At each school I have taught at there has been a need to use interventions with certain students, and to track the effectiveness of these interventions using data. This intervention process often has a different name depending on where you teach. The two most common that I have come across are: Response to Intervention (RTI) and Student Assistance Team (SAT). However, I've also seen it called (SST) Student Support Team, and even (Triple I) Immediate Intensive Intervention. Whatever it's called at your school, it means finding interventions that will close gaps for students to give them the best chance at success. And whatever you call it, in order to do it successfully, you must have a way of knowing if what you're doing is helping our students. This means you have to collect data.
Unfortunately, this often means more class time needed to collect that data, which we don't always have. So this year I have worked hard on using technology to help me collect some of that data. Saves class time, and teacher sanity! Here are the tech tools I've used:
1.) Google Forms - Using Google Forms is a great way to create a simple, pinpointed quiz for any topic that your students are struggling with. For reading, this could be a comprehension quiz. For phonics, you could insert a picture and ask students to choose the correctly written word. For math, it could be a few questions on a specific topic.
Any multiple choice questions assigned through Google Forms will be graded for you, with only open ended questions left for you to grade. You also have the choice of students taking the quiz once, or multiple times. You can release the "correct answers" to your students, or choose not to. You can assign the test to one student or to your whole class. The options are so limitless!
For intervention students, I use Google Forms in 2 ways. First, I pull data from the weekly quizzes I give to all of my students in order to see if my kiddos are applying what they're learning in small group with me to their "mainstream" activities. Secondly, I have a few quizzes for common skills that I give only to my students working on those skills. I make a copy just for them and have them take the same quiz multiple times (every 2 weeks for so) so that I can track how they are achieving on that specific skill.
2.) XtraMath - Basic math fact fluency is often one of my student's intervention goals. Increasing understanding of how numbers go together and increasing speed of retrieving facts are also both vital for students working on more complex math standards - like problem solving. Working on math fact fluency in small group is easy, right? You work on patterns, songs, flash cards, games, etc. However, collecting the data can be more complex.
For a long time, I used my Math Fact Quizzes because I could easily have students date them and use them to keep track of fact fluency data. However, we are now restricted on the number of copies we can make because administration wants us using our Chromebooks to their full capacity. So now I use the website XtraMath. Students work on it for 10 - 15 minutes a day and I get a full report of what problems they attempted, what problems they mastered and what problems they maintained.
3.) Flipgrid - We all know that the best way to assess knowledge of a subject is to sit one on one with each child. However, time rarely allows for that in the classroom. Instead, I use the website Flipgrid for students to create videos on themselves discussing their thinking.
Math problem solving is a common skill I work on during intervention time. Obviously math word problems is your go-to assessment for if they are able to solve the problem correctly. However, to truly understand how my kiddos are getting to their answers, I need them to explain their thinking. So, I have my students record their thinking into Flipgrid and use those videos to assess their understanding and determine where I need to intervene.
Additionally, reading fluency is super easy to assess using Flipgrid because you can set the timer to create a 1 minute video. Students read their set passage for 1 minute, close the computer and move on. You can then go back and watch the videos, count the words and really get a picture of their fluency. In addition, you can play those videos for parents during their SAT meeting. How much more powerful is a video of their kiddo reading than you telling them "She currently reads 35 words per minute."
Collecting data on students is not my favorite part of the job, but these tech tools have made it so much more manageable. This type of data collection has also made the focus truly on getting better interventions, instead of just on having data to put on forms for meetings. Since our focus should be on kids instead of data, I'd say that is a win, win!
It's happened! A Chromebook cart with a device for each and every student is now housed in my classroom! I'm so excited. I imagine all of the possibilities now that I have chromebooks for my students. It's better than a whole box of classroom supplies, because these little devices can connect us to so many options!
