My new favorite classroom management tool

So it’s states standardized testing time here in Missouri.  Our 3rd-5th grade students are testing in the mornings which has caused a bit of a switch for us as they normally have morning specials.  While it’s kind of fun to see my K-2 kiddos in the morning rather than the afternoon they’re a bit wound and excited at the change.  This wouldn’t be a problem except my room has doors into two other rooms that are both being used for testing so the noise level has to stay low.  After several reminders Monday and clapping for attention several times I had to find a new way to handle the noise level, then I remembered something I had pinned a while back: Bouncy Balls just plug in your microphone (and turn off your speakers) and watch the balls bounce the louder it gets.  I think I’d like to start with this earlier in the year next time and actually let them play one day to see how loud it gets.  It worked really well yesterday when I tried it out and continued to work well today.  I drew a line across the board about halfway up and told the kids we needed to keep the balls below the line.  I was also able to have the page open on half of my screen while having a word document open for them to refer to on the other half.

As the library is the room next door I also wanted to do this with my fourth and fifth grade classes that can get quite loud sometimes but I wanted something more delineated for them and found the Calm Counter, with the levels on the gauge I can mark what is acceptable and what is not, with certain consequences to follow certain levels.

This has turned out to be a great way to handle the noise, all I have to do is tap students on the shoulder and point to the board and they quiet down, they really do want to see just how still they can keep the balls.


Repair Kit Fix 10: quality assessments

Fix 10: Don’t rely on evidence gathered using assessments that fail to meet standards of quality, rely only on quality assessments

This is a fix I’m particularly interested in reading because I’m not sure I write quality assessments and I want to know what the author suggests the identifiers are of a quality assessment.

“To be quality an assessment must be accurate.  Accurate assessment requires attention to three questions:

1) Why are we assessing?

2) What are we assessing?

3) How will we assess it?” (page 82)

Four criteria/features of test design quality are listed in the chapter.

In short:

1) Match question style to context, make sure questions will gather the evidence needed to show student achievement.

2) Tests must have good questions (specifically multiple choice) not bad ones.

This particular criteria could stand to be more specific.  I attended at least two different workshops where I learned to write quality  multiple choice, well at least for DOK (Depth of Knowledge) level 2.  I never could find anyone who could explain to me how to write a good DOK 3 level question.  The best answer I ever got was “Write a DOK level 3 constructed response then write answers to turn it into a multiple choice/selected response.”  The problem was every time I wrote the answers it seemed to become a DOK 2.  Without further help I think many teachers could struggle with writing a good question.  It’s been a long time since I’ve been in college but I don’t ever remember being taught how to write assessment questions, most teachers just used the tests that came with the textbooks.  That being said I made it a habit to review the tests I had given (and yes by that time I was writing my own using various sources) looking for questions missed by a high percentage of students to eliminate bad questions.  When I came across those questions I discounted those points from the exam so as not to penalize students.  If a student had happened to answer correctly I let them keep the points as extra credit.

3) Gather enough evidence to make valid judgements of proficiency. “We know we have enough evidence when we can confidently say that, if we gathered one more item it would simply confirm what we know now.”

Ok so is this done all on one test or through number of exams?  Does this depend on the student?  I need more information here or maybe I just need to put this fix into practice and see it work for myself, that might get me the answer I’m looking for.

4) Avoid bias that can distort results.  There can be problems with the student, the assessment setting, the scoring process, or the assessment itself can cause the score to misrepresent student achievement.

I’d say to the best of your ability because there are things you can’t control like students coming to school sick or without eating breakfast. I guess though this is where chances for retakes come in and the part from Fix 3 about sufficient evidence.

Teacher Vignette:

“My tests are composed of 10-12 high quality multiple choice questions that follow all conventions of multiple choice items designed to pinpoint where the errors are in student understanding.”

Ok this is all well and good but if teachers don’t know/aren’t taught those conventions how do they write quality multiple choice questions.  It might have been nice to get a reference to a good place to learn about that.



Teacher Appreciation

Next week May 5-9, 2014 is Teacher Appreciation week here in the US.  All across the country parents are planning what to do for their children’s teachers and some are wondering if they really need to do anything at all 🙂

We just got a letter explaining what is happening at my son’s school and I have the invitation to the staff luncheon at my school.

I have been working with my students to create things for their teachers.  I teach technology what better place to work on projects for teacher appreciation.

