Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Testing Trap for Teachers

I am definitely not an advocate for all the testing our students endure each year.  I am a firm believer that testing does not reflect a student's true ability or what they are learning.  Maybe that is because I was never great at test taking.  I would truly shine if I had the opportunity to show my learning through other means besides a multiple choice test.

Initially, when I started to write this post I was going to focus on the huge gains my students made on the MAP testing they took. I have the privilege of being a 1:1 classroom where I have the opportunity to individualize and differentiate instruction using technology as a learning tool.  I am sure this is one of the factors that  made a significant difference. Then day two of testing rolled around and I opened my eyes to what was happening in my classroom.

Test scores weigh heavily for our students more than ever.  It often determines whether they are high ability learners or need special services in math and reading or in any other area.  As teachers, we know our learners best. I try to instill in each of my students that they are a genius and have a gift to share with the world.  Most importantly they have a PASSION for school and learning. Then test day rolls around and it all changes! Not only for my students, but for me as their teacher!

Our students are setting goals on specific learning areas from the MAP test so their scores improve.  So fall came and my 4th graders took the MAP Test.  I printed off their goal sheets and even did it on my color printer so students could really visualize the improvements they needed to make.  

Winter testing came upon our classroom quickly.  Yes, I was actually a little nervous, which is not like me when it comes to testing.  I know my students more than any test they take. Day one of testing was reading and today they took the math test. On the first day of  testing my fourth graders came in the room, and when they saw MAP testing with a huge smiley face on the marker board, moaning and groaning broke out from around the classroom.  I just smiled, and told them they love taking tests and will do awesome.  I had them get out their goal sheets to review what they have been working on and the score they are striving to achieve.  

As a team we came up with a MAP chant, and my fourth graders decided they would do Miraculous on the Test, they would Achieve, and they would Persevere!  We moved, we stretched and woke up both sides of our brains.  Our team also brought healthy snacks to enjoy during the testing, okay we actually have snacks every day in our classroom! 

Then, complete silence feel upon the classroom.  As I watched, I wish I could say they looked happy and excited about the testing, but what I saw was a lot of anxious, nervous,  and stressed fourth graders.  The passion they have each day for school vanished.  I saw my students fidgeting, looking around the room, and a few almost in tears. Yes, it broke my heart!

Several students finished quickly, most took a lot of time to complete the test.  As each student finished, they got out their goal setting sheet to record their scores and set new goals.  Believe me I couldn't be prouder of each and every one of them.  

Students beamed with pride and celebrated the growth they made on their test.  Most of them met their goal and many exceeded.  Some missed by a few points,  and a couple didn't meet their goal, which as a teacher I knew why.  Others viewing the scores of my students don't always realize that I know my students best.  

Yes, I plotted scores as well as skills that were mastered, which I have never done to the extent as I did this year. I emailed parents of successes and also emailed parents whose children were extremely disappointed.  Yes, ten of my students already met their end of the year MAP goal in math, and eleven met it in reading.

What does this actually mean and prove?  Absolutely Nothing! I realized that I fell into the Testing Trap!

 It broke my heart for the few who didn't meet the magical number on their goal sheet. As I looked at their faces and body posture,  it changed completely.  Yes, I did see tears too. One student tried to hide them.  She were disappointed in herself.  The ones who didn't meet their goal looked around the room and watched their classmates beam with pride. As their teacher, I know it is my fault! I congratulated the students who achieved their goals and consoled and encouraged the ones who didn't. 

To be honest, I am not sure why I am writing this post!  Maybe it is because I am sad for the few students in my class who feel like they failed even though I know they didn't.  I know my feelings on testing, and yes, I know my students best.  The sad truth is every time the testing period rolls around, I feel an added pressure, and I know my students do as well with all the expectations put upon us.

So, do I feel like I let some of my student down -YES!

Peter Reynolds

Yes, we had a GoNoodle Party after our "high-stake tests"! My fourth graders did decide that I should bring donuts in the morning to celebrate!  Most of them wanted chocolate with sprinkles! Not the healthiest, but they are excited to get back to our normal routine until our next "big" test comes upon us, which will be sooner than later.

