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We choose the moon: assessment without labels

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Blooms Taxonomy, Classroom Management, education reform, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources | Posted on 10-07-2014

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“With willing hearts and skillful hands, the difficult we do at once; the impossible takes a bit longer.”- unknown

Yesterday, @Kevreadenn shared the quote above with me on Twitter. It had me thinking about assessment and John F. Kennedy’s, “we choose the moon” (embedded above – you should watch it again). The declaration that we WOULD send a man to the moon, that we would do the impossible, seemed like an unworkable task given the technology of 1969. It is astounding to me that the technology I hold in my pocket is significantly more capable than the technology that sent a man to the moon. Kennedy inspired a nation to dream together, to achieve the impossible using the resources that were available. How can we inspire kids in this way as they quest for learning? How can we help those students who look at the goal of reaching the moon and think, “this is impossible, I only have 1969 technology,” to be inspired, to look at their resources in new ways and believe that they can do the impossible?

Everyone wants to know that they are “winning” and contributing to something meaningful. The declaration that a man would go to the moon was a lofty goal. It seemed incredibly  important, as a nation, that we achieve this goal together.

It strikes me as strange that the majority of assessment that we focus on in education only shows lag data. The lag data reveals to us where a student landed in a given moment, but doesn’t offer any opportunity for course correction. It also doesn’t take into account outside influences (not enough sleep, home struggles, lack of nutrition, friendship stresses, etc.). If our goals are lofty, and we want learning to be better, we will stop focusing on the lag data as the most important, and instead focus on the lead data. Lead data shows us what leads up to the learning, it gives us insight in the journey and process so that we can adjust as we go.

The majority of grading systems fail to compel action from students because they show historical data only. Students are left believing, “I’ve failed, and now I have to move on knowing I already fall short. Now I have to continue forward from a deficit.” Or they may be left believing, “I aced this, I already know it all, I don’t have anything more to learn.” Traditional grades tend to end learning. Traditional grades also measure students against everyone else with the goal being a perfect score. (Notice that I did NOT say that the goal was learning.) This comparison can be demoralizing for students who know they will fall short of the perfect score. They begin to label themselves as “stupid” and often arrive at the apathetic stance of, “it’s not even worth trying.” The other scenario is the student that believes the goal of the perfect score signals that they learned everything they need to know. For these students, apathy comes in already having hit the mark. “I know everything I need to about x.” This line of thinking closes down creativity and the drive to learn more. Apathy is the killer of learning. It matters not if you are a straight A student, or a D student, traditional grade systems breed apathy and don’t encourage kids to go for the lofty goals. There will be no choosing the moon.

Grading systems need to be upgraded so that they engage students in the process of reaching lofty goals. When students are able to help set their own goals and the assessment happens as a part of learning, students are continually pulled forward in their learning. Each small win adds learning momentum that begins to snowball into something bigger. For those who struggle, the small victories reveal that they can win and they are making forward progress. This gives the confidence that all learning is possible and worth engaging (even when the end goal feels impossible). The students who find that learning comes easily aren’t halted by artificial ceilings. They aren’t left believing that the learning has ended and are encouraged to keep moving forward.

In starting Anastasis Academy, we quickly found that no traditional grading system could adequately assess students as they were learning. We ditched formal A-F grading and instead used standards based grading. The idea was that if we assessed students based on standards (which we used as some of our learning goals), stakeholders would be able to better map progress as they went. We use standards differently, at Anastasis the standards aren’t organized by grade levels, they are simply a continuum of foundational skills. It didn’t take long before the standards based grading was also falling short. There is SO much more to learning than simply meeting the standard. We were interested in helping students understand how their attitudes toward learning impacted academic progress. We wanted to help them understand how character spills into everything else that they do. We wanted them to see that more important than a “Math” grade, was the ability to think like a mathematician. We wanted students to be able to “choose to go to the moon” and contribute to something meaningful. We needed something more holistic that helped students see the intricacies of how learning works. We wanted them to be able to make correlations between their attitudes toward learning and the outcomes that they could see.