Then I think about how I'm going to manage 22 devices and 22 students. What if they break it? What if they go looking where they're not supposed to? What if, what if, what if...... Instead of thinking about what ifs, I used these chromebook classroom management strategies to keep us on track, and it's made for a great school year so far!
Chromebook Classroom Management
1.) Set up expectations and be prepared to repeat
At the beginning of the school year, I teach students how I expect them to use a notebook, how I want them to sharpen their pencil and how I want them to line up. It's obvious that I would also need to teach them how to use their Chromebooks.
The students rolled their eyes at me as I taught them where the power button was and how to plug in their headphones. But a few of them needed those instructions, and they weren't about to speak up and tell me that they didn't know. I also taught them how to hold the Chromebooks (screen closed, two hands, hugged to body) and how to plug their Chromebook only into the plug next to their number in our cart.
Each classroom's expectations will be different. This is what the expectations look like in my 3rd grade classroom:
2.) Develop procedures for dealing with food and water
Before Chromebooks I encouraged my students to have water bottles at their desks and to eat their snack while working. However, I have no desire to be the person who has to go to my edtech and explain that a Chromebook isn't working because a student spilled water all over it. So as soon as the Chromebooks arrived all water bottles were delegated to the students' supply caddies. Snack is now something that is eaten only when we are NOT at our desks, generally during silent reading or other non-technology reading centers.. And of course we talked about both of these changes and why they were happening. Now my students are the first to remind me if we have food or water near the Chromebooks.
3.) Set up your furniture where you can see MOST screens
I hate rows! Let me say that again, I hate having my desks in rows. They move constantly so that they're not a row and the kids have limited access to the students around them, which hampers those good educational discussions. (Yes, I'm a teacher who likes when my kids talk - mostly!) However, we started the year with rows simply so the kiddos know that I can sit at my table in the back teaching small group and see exactly what everyone is doing on their Chromebooks.
As time has passed, we've fiddled with the arrangement and now we have U shaped desks with the desks facing away from me belonging to my most trusted students. I still get up and move around as much as I can, but if I can't teach small group while students are on the Chromebook, then they are kind of pointless.
4.) Train your tech support helpers
One of my favorite classroom jobs is that of "tech support". These are the students whose job it is to go and help others who get stuck using their technology. In past years I had 2 students for the entire class. This year, each group has their own tech support. The students choose their own roles, and I approve them. So the kids with the most actual technology knowledge end up in this role.
One of the reason that I love having tech support is that they solve 90% of the questions that come up. Another reason is that when we are changing something small in our routine, I train only these 4 students. Then they are able to help their group. Now if we are starting a whole new website or program, I train the whole class. But if I moved the location of a link in Google Classroom, then I just show my tech supports and they pass on the news.
5.) Set up bookmark bars
The first technology skill I taught my students, after logging in, was how to bookmark websites. Then we bookmarked all of the sites we use regularly - Khan Academy, Pearson, Math Magician, Google Classroom, Flipgrid, Storybird, etc. This way they can easily get to their websites WITHOUT retyping it incorrectly nine times. Saves time, saves frustration, and saves a teacher's sanity!
6.) Practice accessing challenging sites
Even with bookmarks, there are certain sites that take a thousand clicks in order to access what you're looking for. The website where we access our curriculum in e-book is like this. It takes, no lie, 9 clicks for my kiddos to get to their books. This takes a lot of practice for students to remember those clicks.
On the first day that we had our Chromebooks, I had took them through all 9 clicks. Then I had them close it all out and do it from scratch. And then I had them repeat the steps 4 more times. The kiddos were not happy with me by that fifth time, but they could all get through the steps on their own. We talked about the importance of practice. Then, we did it again. Now they know that every time we start a new, challenging website, we're going to practice a bunch of times.
7.) Have students log in as soon as they arrive
One of the biggest complaints I hear from my fellow teachers is how much of their lesson time they lose by waiting for kiddos to log into the system. I bypassed this by making logging in one of the steps of their morning routine. They come in, unpack, move their name on the attendance board, grab their Chromebook, log in, and place it in the corner of their desk. Then they go about their morning work routine.