As for tomorrow, I can't wait! Donuts and Dancing to Begin a New Day of Learning!

Peter Reynolds sums it up perfectly!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Free Apps to Showcase Students Learning in Math

Students Show their Learning
There are a lot of apps to showcase student learning.  Below is a list of free apps and sites that students can use to demonstrate their knowledge through screencasts, drawings, posters, sketches, video recordings, and audio recordings. I have also included some apps and sites that check for students understanding of the concepts being taught. A perfect way to individualize and differentiate math instruction.

Students can create diagrams of math concepts and then label and annotate their work. They can also share their work to their camera roll and create a movie showing their knowledge of the concept being taught.

Tutorial for Skitch

Brie app smashed Geoboard with Skitch and then created an iMovie

Students can create, explain, and share demonstrations in math.  They can create videos showing the concepts they are learning.

Doceri is an interactive whiteboard for the iPad.  It is great way to evaluate students' understanding  of math concepts.  Students share their knowledge of our district essential objectives and math concepts. They can then send their presentations to iMovie.

Another great app that students can use to create and show what they know! 30Hands is a story telling app, and students can create presentations in any subject area.
Shadow Puppet is a free app that my students love to use.  It is a digital story telling app.  One way my fourth graders have been using it during math is for the tested math concepts.  They also use it to explain and give examples of our math vocabulary. 
Share Student Work


Eme app smashed and used Geoboard with PuppetEDU


Canva is an app we have just started to use.  It has so many possibilities to use in all curricular areas.  We have been using the presentation feature of Canva.

Natalie saved her presentation in her camera roll and then sent it to iMovie.

Doodle Buddy

                                                                                                   Hayden's Work
Using Doodle Buddy allows students create drawings and paintings. There is variety of drawing tools, as well as a full palette to colors. Students have the ability to select a size and there is a built in sound feature. There are a variety of backgrounds for students to choose from and you can add images and backgrounds from the internet. Students can add their images to their camera roll and then create a video of the math concept that was taught. 


Educreations is a recordable whiteboard where students can create lessons and explain math concepts. Students are able to create and share what they know! 

We are using Geoboard with our geometry unit.  It is great because it helps students visualize and create the concepts we are learning about.  Many students used this app when showing their knowledge of the skills being taught in our geometry unit.  

It is great to use for individualized and differentiation of math instruction. My high ability students find Khan Academy very challenging. Teachers can assign students specific content to work on that ties in directly with district curriculum.  My students love to use it at home too! 
Tutorial for Khan Academy
Student Reports

Front Row  My students use Front Row on their iPads throughout the week.  Not only does it differentiate instruction, but it ties in with our district curriculum, and is aligned with Common Core. Students can use it at home. 

Individual Student Reports

 This is a free and easy app to use to assess math skills.  They can review math skills and vocabulary through flashcards.  They can take a quiz or play a matching game.  Easy for teachers  to set up quizzes or reviews.  Students are engaged while they are learning. I recently upgraded to the paid version.  Tutorial on Quizlet 

My students LOVE Kahoot and it can be used in all curricular areas.  We have used it to review for each Topic in Math and our Benchmark Tests in math.  Students simple go to and type in the  game pin and the fun and learning begins.  After each question it shows what students selected as the correct answer.  You can look back at the question and answer choices to discuss the problem. It keeps students on their toes as it keeps track of the top 5 students on the screen.  Creating quizzes is easy, and you can also search for public ones.  
YouTube Tutorials for Kahoot

Sunday, November 23, 2014

EPIC - Thousands of eBooks at your Fingertips

EPIC! is a great app for kids to use at home or school.  We have just started using it in all curricular areas.  What is even better is that EPIC! is free for educators.

Students have access to thousands of free eBooks.  Many of the books are bestsellers, classics, and from some of the best publishers. Some of the publishers include Simon and Schuster, HarperCollins, and National Geographic Kids.  Also, there is an amazing collection of nonfiction books. The books stream immediately, and they do not need to be downloaded. There is also the option of reading the book offline. Students also have the opportunity to rate the book after reading.

