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