Anastasis Report Card

This is the “report card” that I created. It is our attempt to help kids better understand what contributes to learning. It is a helpful way to show students that they aren’t “stupid in math,” but instead help them realize that they aren’t risk takers in math. The aversion to risk taking in math is what really holds them back.

The Latin root of Assessment is assidere, which means “to sit beside.” At Anastasis, we believe that assessment is more than just a measurement, it is an opportunity for apprenticeship, a time for us “to sit beside” and guide. We’ve used various tools for assessment in our short history, our search was for the assessment tool that would offer a more holistic picture of learning. We’ve used Mastery Connect and Jump Rope, but they fell short in giving us that holistic picture because they were tied to Common Core Standards alone (and limited by grade levels). What our students do at Anastasis every day is SO much bigger and deeper than these standards, and yet we didn’t have a good way to demonstrate that. Beginning in January, we rolled out our own grading system. We call it UpGrade because that is what it felt like, an upgrade!

Our goal for feedback on the UpGrade report is twofold:

1. To give students feedback that causes them to think, engage, and reflect on their own learning process as they learn.

2. To give families a detailed account of the student’s learning journey and forward progress.

The UpGrade reports are designed to explain what students know and are able to do, rather than determining grades based on point averages. This kind of grading allows teachers to more effectively tailor instruction to students based on what they actually know and can do, no floors and no ceilings.

The UpGrade report contains the proficiency marks 1-5 (explained below). These numbers are intended to demonstrate the process of learning, students move through the levels of proficiency as learning progresses. A “1” indicates that a child is new to the learning or requires a lot of guidance. A “5” indicates that the student is able to apply the learning to new situations and make connections to other learning.

1- Novice Concept and/or skill is brand new, student is just getting started in the learning. Student requires much teacher guidance and prompting.
2- Apprentice Some prompting or guidance is needed for the new concept and/or skill.
3- Practitioner Concept and/or skill can be done consistently and independently. Student may require occasional prompting or guidance.
4- Scholar Student can apply concept and/or skill to new and/or different situations with little guidance. Student is ready to build on the learning (next level of standard). 
5- Change Maker Concept and/or skill come second nature and can be used to make connections with other learning. Students understand concept/skill and can apply, evaluate, analyze, and create using the skill/concept. Student can use skill/concept for in-depth inferences and applications.

Of course when you create a report card that looks like this, you also have to craft a grading system to populate the report card. Dang it.

This is where I had to get creative and use my limited resources to make something (that seems impossible) work. I used Apple’s Numbers as the method for creating the grading system. It is tedious work, the user interface is messy, but it allows lofty goals and the impossible.

On the back end, teachers can fill in rubrics, or learning evidence pages. These compile and end up as the final 1-5 on the image that you see above. Why did I use Numbers? It is the only spreadsheet program robust enough to incorporate the graphic above. The evidences of learning (assignments) and scores are the easy part. Getting the rubrics to work the way I wanted them to, not so much! I sent out a call for help the other night on Twitter and had some AMAZING spreadsheet ninjas step in to help me find solutions. I promised to share what I figured out…for those not interested in the technical bits, feel free to skip ahead. :)

Anastasis self-grading Writing Rubric in Numbers

This is the rubric that I was working on. I wanted it to “self grade” and then for the score to transfer as a learning evidence. It seemed like it should be simple, but this honestly stumped me for days. Thankfully my PLN stepped in to point me in the right direction!

I started out by creating a highlighting rule. This is simple in Numbers, just click on the cell(s) that you want the rule on and in the “cell formatting” pane, choose “Conditional Highlighting.” In each cell where teachers could leave a score, I wanted the cell to highlight when the score was added. I chose to add the rule “Text contains” and then the number that corresponded to the row of the rubric. Then I chose a color to highlight.

