Sunday, October 20, 2013

Planning made easy!

At the beginning of the year, my co-teacher and I were contemplating of a better planning system.  We used Google Calendar for the past two years and found it was great for setting up a schedule, but lacked in adding detailed lessons and viewing them daily or weekly. Both of us wanted to be able to easily access our plan book and make notes of changes for us to see, so what better way to set up our schedule and lessons than to use  

We signed up and shared a login account for our one month free trial.  We can sign in simultaneously on different laptops or mobile devices, and enter lessons accordingly. As we refresh the page, we see instant updates of the lesson and we can add/edit/delete from anywhere and anytime.  It is organized and very simple to use.  It also has a bump feature where if a lesson couldn't be taught today, it can be bumped to tomorrow. Files such as worksheets, pdfs, images, powerpoints can be attached to a specific lesson. This way, the files can be easily downloaded or referred back to for future lessons.  There are also tabs to add Common Core standards and homework assignments. 

Here's a weekly view of our plans.  I love how it is color-coded, neat, and structured.   It can be printed daily or weekly.  We often return to it at the end of the day and update any changes that occur during the day. was designed for educators, the only catch is it costs $12/year, which is still cost effective given that a plan book is about $6 to $10 and we would need to buy two. Thus, no more writing twice and erasing necessary.  Happy planning!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Class Dojo Incentives

The first month of school is almost coming to an end.  At this point, many teachers might have behavioral charts and other modifications in place.  One that my coteacher and I find rather effective is Class Dojo (  It can be individualized or used as a class.  Each child is an avatar and positive or negative points can be given.  Some standard positive awards are participation, hard work, team work, persistence or on task. Some negative points are off task, disrespect, no homework, or unprepared.  If those don't suit your classroom, they can be changed.  
So you're probably wondering, now what happens after a class is created and the students start earning awards.  In our class, once a student gets 5 points, he/she gets to play on the iPad for the day.  It can also be free choice from a choiceboard.  Students can also be entered in a monthly raffle or choose a prize from the prize box.
We also use Class Dojo to account for homework.  We created a new class and changed all the negative awards to missing reading log, missing vocabulary, missing math hw, etc.  We changed the positive awards to makeup.  If a student doesn't have any points then he/she has a clean homework record and gets to enter into a monthly raffle.  If he or she receives three negative points, a note is sent home and he/she might have to miss Fun Friday or recess to do makeup.
Class Dojo is a great behavioral management tool and is highly recommended for any classroom.  A feature I like to use when I'm torn between choosing a student during classroom discussions or a volunteer is "randomly select," it's similar to picking a name out of a jar but digitally.  How awesome is that! The added sound effect for point up *ding and point minus *doom are a bonus too.  Don't forget to turn those speakers on.  It gets the students' attention and right on task. What a useful and effective tool!  Thank you, Class Dojo. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Smart Response Clickers Setup

Our class was extremely lucky to receive a class set of Smart Response clickers. It is an efficient way to get a quick assessment of the student's knowledge about a topic and to give a quick vocabulary quiz. It's also a great way to create questions or a poll to get to know your students better.  You should see the students' expressions when we hand out the clickers!  Ecstatic as ever.

So how do you set it all up? First you need to download Smartboard Notebook 11 software from the CD, then create a class. The best way is to initially make a spreadsheet with three columns (Student ID, First Name, Last Name) then import it. The student ID is the number the student punches in when they turn on the clickers, so we assign their mailbox number (1,2,3, etc.).  In Notebook 11, click 'Response' then 'Teacher Tools.' From here you’ll set up your class.  When the screen appears, enter your name, then class name.  Afterward, click on 'Add students to your class,' an import screen appears, click on your class then 'Next.'  The next button would take you to another screen to choose “Microsoft Excel.” Click 'Next” and another screen will pop up for you to choose your file.    

Afterward, plug in the receiver that comes with the set.  The green light will appear.  This picks up all the students' answers as they enter them.

Now's the fun part! You get to create an activity using Notebook. Click 'Response' then 'Create question.' There's so many options such as yes/no, true/false, multiple choice, multiple answers, text, and numbers.  

After you create your assessment, you can 'Start the test' under ‘Response’ and have your students sign in.  As each question appears, the student can enter his/her answer and the data appears immediately if you click on the Response tab (yellow clicker icon) on the side. It will display students who finish or who need more time. It also shows the percentage of students who chose A, B or C. I really like this feature because at the end of the assessment, I can pull up a bar graph or pie graph and discuss the questions the majority of the students got wrong.

From the data, I can also choose small groups for the next activity or assign a reteaching or enrichment page. This is great technology to have in class. It takes a bit of time to create the tests but once you have them, it'll be there for a while. Also the students love it because it makes them feel like they're on 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire' game show. The only downside, they can't phone a friend or use a lifeline. Happy Clicking!