At first it felt odd for them to have their Chromebooks out if they weren't working on them, but now they know we'll get to them later. And it's much easier to say "jump on this site real quick" if they already have their Chromebooks ready to just be opened and accessed.
8.) Practice a "safe store" situation
Even though we have Chromebooks, the students are not working on them every minute of the day. However, I do not like wasted time in my instructional day, which means that I don't want kids to get their Chromebooks, put them away, and then get them out again. So, once my students get their Chromebooks in the morning, they keep them on their desk for the rest of the day.
In order to have our Chromebooks out all day, we must talk about storing them safely. For my classroom, this means that the Chromebook goes in the upper right corner of your desk, turned to the right. They are closed, and nothing is allowed to be on top of them - not even your arm. This helps students practice protecting the screens of their Chromebooks, by not pressing on the tops. It also gives them plenty of room for other work.
9.) Don't use them just to use them
Just like every other tool we have in our arsenal, chromebooks should be used with a purpose. They should be used to make our lives or our students' lives better, easier and more rewarding. They should not be used just because we have a new toy.
The ways that I have found to use my chromebooks that help enhance my curriculum are:
- having paperless assignments using Google forms and websites like Khan Academy and Math Magician that reduce the amount of grading I have to do. This also gives the students more instant feedback on many assignments.
- using the Chrome extension Snap and Read to allow my struggling readers to have assignments read to them. We've also used audio books on our reading program and voice recognition typing, so that our assignments are more accessible for struggling students. This means they can keep up better and avoid trigger behaviors like frustration.
- giving my students access to Genius projects, Storybird and Code.org during our intervention block. This engages my students actively, allowing me to pull small groups more successfully.
- posting video clips directly into Google Classroom instead of showing the video whole group. This allows students who might be out of the room for speech or gifted to not miss out on the video. Also, students listening on their own individual device with their own headphones tend to pay attention better than when they are watching on the big screen, sitting next to their friends.
- using direct links to activities that I want students to participate in, rather than general links to a website. This has been great for specific math games, but it has also been great for guided research, like in my Internet Scavenger Hunts.
10.) Be prepared for things to go wrong
I have a lovely new teacher on my team who told me she doesn't want anything to go wrong. I don't think I helped her when I said "Don't worry, they will." But, I spoke the truth. Things are going to go wrong. Computers will break. Logins won't work. Internet goes down. You mess up the way you assign an activity in Google Classroom (or forget to assign it at all). Just like everything else we do in the classroom things will go wrong. That's okay.
We need to be prepared to do our lesson in a completely different way, or to say "You know what guys, we'll try this again tomorrow." I often talk to my kiddos about what our plan was, how the plan is now going to change because of a technology failure, and what my thinking was behind the change. This helps our students to know that we need to have flexibility when dealing with technology. It also builds real life problem solving skills, which is something our kiddos need the most!
Touch typing : #EdTech :: handwriting : creative writing - why teaching the basics is still important
A few weeks ago, a teacher friend of mine shared a technology question on Facebook. She asked "Is it still important for us to teach touch typing in computer class?" She tagged me and a few other friends who are kind of "techy teachers", and the discussion that followed was interesting.
The majority of teacher said, "Yes learning touch typing benefits students." However, the overwhelming majority also said "No, it should not be ALL you learn in a computer class." So I got to thinking about it and realized that touch typing is to technology skills in the same way that handwriting is to creative writing. Important, but not the MOST important.
How is Touch Typing Similar to Handwriting?
Teaching touch typing basics helps students to use a computer more effectively. If students know where the keys are, they can type in anything faster and clearer - whether it's an essay or just their search criteria for YouTube.
