Tag: website review
3 Free/Freemium Tools for Rubrics
Rubrics are a well-accepted, even transformative tool for assessing student knowledge over a breadth of criteria. Their deep granular detail enables students to quickly understand what is expected of them, teachers to receive critical feedback on student learning, and both sides to benefit from an agile yet objective tool for measuring workflow competency.
But they are not without their problems. The pre-online versions weren’t dynamic or flexible, couldn’t be re-used, and few teachers had the time or energy to build these summative, purpose-built assessments. That changed with online rubrics. These webtools offer standard topical text that can be quickly personalized, saved for re-use in the future, and easily updated year-to-year to reflect changes in the curriculum and desired learning outcomes.
There are many online rubric creators, each with a little different twist on the norm. Here are three that fill different needs. Decide which works the best for you:
Rubistar is the gold standard of online rubric creators. It lets teachers personalize categories and qualifications, save, and then edit for another class. You can use the site rubric templates or modify them to better serve your particular needs. Rubrics can be created in English or Spanish, in ten different subject areas, with ten or more skill categories (this varies depending upon the subject chosen).
Here’s how it works:
- Set up an account so you can save your rubrics, making them available to be re-used and edited for future needs. This is optional–rubrics can be created without registering.
- Pick the subject category you wish to create a rubric for.
- Start with a generic template or from scratch. Alternatively, search by keyword or topic for rubrics other Rubistar members have created and remix those.
- Pick a grading scale–either numeric or descriptive.
- Pick a category for each row from the drop-down list and the rubric automatically populates with language defining what the category would look like based on the rating.
- Edit criteria so it perfectly fits your needs or accept the well-considered defaults.
- When you’re done, submit.
- Once the rubric is rendered, you can print, download, or make it available online to your account.
Rubistar is invaluable in creating personalized, quick rubrics that are easily edited for varied needs. For registered users, there’s a vast library of rubrics created by members that can be used. Teachers can also use the rubric to evaluate student performance. For example, if a third of students scored poorly on ‘Diagrams’ in the math rubric, the teacher knows immediately this is an area that requires review.
Revision Assistant–the Most Comprehensive Virtual Writing Assistant Available for Students
English teachers know the key to writing is rewriting, but getting students to do that has always been a challenge. That is, until I found Turnitin’s Revision Assistant. Revision Assistant makes rewriting easy to understand, self-directed, and believe it or not–more fun. In fact, it uses features from the gamified classroom to encourage students to maximize the strength of their writing ‘signals’ by revising and editing. Geared for grades 6-12, it builds writing skill with suggestions that are formative in nature, well-explained, and based on tips from actual students who completed the same exercise.
The learning curve is shallow for both teachers and students–easily accomplished with minimal guidance, though Turnitin offers a variety of instructional videos to cover salient points. The goal is to aid students in recognizing their weaknesses and build on their strengths.
Here’s how it works:
- The teacher sets up their class dashboard and invites students to join via a Join code.
- The teacher shares one of the many grade- and topic-specific prompts (divided into three categories: argumentative, narrative, and informative) with students, including any required resources and special instructions. These prompts are aligned with Common Core and/or a variety of state standards.
- The student signs in to their Revision Assistant dashboard and locates the required writing assignment. They can pre-write their response if desired before moving into the first draft. A rubric is provided so students are clear about expectations.
- When ready, students request a ‘signal check’ to see how they’re doing. This provides color-coded feedback on language, focus, organization, and evidence with suggestions on how to improve what they have written. Students can request as many signal checks as they wish during the rewrite process. Improvement is reflected in an increased signal strength from a low of one bar to a high of four bars in each category.
- When students have completed the assignment, they submit it to the teacher (with an optional comment) who then reviews and grades it as fits the class environment (Revision Assistant does not assign a grade).
- The teacher can track each student submittal and download a spreadsheet of area-specific progress for the class.
Revision Assistant has an intuitive interface, a clean non-cluttered canvas, easy-to-use dashboards for both teachers and students, and no advertising. It is also part of the Turnitin family, a trusted name in student writing.