Next came the tricky part. In the cells full of text, I wanted the last cell to recognize when a teacher had typed in a number, and to add up all the numbers of the row so that we could get a total that would populate on the Learning Evidence sheet. I could find all kinds of ways to accomplish this in a Google Spreadsheet or in Excel, but none of the solutions seemed to work in Numbers. I kept getting a syntax error. I finally solved it by using the following format: =COUNTIF(B2:H2,”=*1″) In each row, I changed the number to reflect the score that it would count. This got me most of the way to what I needed, but it was only giving me a count of how many of the number were in the row, not giving me the sum (=SUMIF didn’t work). SO, I added another column to find the product of the “Countif” with the row number. Success! I’ll hide these two columns for the final grade system and just have the total at the bottom show up. This total is easy to then transfer to the Learning Evidence sheet.

THANK YOU @mathlioness @katieregan88 @mrmatera @alicekeeler @royanlee @jasonschmidt123 @benlouey @malynmawby @thomascmurray, you all are truly wonderful for spending time to help me solve this. I am seriously elated that there was a solution! Anastasis teachers will be thrilled as well! :) YOU ARE NINJAS!!

When people ask about Anastasis, they are usually curious to know how we’ve broken past the barrier of labels. We have students who are dyslexic, twice exceptional, have struggled in school, are gifted, know how to play the game of school, etc. Everyone of these kids chooses the moon. They choose to do the impossible and keep moving forward. They aren’t stifled by the learning labels. They know they are more than an “A” or “F.” They start to understand that learning is not the same as a grade. They begin to understand where their hangups actually are and can work on adjusting those instead of believing they are failures.  It is amazing what happens when you take away the labels and help kids understand that no matter where they start from, there is something to be learned, forward progress to be made. They choose lofty goals. They do the impossible.

EDpuzzle: Like Video in the Classroom 2.0

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Anastasis Academy, Art, Classroom Management, Create, Evaluate, Geography, Government, History, Inquiry, Internet Safety, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Music, Phonics, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), video, Video Tutorials, web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 06-02-2014

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EDpuzzle- Making video better: iLearn Technology

What it is:  EDpuzzle is a neat new educational site to help you better utilize video in your classroom for learning.  You can find and crop video to use only what you need, add audio notes within the video or do some voice over work for a video, and you can embed questions throughout the video to track student understanding. EDpuzzle collects data as students watch and interact with the video.  You can see if and when a student watched the video, and see the progress of all students through the answers to embedded questions.

How to use EDpuzzle in your classroom: What makes EDpuzzle great is the level of freedom given in cropping, sharing, and tracking video use in the classroom. EDpuzzle enhances the “flipped” classroom by allowing you to embed formative assessment directly into your videos. As students watch, you can check understanding and ensure active watching vs. passive watching. In a flipped scenario, this gives you the ability to completely tailor a lesson the next day based on the formative assessment results you get from homework. This is truly utilizing assessment to inform instruction (which is the point of assessment!).

EDpuzzle can be used in conjunction with videos that you have made for your students, or with videos that you find.  I like using video to introduce students to a brand new topic or idea.  Well-created video has the ability to quickly and succinctly help students dive into new learning and formulate new questions and lines of inquiry.  For example, when Anastasis Jr. High started our last inquiry block about “How the World Works” and explored the topic of food and farming, they started by watching the documentary Food, Inc.  This was a great way to launch their thinking and lines of questioning about where our food comes from.  Out of that video, students chose different lines of inquiry to explore and research.  EDpuzzle would be a good way for students to help others see where their line of inquiry started from.  Students could grab the clip of the documentary that intrigued them, and embed audio to show their thought process as they watched.  Sort of a Saved-by-the-Bell Zack Morris “Time out” moment where they can describe their line of thinking.