Books Stream Immediately

You can browse for books and there is also a search option. Another feature that I really like is the ability to add books to favorites. 

Learning about Electricity in Science
All Formats and Ages

EPIC has a bookshelf that sorts books according to genres, recent reads, recommended for you, read to me,  recently added, and popular on EPIC! The genres include Fiction, Nonfiction, Living Things, Humorous, Daily Life, Science and Nature, World, Mysteries, History, Fantasy, Sports, and Assorted Topics.  Selections can also be filtered by age-related recommendations too. 

Books are added Daily
Most Popular Books 

Teachers are encouraged to share the App with parents so it continues to be free for educators. Parents have a free trial period of a month, and then it is just $9.99 a month.  The books available are at reading and interest levels of up to 12 years old.  

Recently we were learning about verbs during language. All students had the book To Root, to Toot, Parachute opened on their iPad while I airplayed the book and we read it together.  Definitely an App we are using during Daily 5 and language arts. I have found a lot of books that tie in with our science and social studies curriculum.  There are so many possibilities for using EPIC!  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

4th Graders Share the Importance of Blogging

As I reflect upon my teaching, often it is other teachers' blogs that I turn to for ideas and inspiration. My one year anniversary for my blog is this December, and I am still not 100% comfortable posting, and yes, I still get nervous when I push the button to publish.  I am so proud of my students because they are definitely the complete opposite and LOVE to publish their posts.

In this post, I decided to turn it over to my fourth graders.  We have all read a lot of posts about the importance of student blogging from an educator's point of view, so I decided to put a twist on it.  I shared a Google Doc with my students and had them write their top five reasons they like to blog.  It did not take them long to share their ideas and comments.  As a team, they had so many reasons that we decided it would be best to work together and narrow it down to ten that they all agreed upon.

Jerry Blumengarten

I have also included many of the quotes they created on Glogster and Canva about blogging. Their quotes are a true inspiration.  

I went back and reread what each student wrote prior to posting this and LOVED something one of my student's shared. So to start their post here a quote from Eme.
Eme S. - "I like to blog because it's the next best thing to writing a best-selling book."

Here are the fourth graders thoughts and 
rationales about the importance of blogging. 
Lessons Learned about Blogging

Teaching Others
When we blog, we teach others about what we are learning, and we may even teach them new information. What we write might inspire someone else.  Our writing can give other student's ideas. We also learn a lot from reading other kids' blog posts. 

Global Connections
Blogging is fun because we get to blog with kids from all around the world.  We are creating global connections, and we learn from each other.  Last year, our class had the opportunity to blog with author Ms. Jena Ball.  This year, we have made friends with classrooms throughout the United States, from Shekou, China, and Canada. We develop friendships with others from around the world when we blog.

Here is a comment one of my students received from China. 
Personal connections are made when student's blog.

Worthy of the Web
Blogging is important because it makes us a better writer.  Our class always talk about keeping it  "Worthy of the Web".  We are able to show our writing skills with others.  Also, we become better writers when we read other kid's blogs. Since we know lots of people will read our post, we have to proofread and check over our writing carefully before we publish.  Sometimes my friend's in my classroom check over my post before I share it.  We love how other people read our work besides just our teacher or parents.

Student Voice
When blogging we get to express our ideas, thoughts, and feelings. We have our own voice when we write. It is great that we get to share our voice with the world! Everyone can share their own voice.  Also, we love sharing our creativity! 

You get to talk with people from all over the world and ask questions about their blogs. We can also ask questions about where they live.  When you ask others questions, you are really learning. A lot of people ask questions about our blogs and what we are learning about.

No Right or Wrong Answer
Blogging is great because there are no right or wrong answers.  I can share my ideas and feelings with the world, and I am proud to write.  

We love to have people comment on our blog posts.  It tells us different people love our writing and care about what we have to say.  We always write back to the person who comments.  Getting comments is one of our favorite things and we are always checking our blog posts.  Sometimes we get suggestions on things we need to improve in our writing.  There are a lot of things we learned about commenting.  You need to write something positive about the person's blog.  We can also share a personal connection.  You always want to try to ask a question. Remember to sign your first name to the comment you are done.

