and it is time to treat yourself to something nice!  You deserve it!

As we wind down the school year, consider checking out some of my fun end of the year Math review activities.  Some of these are designed for test prep, but they also work great for end of year review. 

Here's a few products in my store:

 I hope you have an awesome end of the school year and a relaxing  summer!


Monday, January 15, 2018

Never Take Home Papers to Grade Again! - My 10 Favorite Ways for Students to Self Check

In my previous post, I confessed that I NEVER take home math papers to grade anymore.  The reason is that I have, over time, worked hard to develop ways for all of my math practice work to be self-checked by the students.

Here are my 10 favorite ways:

#1 Coded Joke Worksheets or Task Cards

Is it just me, or do you hate to grade task cards where the answer key looks like this?

 No offense meant to those who have created task cards like this (I have, too), but I prefer to use task cards with some sort of coded answers.   Joke and riddle answers are my favorite - I can check these with a glance and students love the jokes!  Way easier and more fun, too.

 A couple examples below.  See them all here. 

4th graders love "dad" jokes, but honestly, who doesn't?

#2 Crossword Coded Task Cards

 My wife and I love to do puzzles, especially when we travel.  One of our favorites is the 4 by 4 crossword puzzle found in the USA Today.  I had the idea to create some task cards that could be filled out in a similar way.  Once my students figured out how these puzzles worked they really liked them and asked me to make more!  When they are completed they look something like this:

#3 QR Coded task cards
I was amazed at how much my students enjoyed practicing problems like this! I have recently started including not just text based answers, but images showing the correct work. This helped students spot their errors more quickly. Try out the QR code below to see what I mean.

#4 Give students a calculator

If I am doing something that is just straight calculation, I sometimes have students practice checking using a calculator. It's funny, but because my students so rarely get to use a calculator they get really excited when I give them them chance to use them.

The activity below is one of my favorite calculator activities to practice place value using expanded form. Students LOVE this!

#5 "What's the word" style games

This is one of the products that I am most proud of creating.  This is an activity that works well for sorting numbers from least to greatest.  Students love trying to guess the mystery word before they flip over the cards.  Here are 3 examples from my TpT store:

#6 Interactive Google Slideshows

This is something new that I started doing just last year and it has worked really well.  Most of these slideshows that I have made have focused mainly on problem solving.  My reasoning for doing this with math word problems was simple.  It was one of the hardest assignments to give to students and have them complete with independence.  After a math period of students doing math word problems I was typically exhausted from providing help and answering student questions.  (Often the same question 15 times!)  

These activities allow students to click for a hint (or two) and then click to check their answer.  

See below for examples:

Unfortunately, I haven't posted many of these activities to Teacher Pay Teachers yet.  Be sure to follow me there as I'll probably post them for free or half off when I post them sometime this year.

#7 Put the answers on the back of task/scoot cards.

This is obvious, I know. But a lot of times I need to create an activity to practice a specific skill and I just don't have time to add QR codes or add a secret code or whatever.  I need it ready to go now

If I have all my questions or task cards prepared, sometimes I'll simply answer the questions on sticky notes and put it on the back of the cards.  Easy-peasy!  Or, if the task cards are something that I've made myself, I'll sometimes print them full size and just put them in clear sheet protectors.

This saves time from having to laminate and cut, too.

How to make a quick answer key

Sometimes, once I'm done making and printing the task cards, I then print the slides 9 or 16 to a page.  (see below how this looks with Keynote on a Mac)

After they are printed I put the answer on each "mini" task card.   Then I cut them out and slide these into the back of the sheet protectors It's fast and easy and it just get the job done.

#8 Use Accelerated Math

Many, many schools and teachers use Accelerated Reader, but it is surprising how few people are aware of another great product from Renaissance Learning called Accelerated Math.

This is a product which I have used with great success for probably over 10 years. Once a week, I assign a worksheet of problems for objectives that I have chosen as Math homework. Students bubble in their answers on a scan card like the one shown at the right and then score their assignments as they turn it in in the morning. 