Having clear and legible handwriting allows students to write a story more effectively. Not only can students proofread their own work better if their writing is clear, but they can receive help from others better. Also, when students are NOT publishing their work on technology (And let's remember student writing only began being published on computer in the 90's.), their neat handwriting allows them to get their ideas out to other people.
Why Do We Need To Teach the Basics?
I often hear "Is it really important to TEACH these touch typing skills? Won't students just pick them up?" Yes, my father can type on a keyboard in that hunt and peck fashion and he can get by. Yes, a students can often look at a letter and draw a similar one on their paper, even if they loop around the circle 3 times before giving the a a tail. Yes the basics can be picked up without direct instruction. But when they are picked up this way, students:
So it IS important for us to teach students touch typing basics, just like it is important for us to do some handwriting practice. If you're not sure where to start with touch typing - this blog post on Keyboarding Websites will give you some ideas.
Why Do We Need to Allow Time for Application?
Since touch typing is such an important skill, many teachers decide it is the ONLY technology skill needed. This is definitely not true either. Students who only work on touch typing exercises and touch typing speed tests are not truly learning to type, and they're DEFINITELY not truly learning to use the computer. Students need some time to work on touch typing - maybe 5 - 10 minutes a day, and then they need to move on to using that knowledge to do research, write papers, create presentations, make movies, etc.
If you're not sure what to do for application projects, you might consider:
What's happening in your classroom? Do you teach typing skills? Do you teach handwriting? If you're not teaching these basic skills, why not? I'd love to hear what's going on in classrooms around the world, so please leave us a comment.
My school district sponsored a fantastic technology conference this summer with ideas on technology for teachers and students. I was lucky enough to present at this conference, and you can find a video of my presentation in this past blog post. In addition to being able to share information about using technology in math instruction with other teachers, I was able to attend all of the other sessions. The amount I learned from the other teachers was tremendous. So today I'd like to pay that forward and share some of what I learned with you guys.
Here are 10 different tech tools that I'd never heard of before this conference.
1.) Peardeck - This presentation tool allows you to upload Power Point or Google Slide presentations. You can then share these presentations with your students in a format that they cannot edit. However, they can follow along on their own screen. Additionally, you can add questions and polls to make your presentation more interactive, as well as allowing for formative assessments.
2.) Adobe Spark - Getting students to work on graphic design is always a great way to add to research presentations because it increases engagement and exposes students to methodologies that they can use as grown ups. With Adobe Spark, students get to use graphic design to create webpages, images (think pinterest infographics), flyers, photo collages or narrated videos. It's almost like Publisher online! I'm going to have my students start out the year by creating a picture collage about themselves WITHOUT using any pictures of themselves. How could you integrate this?
3.) DeckToys - The big trend at my school for the one-to-one classrooms is hyperdocs. If you haven't checked out hyperdocs yet, they're worth a look and I'll have a blog post coming up shortly that addresses just them. However, at the conference we learned about a took that takes hyperdocs to the next level (and beyond), if you have the time to make them. In a hyperdoc, students use a document with embeded links to guide them through a lesson or a unit (similar to a webquest). With DeckToys, the students do all of the same things, but it feels to the students like they're playing a video game.
From the student side, they see a map with tasks that they have to complete in order to move on to the next task. As a teacher, you can embed videos, create drag and drop games, flash cards and questions as the tasks. It's a fairly straightforward system. I created a game for our first story in a couple of hours. While I probably won't use a DeckToys for every lesson, it's definitely something I want to include in my students' learning. I'd also love to turn the tables and get my kiddos creating their own games for each other!
4.) Scratch and Starlogo Nova - Coding! There are so many ways to work on coding with students, but these two sites were presented at the conference. Both allow students to use "puzzle pieces" to create code for a small avatar. This visual model guides students through boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) and If....then statements. If only as an "early finisher" activity, these are great sites and every class should get a chance to experience them!