For primary teachers, EDpuzzle could be used as part of a guided reading center.  YouTube has lots of great read-along videos. (You can also create your own based on class reading!) Use these videos along with EDpuzzle to check for comprehension.  As the video plays, embed questions to check for understanding.  Students can independently go through the guided reading (or Close reading) activity, while you work one-on-one with other reading groups.  Rotate the reading groups throughout the week so that each student gets the opportunity to go through the EDpuzzle guided reading activity, and each group gets one-on-one time with you.  This is a fantastic way to maximize your time and get valuable feedback from all student learning.  EDpuzzle could also be used in this way as a science center (with a video pertaining to an experiment or new learning), a math center, etc. I love using center rotations because it ensures that I have time to work closely with each group.

For secondary students, use EDpuzzle is a great way to check for understanding.  It is also a wonderful way for students to create and demonstrate understanding.  EDpuzzle would be ideal for sub days.  I always dreaded being away from the classroom because it was essentially a lost day.  Even if the substitute did EXACTLY what I asked, I missed the opportunity to see my students work and think.  EDpuzzle would give you the ability to “teach” remotely and embed the same questions and promptings you would give if you were live in the classroom.  While you won’t get to hear all of the discussion, you will have some feedback to better understand how your students were thinking.

With documentary-type videos, EDpuzzle can be used to embed writing prompts.  Record a prompt throughout the video so that students can pause and write out their reflections and thoughts.  I find that good documentaries are often SO packed full of good things that by the end of the video, only the last 10 minutes get well-reflected on. The documentary Baraka would be an incredible video to do this with!

Have you seen Vi Hart’s YouTube channel?  I am obsessed! I love the way that she goes through math in a casual stream-of-conscious type approach.  Embed related practice math problems based on the topics that Vi is sharing in her videos.  As students get those light-bulb moments of, “oh, that is how that works!” capitalize on the new understanding by giving them a place to put it into practice and try it out.

Do you record your students learning? EDpuzzle could be a fantastic way to record audio feedback to the videos that they upload.  These can then be shared with parents and students for review.

Tips: Don’t have access to YouTube at school?  No worries! You can still use EDpuzzle with your students. EDpuzzle lets you search for video by topic, or pull video from Khan Academy, Learn Zillion, National Geographic, TED, Veritasium, and Numberphile as well.  LOTS of incredible learning just waiting to happen!

 

Degree Story Teacher Contest

Snap! Digital Reading Program: 128 leveled readers

Posted by admin | Posted in Download, Interactive book, Interactive Whiteboard, iPod, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Middle/High School, Phonics, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), video, Websites | Posted on 08-08-2013

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Snap! Digital Reader Library iLearn Technology

What it is: Snap! Digital Reading Program is a set of interactive leveled books that can be printed, viewed on iPad, Android, Kindle Fire, interactive whiteboards or classroom computer.  All of the books in the program have been developed to help teachers meet requirements in the Common Core Standards in vocabulary and comprehension through the use of direct instruction, close reading, modeling, guided and independent practice, and text-dependent questioning.  Each leveled reader has a digital interactive version that includes fluency exercises, comprehension and multiple-choice type assessments.  As your students read, you can track what they are reading, view the digital assessments and performance reports.  These reports include information about CLOZE scores, multiple choice scores, and fluency.  You can also see information about the  last book they read (word counts, difficulty, words read correctly, etc.).  Snap! Digital Reading Program also includes lesson plans associated with each book.  While the program isn’t a free one, a year-long subscription to all materials (interactive ebooks for student, printable PDF versions of the books/lessons/other materials, and the data analytics for all of your students is just $89.  Pretty reasonable for access for every student in your class!

How to use the Snap! Digital Reading Program in your classroom: I’ve mentioned this before, but it is worth repeating: when you have a limited classroom library (due to space, as a new teacher, budget, etc.) ebooks are such a great way to instantly expand that library exponentially!  Snap! helps you do that and more.  Not only are you able to offer your students additional access to reading material, they have the added benefit of getting interactive books that give you data so that you can better guide students in choosing books that will help them fall in love with reading.  The readers can also be used for reading interventions, guided reading, shared reading and tutoring.  The leveled readers are for students in grades k-8, so even if you have a super advanced second grade student, you can continually challenge them.