After students scan their card, they get a report that shows what was answered right or wrong.  It also gives a breakdown of how they did on each skill.

Students who get 100% get a sticker or star on their paper and it goes in their take home folder. Students who miss any questions do corrections, hence the CAR (correct and return). During work time the students and I go over anything they are unclear about from the assignment and go over what was missed. 

No more waiting until the next day or after the weekend for students (and me) to get feedback on how they did. And for me, no more lugging home stacks of papers to grade each night. A win-win.

#9 Post the answer key

Again, this is almost so obvious I didn't include it. A lot of times I'll have the students do the work at their seats and just look up at the answers posted on the smartboard when they are done. 
If you want the students to move around a little, you can also post the answers around the classroom.

#10  Play a game where students must check each other

I Have... Who has... cards is one example a fun, and effective game to quickly review a concept with your class. It encourages teamwork and active listening skills.  It works great for vocabulary but can be adapted for almost any skill you can imagine.

Here's one I designed for reviewing algebra expressions. Get it for free here.

To further gamify this activity, I set out timers for each group of 4 or 5 and have them race to complete the game as fast as possible. Each day, they can try to beat their best time. I also like to post a leaderboard of fastest times in each of my classes. This really gets their competitive juices flowing!

I hope this post got your creative juices flowing as well.  If you have you own ways for students to self-check that I failed to mention, please add them in the comments.  

Thanks and have an awesome week!

Monday, January 8, 2018

5 Reasons Why Your Students Should Self-Check Math Their Work

Why have students self-check?

The question is really, why not? Here are 5 reasons why you should allow your students to check their own work.

1. It empowers your students .

The Ohio teaching standards state that "Teachers (should) involve learners in self-assessment and goal setting to address gaps between performance and potential." Allowing students to self-check is one way to give them a sense of ownership of their learning. My students love that they are given this control and choice. Gone are the days when I "give" my students the grade - they earn it when they demonstrate their understanding. They often know this before I do.

2. You'll have less papers to grade.

"Back in the day" I would take home a stack of papers to grade every night. If I was lucky, I may or may not get them all graded and returned the next day which the students would quickly glance at and take home where it may (or more likely may not) be looked at by parents. Sometimes on the weekend my wife would suggest that we go see a movie or something and I'd sigh sadly, and usually reply that I just had too much to grade. Well, the days of playing the martyr and dragging home a heavy bookbag full of papers to grade are done for me. I must confess that I NEVER take papers home to grade anymore. I used to feel guilty about this, but I've gotten over it because I know that ultimately, this has made me a better and more responsive teacher for my students.


3. Students receive immediate feedback.

The best time for students to receive feedback is as instant as possible. Fast feedback allows students to check their work for errors and correct if needed. If a student is confused or cannot find their mistake then they are able to ask me for help. No longer do they (or I) have to wait until I have graded all of their papers to know how they are doing.


4. It allows students to correct mistakes.

My students correct everything.
Yes, everything.

Here's why. Math, maybe more than some other subjects, is accumulative. By that, I simply mean that new skills generally build upon other foundational skills. Say, for example, a student knows 90% of his or her basic multiplication facts. That's pretty good, an "A" in many schools, right? The only problem is that 10% they don't know are sure to cause problems again and again as we learn multiplication of greater numbers, multiplying fractions, long division, multiplying decimals etc...


My students know CAR stands for Correct and Return. I take a mastery approach to learning math so students work on a skill until they achieve mastery. More on the logistics of how I do this in a future post, hopefully, but generally speaking students correct problems as they go. I'm always in the loop on this, as students show me all corrections and show me all finished papers. Ultimately, I try to focus my time on working with students as they need help. Which leads me to...