Learning & Practicing Websites
5.) Wordsmyth - Unlike the other websites on this list, this website was not the focus of an entire session. It was one of those websites that came up in conversation, but it's awesome. Wordsmyth is a great online dictionary that includes 3 levels of definition for each word, synonyms, pictures, pronunciation and word parts. I completely plan on using this website within my vocabulary instruction this year!
6.) Quizlet - With this website you can create and share flash card sets with your students. These can be vocabulary words or any other matching activity. Students can practice the flash card set in multiple ways including matching, typing, playing games and even taking a quiz. It's a great way to introduce students to a new topic or to review before a test. Students can even take a turn creating their own quizlets!
Google Chrome Extensions
7.) Google Keep - This is one of those tools that will truly change the way you organize your time. I have started using it at home, and it's incredibly helpful! But the truth is it's just a virtual form of post it notes. It's funny how the simple ones are always the game changers, right?
Within Google Keep, you (and your students) can create and share to-do lists or take notes. You can also save specific websites and documents as links into these online post it notes. And you can color code different categories or subject areas.
In the classroom, this means students can take notes on a research topic and share it with their group mates. It means they can create a group to-do list and each check off tasks that get done. It also means YOU can make personalized or group lists and share them with your students. You can then see their progress through the list.
Outside of the classroom, you can create and share lists with your PLC or grade level team. You can use different colors to quickly see school checklists next to at home checklists. I even use it for my grocery list! (It's so satisfying to see items I've purchased disappear from my list!)
8.) Stop Motion Animator - Stop Motion Animator is not actually new to me, but I've only used it on a tablet in the past. I had no idea that there was a Google Chrome Extension that would give you access to the program - as long as your computer has a camera. The presenter who showed us Stop Motion Animator was actually using it with PreK students and the results were amazing. The students used stuffed animals and their Chromebook to create a video re-telling of a story they had read. It was simple to do. They worked in groups, and they showed real understanding of the story. If PreK students can do that, I can't wait to see what my 3rd graders can do when I set them lose on it.
9.) Snap & Read - Another Chromebook Extension that will change the lives of your students, especially your struggling readers. This extension allows your students to have any website or PDF read to them. Read that sentence again - an extension that will read aloud to your students ANY WEBSITE, ANY PDF, ANY DOCUMENT. It also has a feature which will simplify texts, define terms and translate texts into languages.
Think about how much easier it will be for a student with dyslexia if they can have their exit tickets given to them in PDF format and then have this extension read it to them, as many times as they like. They can do research just like the rest of the class and they won't feel like they're different. Honestly this is the tool I got the most excited about because I had 4 students this year who could have benefited greatly from this tool.
10.) Co-Writer - This Chromebook Extension is the opposite of Snap and Read. Instead of reading for your struggling students, it will write for them. Students speak into a microphone and the program writes out the sentences they say. It will read it back to them and allow them to change their spelling and grammar as needed. But the idea is that students can go ahead and write out their essay without stressing out over every single word.
I know this is a long, somewhat overwhelming list. It's a whole conference full of materials! But please bookmark it so that as the school year begins you can revisit the list and see which of these tech tools will best help your students. Also, feel free to share it with your PLC or teaching team. The more we learn from each other the better we all do for our students!
Beyond Word Processing: Why We Should Replace Typing Time with Technology Infused Math Lessons - and How We Can Do It Without Losing Our Sanity
This summer I had the opportunity to present about math technology in the elementary classroom at my district's Technology Conference. We have a wide range of technology in my district, ranging from a couple of computers to one on one Chromebook classrooms. So I needed to present ideas to these teachers which would help them learn about technology and math in elementary no matter what technology they had.
Technology at the elementary level is often used for typing essays and doing research. My presentation was about why and how we should be using it for technology based math lessons too! After the presentation I had multiple teachers stop and thank me for the information and ideas I had shared with them. So I decided to share a similar presentation here for you. I have recorded my presentation and below you will find the video, as well as the links to websites that I discuss in my presentation. I hope it will help you to infuse technology into your math lessons, making your technology time more impactful.