Snap! Digital Reader Library iLearn Technology

The flexibility of this program is fantastic!  I’ve long been a fan of Learning A-Z for their printable books, but they are limited to a printout.  With Snap! you have the option of printing out books, but students can also access them from home device, on the iPad, Kindle Fire, Android, interactive whiteboard, or classroom computers.  The eBook version of the reader includes audio, photo slideshows, glossary terms, videos, fun facts, interactive maps and animations.  The PDF version includes lesson plans, alphabet book, word books, assessment materials and individual student record books.  Regardless of how much technology you have available in your classroom, the Snap! program works.

In a one to one setting you get the best of all worlds.  Every student in your class instantly has access to 128 quality interactive books and activities.  Did I mention $89?! That is a great deal!  You also have the ability for offline pdf books that can be sent home for extra practice.  When I taught second grade, my students loved having a print copy of the ebooks that they read in class.  It was always a treat to have those printed to color and share at home.

In a one or two device classroom, you can set up a reading center for students to cycle through.  Students can visit the center once or twice a week to read.

Model reading strategies for the whole class using an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer.  Students can practice reading along and be introduced to new vocabulary.

Tips: The iPad version is not called “Snap!” Digital Reader.  The app you will download to access the interactive ebook library is Mobl21 HD.

Snap! Digital Reader Library iLearn TechnologyPrice of app: Free* ($89 yearly subscription required!)

Device: iPad with iOS 5.0 or later, Kindle Fire, Android, computer

Fluency Finder: App

Posted by admin | Posted in Interactive book, iPod, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources | Posted on 04-03-2013

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Normally I post all of my app posts at my other blog, iPad Curriculum.  Because iDevices are becoming SO common place as a technology in the classroom, I’m going to start posting them here as well.  If you just want apps, head over to iPad Curriculum and you can search apps only!  Just like iLearn Technology, you can search any app by Bloom’s Taxonomy level.  All of the websites I share on iLearn Technology are completely FREE, the apps I review tend to be a mix of free and paid apps.  At the bottom of each post, I share the cost of the app.


Screen Shot 2013-03-04 at 2.29.31 PMFluency Finder

What it is: Fluency Finder is a fantastically handy app that I learned about from my friend @dkapuler.  David was kind enough to offer Team Anastasis some download codes so that we could try the app out with our students.  Any teacher who has ever done fluency tests knows that they can be a little bit of a pain.  Folders and folders of passages to store, stop watch, scribbled notes on the page as they read, calculator, and keeping track of it all in an orderly fashion to refer back to later.  I’m a huge fan of anything that can help minimize the paper I have to store and keep track of in my life.  Fluency Finder takes care of all of this!  Not only can you record results, you can also maintain records on a class full of students and share information.  You can easily find and track fluency rates so that you have more time to help students strengthen reading skills and find books that are confidence-building and enjoyable.

How to integrate Fluency Finder app into the classroom:

Fluency Finder makes it simple to assess reading fluency in 1st-8th grade reading levels.  To get started:

  • Add students to the app
  • Select an appropriate grade level passage for the student to read
  • Print the passage from the www.fluencyfinder.com website (students could also read from their own iDevice or computer if you want to save paper)
  • Begin assessment, start the app timer as the student begins reading
  • Student will read from printed passage as you follow on your iDevice marking any mistakes
  • Tap the (+) button when student makes a reading mistake
  • Tap the (-) button if the student self-corrects a mistake
  • End the timer when the student finishes
  • Tap the “finish assessment” button to instantly see results

Now instead of focusing so much on keeping track of the fluency and score, you can focus on what actually matters: listening for fluency, comprehension and expression.