3 Favorite Classroom Apps
Here’s an excellent collection of great apps for your classroom — to cover writing, research, and assessment. You can even use all three on one project:
Free; fee for education accounts
Storyboard That is a leader among online digital storytelling tools thanks to its comic-based themes, clean layout, vast collection of story pieces, varied strip layouts, and intuitive drag-and-drop interface. Students map out ideas using a huge library of backgrounds, characters, text boxes, shapes, and images (with over 325 characters, 225 scenes, and 45,000 images). With an education account, teachers also get teacher guides and lesson plans.
Here’s how it works: Log into your account and Storyboard That automatically adapts to your device (whether it’s a desktop, Chromebook, or iPad). Select the layout you’d like, then add a background, characters, one or more props, and speech bubbles from Storyboard That’s collections. Each element can be resized, rotated, and repositioned to exactly suit your needs. Characters can also be adjusted for appearance, emotion, and action. You can even upload images and record a voice overlay (premium only) to narrate the story. Once finished, storyboards can be saved as PDFs, PowerPoints, and/or emailed out.
KidzType–the Keyboard Practice Site You’ve Been Waiting For
One question I get urgently and often is how to teach students to keyboard. With so much of student performance based on their knowledge of using computers and keyboards, it’s become the tip of the sword in preparing students for learning. Teachers are struggling to find ways to teach keyboarding that transfers those skills to real-life situations (like testing). Online typing sites mean well, but can’t be used in a vacuum. Too often, they’re rolled out as the only tool in the typing kit. This means they try so hard to be entertaining, they lose their ability to teach. In fact, I’ve heard anecdotally from lots of teachers that while students perform well on speed and accuracy quizzes built into these keyboarding sites, it doesn’t translate to classwork. There, students still struggle to find keys and type fast enough that their brains can think while their fingers move.
KidzType fixed that. It offers not only drills, but games, exercises, and lessons. Plus–this is what really excited me when their email arrived at my computer: KidzType teaches keyboarding one row at a time–home row, QWERTY row, and lower row, followed by symbols and numbers. Most keyboarding sites teach a mixed-up collection of keys that might make sense to an academician, but not a child. KidzType recognizes that their customer is the grade 2-8 student, not the parent or teacher. Additionally–because kids can’t learn by drill alone–KidzType provides a great selection of games, including a focus on typing words (rather than letters), typing lessons, typing exercises (24+ graduated exercises to cover all keys in a skills-building approach), typing practice (which includes sentence and paragraph practice), and the fun DanceMat Typing games kids love. It has become a staple in my classes.
33 Great Research Websites for Kids
Here are quick, safe spots to send students for research:
- BrainPop–with the BrainPop characters, a launchpad to curiosity
- CoolKidFacts–kid-friendly videos, pictures, info, and quizzes–all 100% suitable for children
- Dimensions–academic research geared for college-level
- Fact Monster–help with homework and facts
- Google Earth Timelapse–what changes to the planet over time
- Google Trends–what’s trending in searches
- History Channel–great speeches
- How Stuff Works–the gold standard in explaining stuff to kids
- Info Please–events cataloged year-by-year
- National Geographic for Kids
- Ngram Viewer–analyzes all words in all books on Google Books
- TagGalaxy–search using a cloud
- Wild Wordsmyth–picture dictionary for kids
- World Book–requires membership
Kids Search Engines
How to Research
- A Google A Day
- How to Search on Google
- Power Searching (with Google)
- Teaching students to search/research
- Internet Search and Research–a lesson plan for K-8
- Kids Picture Dictionary
- Primary Source Documents
- Talk to Books–research your topic based on books
Teach Financial Literacy with Banzai
When kids read that America’s $18 trillion+ debt is accepted by many experts as ‘business as usual’, I wonder how that news will affect their own personal finance decisions. Do they understand the consequences of unbalanced budgets? The quandary of infinite wants vs. finite dollars? Or do they think money grows on some fiscal tree that always blooms? The good news is: Half of the nation’s schools require a financial literacy course. The bad new is: Only half require a financial literacy course.