Kindergarten has each written (half day kids as I see them only once a week) or typed (full day kids because I see them twice a week) a message to their teacher and drawn a picture to go with it.  We will be binding these into books for their teachers but I have also scanned them in and uploaded them to Photo story so the kids can make movies, each child will get the chance to talk while their picture is showing.

First graders are typing letters to their teachers.  I have to say I have been really impressed with what they’ve come up with.  Some of my first graders have written full paragraphs to their teachers.  They are also drawing pics on the letters that will be bound into books.  Several have asked if they can write letters to other teachers, and one of my kiddos has already given me a letter she typed for me. 🙂

Second grade has brainstormed a list of things they’ve done this year, enjoyed about this year, adjectives to describe their teacher.  They then copy and paste that list into the creator at Tagxedo where they make a word cloud and get to pick it’s shape, font and direction.  As they are printing in black and white they can then color the words by hand.  Yep these are being collected into a book as well.

Fourth and Fifth graders have been using Google Drive for a while, so we created a shared folder and Google presentations (the Google version of power point) for each teacher they have.  The kids are completing a slide in each presentation.  Every class I’ve introduced this idea to has commented that I did not make a slide show for myself.  I love that they notice that, and it’s more than enough for me, though I did see two of my fifth grade boys whispering in each others ears after that was mentioned.

I thought I’d share what we’re doing for anyone who needs some ideas.  I know that they things that have always meant the most to me are the messages/lettters/hand made cards from kids.  If nothing else that’s the way to go!


Cakeway to the West day 4

Kiddo and I had to make a run to the store, and when we do that we usually go to Chesterfield Valley.  We decided to take the opportunity to stop and see the two cakes in the Valley while we were there.  First up outside the terminal at Spirit of St. Louis Airport.  The cake is actually right next to the Viewing Park.  In silver this cake was really cool.  Kiddo loved it.



After we hit the store we went across the road to Kemp Auto Museum to find yet another silver cake (I was not surprised to find that these two cakes had been designed by the same person.) Loved the references to various former StL car companies, especially Moon Cars.



Kiddo is now really excited to go see the cake at the Museum of Transportation, now to find time to do that.

One of my biggest pet peeves

I’ve faced this more times than I can count in the past few weeks alone.  I e-mail others to let them know of a change in schedule that effects them and not only get no response which I realize has become standard though it would be nice, students/classes show up when I can’t work with them or in a place where I am not.

It’s just so frustrating when I make a point of letting people know of the change and they don’t acknowledge the change or write it down or something.  I understand when it’s a last minute change but when I let you know a week in advance please pay attention to that.

I know in the past I have been guilty of this myself so I try to be extra diligent about letting others know about changes and making sure I note changes in my plan book.

Only a Teacher

Today I’m sharing yet another one of the poems I have on my Teacher Inspiration wall.  This one is by Dr. Ivan Fitzwater


Only a Teacher

I am a teacher!

What I do and say are being absorbed by young minds

who echo those images across the ages.

My lessons will be immortal,

affecting people yet unborn,

people I will never see or know.

The future of the world is in my classroom today-

a future with the potential for good or bad.

The pliable minds of tomorrow’s leaders will be molded

either artistically or grotesquely by what I do.


Several future presidents are learning from me today-

so are the great writers of the next decades

and so are the so-called ordinary people

who make the decisions in a democracy.

I must never forget these same people

could be the thieves and murderers of the future.


Only a teacher.

Thank God I have a calling to the greatest

profession of all.

I must be vigilant every day

lest I lose one fragile opportunity

to improve tomorrow.


YA Free Verse

My review of YA free verse books for What Will She Read Next? Unfortunately I forgot Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff, another excellent free verse book that I just discovered has two sequels. I’ll be checking them out and you should too.

What Will She Read Next?

9781442471818_p0_v3_s260x420 In recognition of National Poetry Month I wanted to share with you some examples of what seems to have become a big trend in young adult novels: free verse.  There may have been a few written over the years but in the past decade there seems to have been almost an explosion of books in this area.

The first I ever came across was Crank by Ellen Hopkins.  This book can seem overwhelming when you first pick it as will most of Hopkins’s books due to the sheer number of pages, don’t let this fool you though as the book is written in free verse it moves very quickly.  Crank is loosely based on Hopkins’s own daughter’s addiction to meth.  The fast flowing free verse style pulls you into the story.  I can’t tell you how many students came to me after reading it wanting to know what happened…

View original post 418 more words