Sharing our Passion
We can share what we love with others. We make people happy by letting them read our blogs.  I get to share my stories and what is important to me.  

Blogging Buddies
We make friends with other classrooms by blogging. This year we participated in the Global Read Aloud. We are blogging buddies with a class from California. We have been sharing our ideas and thoughts about the book our class read together.  We are able to comment on each other's blogs. This year, we not only have blogging buddies from the United States, but also from Shekou, China and Canada.

Classroom Curriculum
Our class loves creating presentations to put in our blog posts. It gives others a better understanding of what we are learning and writing about.  We can app smash when using Kidblog.  We like to add videos and what we wrote in Pages. We write in all subject areas.  Each week we have a different writing genre.  We always post our final draft to Kidblog. 

Powerful quote by Fourth Grader Natalie M. to sum up the Importance of Student Blogging

A thought turns into an idea, an idea turns into a sentence, a sentence turns into a blog, and the blog grows and turns into success, as does the brain of the author. 

Thank You Fourth Graders
We would love comments on our Blogs!

Student Video on Blogging

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Fourth Graders Thank Our Veterans

Happy Veteran's Day - November 11th, 2014

On November 11th, Veteran's Day is celebrated throughout our country.  It is a day to honor and recognize the men and women who have served in the Armed Forces.  Living in Bellevue, Nebraska by Offutt Air Force Base many of the families in our community are currently serving or have served in the military.  

In honor of Veterans Day, my fourth graders wanted to thank our Veterans on this special day. Many of my students been affected personally by having family members in the Armed Forces.  

Each student came up with a creative way to share their 
gratitude and appreciation for our Veterans. 

By Angelique
In honor of her Father who is currently in the Air Force with over 18 years of service.

By Natalie
Dedicated to her Great Uncle who Fought in World War 11

By Tia
Dedicated to her Nana, Papa, and Grandpa who Served in the Armed Forces

By Aidan
In honor of his Grandpa who Fought in WWII and was a Bomber Pilot

Dedicated to her Uncle Seth and Papa Jake

In honor of all Veterans

By Kaitlyn
In honor of her Uncle Jason who is Currently serving in the Army

Dedicated to her Grandpa who was a veteran and was also buried on Veterans Day

By Lainey
In honor of her grandpa who was a Pilot in the Military

Kidblog Entry written by Jaxon
In honor of his friend's father-Thank you Mr. George
Jaxon's Kidblog- Thank You Mr. George

By Hayden
Thank You Veteran's

By Sian
Dedicated to her Father who Served

By Ava 
Dedicated to her Brother Drew who currently Serving in the Air Force

By Gavyn
In honor of his mother who recently retired.

By Sean
His video is Dedicated to many Family Member who have Served

Madison's Kidblog explaining the importance of Veteran's Day
In honor of her Mother and Father
Madison's Kidblog - Dedicated to her Mom and Dad

By Beau
Dedicated to all Veterans

By Caitlyn
Thank You Veterans

By Olivia
In Honor of all Veterans

Thanks to Peyton for creating a Stick Around Puzzle in Honor of Veterans Day

Thank you Fourth Graders for your 
amazing tribute to our Veterans

Friday, October 24, 2014

Ten Reasons a 1:1 Classroom is Best for our Students

After teaching for almost 30 years, becoming a 1:1 classroom was the biggest game-changer in my career and for the students I have the privilege of teaching.  As all veteran teachers know, the pendulum swings back and forth when it comes to teaching the basic curriculum.  What we did twenty years ago in reading/language arts or other curricular areas somehow surfaces back into our classroom years later. No matter what curriculum is implemented in a district, having 1:1 classroom can make the instruction happen at its best!

Last February, I had the privilege of becoming a 1:1 iPad classroom, and I have never been more excited to teach.  I have always had a passion for teaching and like most educators our lives revolve around our students and our work day never ends.  Yes, we want what is best for each student who counts on us on a daily basis. Having a 1:1 classroom is making that a possibility.  Having access to technology in our classroom on a daily basis is such a powerful learning tool.