5. You'll be able up to help more students and more often.

For me, this was really the catalyst for why I started creating self-checking daily work and station activities in the first place. I soon discovered that when students were able to do this, I was free to spend more time working with the students who most needed attention. Ever wish you could clone yourself after a line of students up at you desk develops to ask you for help? I don't... anymore.

This all sounds great, but where's the catch?

I'll be honest...I don't think there is real catch. There are only a few things I can think of.

The first is cheating. If a student is doing QR coded problems for example, they could easily just scan the answer and write that down. The problem with that is that if they don't know how to do the work, they'll eventually get assessed on that skill with a weekly quiz and likely fail. They know they don't move on to a new skill until previous ones are mastered so there's really no incentives to take shortcuts in their learning. I also usually try to avert this problem by having a conversation with the students at the start of the year to explain that they are just cheating themselves.

The second problem I come across from time to time is the classic "I did it in my head" excuse. This is why I always have students show me their papers when they are finished.

The final and probably biggest obstacle is finding materials that able to be self-checked. Don't worry, I've got you covered. For daily math work I have created a product for every 4th grade standard.
  Check some of these out if you're interested:

Have a great week everyone!


Monday, August 7, 2017

Made it Monday - Badges!

"Badges! We don't need no stinkin' badges!

Last year, our grade level decided to try using student badges with our 4th graders as a way of acknowledging student achievements and recognizing positive behaviors.  We weren't really sure how the kids would take to it, but we jumped in with both feet anyway and we were glad that we did.  The students  LOVED earning badges.

Being that this was our first year using them, we didn't know how many badges we would have or how often kids would earn them, Nonetheless, we purchased clear trading card sleeves and special paper with the plan to make some trading card size (3.5 x 2.5 inch) badges.  My teaching partner, Mary, had the great idea to purchase 2 x 2 inch coin sleeves also.  Our initial thought was that students would keep them in binders that we used for Math.

The 3 x 2 inch sleeves looked like this with badges inside:

The 2 x 2 inch badges looked like this in the sleeves: 

Over last summer our grade level team brainstormed some badge ideas.  We wanted to develop some for academic achievements as well as for positive behaviors.  The academic badges were easy for me to come up with - I just broke my Math standards into general topics such as mastery of basic facts in addition, place value, multiplication of greater numbers, long division, measurement, etc...  My math achievement badges looked like this:

Behavioral badges were tougher to come up with at first, but as the year went on we found ourselves coming up with lots of ideas and made nearly half of the total badges throughout the year.
Here are some samples of other badges we made:
In case you are wondering, students earned the "iron bladder" badge by not having to use their potty pass for an entire quarter.  It was also good for a 5 point boost in Class Dojo.

Students earned badges for successfully completing STEM or team building activities.  We also used them as a small reward when class games like Kahoot or Quizizz were won.  Kids took a lot of pride in earning them.  We even made gold badges for students who won multiple times.

This summer, I started making some badges for Science achievement as I had done for Math.  Here are the badges I designed for that.

Tested objectives have a "4" because that is the highest level of
mastery in our standards based grading system
FYI: Here's how I stored them:

 When the kids mastered a new skill or earned a badge for another reason, they would collect it for themselves, so I didn't need to keep track of them at all.

So, how did I make these badges from scratch?

I used Apple Keynote and Pages, but I'm sure the same could be made in Powerpoint or some other programs.  If you want to get into the nitty-gritty, watch this "how to" video to see the process I used.  Its kinda long, so sorry about that.  I tried my best to go quickly while still including all the steps.


So, why do badges work?

If you want more explanation of why badges can be an effective motivational element of classroom gamification, I'd encourage you to read a series of blog posts I made about this topic.  Or, if you feel ready to try some broader gamification in your classroom, I highly recommend reading the excellent book by Michael Matera called Explore Like a Pirate.  It gave me a lot of inspiration to build upon many things I was already doing in my classroom and take it to the next level.  I believe it can help you excite your students about learning and make the experience of school even more fun. Hope there's something helpful for you here.  Have a great start to your school year!