Being a paperless school, we are LOVING this option for helping students choose books that are at a level that is “just right.”  It gives us the opportunity to help students hunt down the perfect amount of challenge and really focus on a story they can love.  We are all about encouraging an absolute love of reading!

Screen Shot 2013-03-04 at 2.29.58 PM

Tips: Target Fluency Rates

First Grade: 60-70 wpm

Second Grade: 80-95 wpm

Third Grade: 100-120 wpm

Fourth Grade: 120-135 wpm

Fifth Grade: 130-145 wpm

Sixth Grade: 140-150 wpm

Seventh Grade: 150-160 wpm

Eighth Grade 160-175 wpm

Cost: $6.99 (iTunes link)

Compatible with: iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.3 or later

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using  Fluency Finder in your classroom.

Gooru: Fantastic new education search engine

Posted by admin | Posted in Classroom Management, Interactive Whiteboard, Knowledge (remember), Math, Middle/High School, Open Source, Science, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), video, Video Tutorials, Websites | Posted on 12-07-2012

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What it is:  Gooru is a education search engine for learning that helps teachers find standards aligned content and study guides.  5th-12th grade math and science topics are covered and include resources like digital textbooks, animations and instructor videos.  Gooru provides a place to connect with your worldwide personal learning network to share and ask questions.  Gooru is not just for teachers, students can use the study guides and self assessments to guide learning.  Based on the topics studied and the performance on self-assessments, Gooru begins to suggest resources and study guides to help gain mastery.

Gooru takes advantage of OER (Open Educational Resources) so that all content delivered can be accessed free of charge.

You can explore Gooru through resources, collections, quizzes, a standards library or a search engine.

How to integrate Gooru into the classroom: Gooru is a great step toward helping you personalize the learning experience for your students.  Use Gooru to find resources for your classroom and for individual students.  Invite students to create their own logins so that they can setup Gooru to be tailored to their specific needs.  As they study and take quizzes, Gooru gets “smarter” and begins to recommend content for them.

Gooru is ideal in a 1 to 1 classroom set up.  If you don’t have 1 to 1 access, much of the content can be shared using an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer.  Because of the nature of Gooru, it could be a great addition to the flipped classroom model.

Tips:  Gooru is currently in beta, sign up to help them test it out and make it better today!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Gooru  in  your classroom!

Mastery Connect: Standards Based Grading made manageable

Posted by admin | Posted in Classroom Management, Evaluate, Grade Level, iPod, Teacher Resources, web tools, Websites | Posted on 08-07-2011

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What it is: Mastery Connect is both an online standards tracking tool (parts of it are free) and a free iPhone/iPod/iPad app.  Because the app is truly free, I’ll start with it.  The Mastery Connect app is a handy way to keep the Common Core standards accessible while you teach.  The app sorts the common core standards by grade level, subject and strand.  This is REALLY nice for quickly locating and referencing standards.  Mastery Connect the website is the real gem.  The site is brilliantly designed, easy to navigate, aesthetically pleasing and best of all, it works the way you think it should.  With the Mastery Connect Master Tracker, teachers can assess core standards, monitor student performance and report student progress to parents and administrators.  Master Tracker makes formative assessment that is standards based manageable to keep track of.  Rearrange standards in the Master Tracker based on the order that you teach them in.  View only the standards you are currently assessing, and view the entire standard as a pop-up.  Within Mastery Connect, teachers can create and share common assessments.  Similar in feel to other social networks, Mastery Connect lets you connect with other educators to share assessments, interact and offer each other support.  It is easy to expand your PLN into the space, just find teachers with similar interests and goals and start sharing!

And now for my VERY favorite part- bubble sheet scoring. Mastery Connect uses GradeCam technology to make assessment about as quick as it could be.  Just hold up bubble sheets to your webcam or a document cam and it is instantly scored and entered into the Master Tracker associated with the student it belongs to and the standard it is addressing.  Seriously cool.  I am not a big fan of multiple choice testing (mostly because I think it is a lazy way to find out what a student knows and doesn’t give a true picture of what a student knows or can do) but I think I have figured out how bubble sheets can be used by teachers during formative assessment.  Students get immediate feedback from Mastery Connect and can see where in the standards they need some extra work.  Teachers can view class wide item analysis of assessment and can track progress by standard.