As we know, the most important component of a successful school year is establishing a relationship with each student in our classroom.  To most educators this is a given.

Rita Pierson

Why has becoming a 1:1 classroom become 
such a game-changer for my students and me?

21st Century Learners 

 John Dewey sums it up perfectly, "If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow." 
Our students need to be 21st century learners to thrive in our world today. 

Individualization and Differentiation

As educators, we know that all students in our classroom learn differently, and they have different academic needs.  This is the first time in my teaching career that I know I can truly differentiate and individualize instruction.  In the past, I would hand out an enrichment worksheet in math or reading, or assign an additional project. Now, it doesn't matter what subject area, there are so many ways to differentiate and enrich the curriculum in a 1:1.  Being 1:1 gives me more time during the school day to work with students individually and in small groups.


Creativity happens daily in a 1:1 classroom.  Learning is possible at each child's fingertips.  When students have opportunities to be creative they are problem-solving, questioning, discovering new ideas, and taking ownership of their learning.

Ken Robinson

Global Connections
Our students are 21st century learners and it is important that we connect outside the four walls of our classroom.   These learning opportunities are not only important, but it truly makes learning relevant for our students.  From Mystery Skype's,  having a global audience through blogging, meeting authors, or taking a virtual field trip, these are just a few examples of how our students can connect globally.

 My fourth graders LOVE to write.  We use Kidblog to share what we are learning in the curriculum.  The comments they receive from all over the country and world keep my students motivated! 
Our Kidblog Site is Mrs. Evon's Fourth Grade 

 Movie Trailers are created by my students for each of our Mystery Skypes.
Mr. Wigmore's Class from Ontario, Canada

One of our first Mystery Skype's

Connecting with Mrs. Dowling's Class from California for the Global Read Aloud created by +Pernille Ripp

Students have a Voice and Choice 
Why do we all have to show what we learned in the same way?  
“It is our choices, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” – J. K Rowling
When Students are given a Choice....Learning becomes Relevant

Jerry Blumengarten

Students Show their Learning 

What did you ever learn and remember from completing a worksheet?  When students have the ability to show and explain their learning, it becomes relevant.  It is learning at its BEST!

Angelique and Jaxon summarizing their reading selection for the week.

Brie's ThingLink for our Social Studies Essential Objective 
Middle West

Robert John Meehan


Collaboration and Teamwork happen on a daily basis.  Planning, organizing, teamwork, and presenting are such important life-long skills that students carry with them throughout their life.

Jerry Blumengarten

Our Students are the Best Teachers

My fourth graders teach each other on a daily basis.  They airplay tips, suggestions, and how to use the apps; as well as share their work and projects when working on district curriculum. Students become the teacher, and ownership of their learning happens when they are in charge. Students teach each other, their parents, and staff.

Students sharing what they learned in health.

Student Engagement

This is the first year in my teaching career that I don't have a specific behavior plan in place.  For years I have used a credit and debit banking system.  Prior to that, I have tried many other behavior management plans.  This year-NOTHING!  Behaviors seldom need to be addressed, because students are truly 100% engaged in their learning.

Test Scores

Unfortunately, this is an area that haunts educators on a daily basis!  We know the learning that takes place in our classroom each day is most important.  Unfortunately, this is not enough for people making the educational decisions.   We need to look at individual growth as many students come to us not on grade level or even above.  With having technology as a learning tool, all students have the opportunity for remediation, enhanced, individualized, and differentiated instruction.  With students who have the opportunity of a 1:1 classroom, district and state test scores will only continue to rise. This will definitely be an area that I continue to monitor and a great topic for a future post.

MAP Testing

Okay....Actually Eleven Reasons 
Students are excited to come to school and on most days they don't want to see the day end.  They are passionate and enthusiastic about learning. Yes, at times we are even late for our specials and recess.

21st Century Learning at its Best
Students are creating, collaborating, and connecting globally! Students are enhancing and enriching their learning of district curriculum and objectives through the use of technology on a daily basis!

Jane Goodall