SAMR Technology Model
In my presentation, I use the SAMR model for technology. This model encourages teachers to look at the different ways they are using technology. It explains that technology can be used as a:
substitution for what you are already doing, like using virtual flash cards instead of paper ones or typing up something that could easily be written on paper.
augmentation to what you are doing, where the technology gives the assignment a little boost, but isn't irreplaceable. For example, websites like Khan Academy help us differentiate and using formatting tools makes our essays look better, but neither can't be done with paper/pencil tasks.
modification of an assignment that begins to take the task to the next level. This is where the assignment begins to NEED technology in order to work. You can do modification tasks like creating presentations or completing complex projects without technology, but it would be a lot more work. Modification often allows us to be willing to try out more complex tasks with our students because the technology is making the task easier for us and our students. A lot of project based learning and connecting with other classes falls under modification.
reinvention of a task into something unheard of before technology. These are the tasks that you wouldn't be able to complete WITHOUT technology. This is where coding and video making start to come into play and this is where students start to truly immerse themselves into the technology. This, of course, is also where some of the highest levels of thinking happen.
In my video I make it very clear that although we should all aspire to use technology as a reinvention tool when we can, teachers and students should be working at all levels of the SAMR model, just as we work at all levels of Bloom's Taxonomy. Here is the video with specific examples on how to do just that:
Links and Resources
Within the video, I discuss a wide range of websites and technologies. Here are quick and easy links to those resources:
- Websites for "online flash cards": Math Magician, Sumdog
- Google documents
- Online Math Games
- Math teaching videos and activities with Khan Academy
- Math practice websites that track student data and allow for specific differentiation:
Free: Prodigy Zearn
Paid: IStation IXL
- Google Forms
- Google Sheets
- Presentation Sites: Prezi, Google Slides
- Video creation websites: Powtoon, Screencast-o-matic, IXplain
- Video game creation websites: Tynker, Scratch
- Website creation and online portfolio websites: Google Sites, Live Binder, Weebly
The challenge from my video is also a challenge for my readers: Come up with a way that you can use technology in your math lessons at least once a week (once a day if you have a one-to-one ratio) during the upcoming school year. Please feel free to post your ideas here i the comments so we can learn from each other!
In the meantime, here are a few resources from my Teachers Pay Teachers store that may help you along the way:
Math and Technology Project Matrix (Free)
Technology Integration Bundle
Tutorial Video Creation Planning Sheet
Have a great day!
As a teacher, I have always tried to communicate a lot with my students' parents. I have a class website with a blog feature where I keep a weekly log of what we are working on in class. I have open conversation with my parents via e-mail and phone calls. However this year I started on a team that uses Class Dojo and I have been so impressed at how much Class Dojo has increased my parent communications.
I know that Class Dojo is not a new website. I know many teachers who use it effectively as a way to help students monitor their behavior by giving out positive and negative dojo points. However, one of my favorite features of Class Dojo isn't the student points. It's not even the instant message with my students' parents (although that's been great for parent communication too!)
My favorite feature is the Class Stories section. This provides teachers with something similar to a Facebook newsfeed about what's going on in class. During the day, I take at least one picture of what is going on. Then, during planning or at the end of the day, I post the picture with a caption that prompts parents to ask their children something. For example after reading the second chapter of The Case of the Gasping Garbage, I asked the parents to ask their students what made the garbage gasp. I have had great feedback from the parents on posts like this. The parents like knowing what's going on, but they also like having specific questions to ask their children that go beyond "What did you do at school today?"
In addition, I can take pictures of important forms that have gone home and post them to the story as a way to remind parents of things that are coming home before they even get there. This helps a lot with papers that get "lost" on the way home from school.
Do you use Class Dojo in your classroom? Do you have any secrets to using it to increase class communication? Let's learn from each other, leave a comment so we can all use this app to the fullest!
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