Students can also use iDevices (iPad/iPodTouch) with the bubble sheet app.  This is connected to Master Tracker so as soon as students input answers, it shows up live.  Are you feeling your assessment work-load lighten yet?

Students can also take assessments using any web browser.  It really is a tool that works for schools with minimal tech, to schools that have ubiquitous tech.

Mastery Connect exports to ANY gradebook or student information system.  A one touch export feature makes it about as quick as it could be!

Mastery Connect makes it quick and easy to keep parents informed of student progress.  Student reports can be quickly created and emailed or printed out for parents.  You can also enable parent notifications that will notify parents of student progress as it is entered.

How to integrate Mastery Connect into the classroom: Mastery Connect is actually the tracking tool we will be using at the school I am starting, Anastasis Academy.  We are doing away with traditional A, B, C, D, F grades all together.  I have yet to be convinced that traditional grading is productive and helpful for students (or teachers for that matter).

At Anastasis Academy, we are using the Common Core Standards as a framework for setting learning goals.  I see these standards as the critical-mass-of-knowledge that students need to be successful in learning.  Hear me say, I DO NOT believe that these standards are comprehensive of everything a child should, or wants to know.  They are simply the framework that we will use to build the rest of learning around.  They will help us to ensure that we have a rough road map of where we are headed in learning.  Students, teachers and parents will sit down for a conference each block and use those Common Core Standards to help map out learning goals.  You will notice that we don’t leave this up to teachers alone.  We want our students to have ownership and a say in what their learning looks like.  We don’t want the teacher to be the holder of all the keys, slowly revealing learning to students as they see fit.  Instead, we want students who can look at the learning ahead of them, and offer input about how they would like to go about that learning with parents and teachers acting as guide.  The Mastery Connect app will be SO helpful in this process.  Everyone will be able to access those standards easily at any time they need to recall them.  Brilliant.

We will use Mastery Connect a little differently than I’m sure most schools will.  Instead of bombarding students with multiple choice “bubble” quizzes and assignments, our bubble sheets will be for teacher use.  For example, we may create a bubble sheet based on a standard with the specific skills or content that we are looking for.  As we formatively assess students, the teacher can fill in that bubble sheet either on paper or on the iPad for instant input into Master Tracker.

Tips: I have been extremely impressed with all of the Mastery Connect tools.  Not all of it is free but the portion that is not free is very affordable ($4/student/year).  I like that Mastery Connect offers parent, teacher and student all of the information and tools they need to understand where they are and how they are learning.  The people at Mastery Connect have been dynamite, they are helpful, flexible and friendly!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Mastery Connect  in your classroom!

Grade Trac: Piles of paper to grade got anyone down?

Posted by admin | Posted in Classroom Management, Teacher Resources | Posted on 21-03-2011

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How many of you are stuck in a school *wishing* that you had more technology…especially one to one technology?  How many of you look longingly at the schools that are able to use Google forms or Turn It In to make assessment easier and more useful?

Grade Trac is a program that makes grading faster, easier, and provides teachers with more useful information to guide planning and learning in the classroom.

Grade Trac automates paper grading while offering increased accuracy and provides teachers with useful information that can be used to plan learning.  Grade Trac has shown to reduce grading time by 30% to 70%!  Pretty amazing…anyone need a weekend back?

Grade Trac automates the grading process of paper assignments, quizzes, and tests. Multiple choice questions get graded automatically, written or short answer style questions can be graded using the Grade Trac Rapid grading feature online.  Students grades and benchmark scores are automatically computed and displayed in Grade Trac.  These grades and benchmark scores can be printed for easy gradebook entry.  Teachers can quickly view a summary for an entire class…this makes it easy to determine what reteaching or next steps are necessary for learning.  After an assignment/quiz/test has been scored, teachers can generate a PDF hand back for students showing their answer, the correct answer, and comments.

Grade Trac also provides a place for teachers to create custom answer sheets with a mix of multiple choice, short answer, and essay questions.  The answer sheets can be enhanced with question text and pictures.  Everything you build in Grade Trac can be reused by you, and shared with other teachers in your school.

Grade Trac is brilliant in the way that it works.  First, teachers create an assignment, quiz, or assessment using the Grade Trac performance benchmark selection and question editor.  The assignment/quiz/assessment gets printed.  Students fill out the paper assignment/quiz/assessment.  These assignments/quizzes/assessments get scanned and all of their information is instantly uploaded to the Grade Trac website.  Any multiple choice questions get graded automatically.  The Rapid grading feature is my personal favorite- this is for grading written answers.  Let me give you an example of how this works, let’s say that we have 5 written questions.  Answer #1 shows up below the answer key for the first student.  The teacher can add comments and annotations as they grade.  Then they can view the next student’s answer for #1, and the next students, and so on until ALL of #1 is graded.  Fantastic!  This makes grading SO much easier.  Anyone else ever been grading and lost track of the number you were on and then suddenly wonder why a student is getting EVERY answer wrong?  (At least I hope I’m not the only one who has done that!).  When you are finished with the grading, you get a great summary of each question.  This is an at-a-glance resource for finding out what needs to be re-taught and where students need more challenge.  The grade summary helps guide your lesson planning.  The student hand back can be in pdf form or printed with all of the comments and annotations.

Essentially Grade Trac takes all of that paper grading and automates it, letting you grade it online.  No more taking stacks and stacks of paper home to grade.  Grade Trac puts everything online so all you need is an internet connection.  Pretty cool huh?  So, no more pouting that your school is in the dark ages, take this step and help them make inroads into the 21st century all ready!

Grade Trac was created by a parent of one of my students, he asked if I knew of 5 teachers that might like to try Grade Trac for FREE?  He would love to hear stories from the trenches of how Grade Trac works for you, what you might change, add, or delete from the program.  Not only will you get to use Grade Trac for free, you will get one on one support, guidance, training,  and fantastic customer support.

If you would like to be one of the five to test out Grade Trac at your school, leave a comment with your name, grade you teach, where you teach, and a way to contact you.  Five of you lucky ducks are going to say goodbye to piles of paper and use Grade Trac for FREE!

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!!

Posted by admin | Posted in Interactive book, Language Arts, Phonics, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Spelling, Teacher Resources, Websites | Posted on 04-05-2009

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What it is: This week (May 4-8) is teacher appreciation week.  To show their appreciation, Learning A-Z is holding an open house to their fantastic collection of learning resources.  This means that for one week you can access all online resources for free from Raz-Kids, Reading a-z, Science a-z, Writing a-z, Vocabulary a-z, and Reading Tutors.  Raz Kids is a student centered website where students can listen to and read books online independently.  Reading a-z is filled with thousands of printable and projectable resources including books, activity sheets, and assessments.  Science a-z includes multilevel books, activity sheets, process activities and more.  All are categorized by grade and topic.  Writing a-z is a collection of resources to help teach basic writing skills.  Vocabulary a-z is a website with a word bank of more than 8,000 words.  The words are categorized by content area, functional, and resource.  With this site teachers can build vocabulary lessons with activities for multiple exposures to words that leads to word mastery.   Reading Tutors provides online resource packets for those tutoring kids in reading.  It covers key reading areas from phonics to comprehension.

How to integrate Learning a-z into the classroom:    The collection of resources accessible in Learning a-z is incredible. Take advantage of this teacher appreciation week freebie and start using Learning a-z materials in your classroom.

 

Tips:  Sign up for a free pass during this open house week.  Enjoy!

 

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using Learning a-z  in your classroom.