Banzai is a personal finance curriculum that teaches high school and middle school students how to prioritize spending decisions through real-life scenarios and choose-your-own adventure (kind of) role playing. Students start the course with a pre-test to determine a baseline for their financial literacy. They then engage in 32 life-based interactive scenarios covering everything from balancing a budget to adjusting for unexpected bills like car trouble or health problems. Once they’ve completed these exercises, they are dropped into a scenario where they have just graduated from high school, have a job, and must save $2,000 to start college. They are constantly tempted to mis-spend their income and then face the consequences of those actions, basing their decisions on what they learned in the 32 scenarios. Along the way, students learn to handle rent, gas, groceries, taxes, car payments, and life’s ever-present emergencies. When they finish, they take a post-test to measure improvement in their financial literacy.
Teachers register as many classes as necessary. Their dashboard lists all students in each class and a summary of which activities they have finished. Student work is graded by the website and updated on the teacher dashboard.
6 Sites + 12 + 6 About Coin Counting
Second graders (sometimes first graders) learn about money. The only way to really ‘get it’ is repetition. Here’s a list of websites to provide redundancy for each type of learner:
For a longer list that includes concepts like ‘economics’, try these:
Coins and Counting Money
- Brain Pop Learn about Money
- Coin games—from US Mint
- Count Money
- Face on money
- Face on money–from Lunapic; lots of options
- Make change
- Money Flashcards–APlus Math
- Mr. Bouncy’s Money collection–lots of websites
- US Mint virtual tour (a slideshow)
- Brain Pop Learn about Money
- Coffee Shop Game
- Rich Kid Smart Kid
- Spent–living at minimum wage: the game
- Three Jars–kids learn to use money wisely
- Tykoon Kid–earning with a purpose
Do you have any to add to this list? These are mostly for youngers–I’d love some for older age groups. (more…)
Otus–Exciting Free LMS You Want to Meet
I’ve been on the hunt for a good–scratch that: excellent–Learning Management System for several months. There are a lot of options out there, but none had enough of the characteristics that most teachers I know look for with an LMS, namely:
- delivers content to students in a variety of formats
- tracks student progress on assigned activities
- assesses student learning (both formative and summative)
- provides for teacher-student and student-student communication
- intuitive to use for both teachers and students, to encourage daily access. It should be non-intimidating, non-threatening, even non-geeky, so stakeholders feel as comfortable as they would in a physical classroom
- works across all platforms–iPads, web, Chromebooks
- plays well with a wide variety of apps, such as Khan Academy
- easily monitors student progress, work, and learning
- includes reminders of activities
- communicates important announcements to students
- allows for co-teaching in a classroom (an arrangement that is growing in popularity)
- encourages parent involvement in the education journey
I know–sounds impossible. Then, an email from Otus showed up in my stream. It caught my attention because the conversation was straightforward, plain-speaking, and hit my high points. So I agreed to review it.
3 Websites to Gamify Your Math Class
Most elementary age kids I know love math, but that changes when they matriculate to middle school. If you ask seventh and eighth graders what their hardest subject is, they’ll hands down tell you it’s math. And that opinion doesn’t improve in high school. In fact, Forbes reported that 82% of public high schoolers in the well-to-do Montgomery County Maryland failed Algebra. US News blamed math knowledge for a 33% failure rate by Oklahoma high school seniors on their exit exams.
To turn those numbers around, parents and teachers alike are looking to technology. This goes well beyond Khan Academy’s online video training, into fantasy worlds of trolls and wizards, the type of activities most parents have tried to keep their kids away from. Now, they want to use their kids’ native interest in online gaming to scaffold math knowledge. Here are three wildly-popular choices that have made kids choose math practice for their free time:
3 Digital Tools to Encourage Close Reading
‘Close reading’ entered the teacher’s lexicon with this Common Core literacy anchor standard:
Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
Dr. Doug Fischer defines close reading this way:
Close reading is a careful and purposeful re-reading of the text.
If you’re looking for a longer definition, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) defines it this way:
Close, analytic reading stresses engaging with a text of sufficient complexity directly and examining meaning thoroughly and methodically, encouraging students to read and reread deliberately. Directing student attention on the text itself empowers students to understand the central ideas and key supporting details. It also enables students to reflect on the meanings of individual words and sentences; the order in which sentences unfold; and the development of ideas over the course of the text, which ultimately leads students to arrive at an understanding of the text as a whole. (PARCC, 2011, p. 7)
…and explains its importance:
A significant body of research links the close reading of complex text—whether the student is a struggling reader or advanced—to significant gains in reading proficiency and finds close reading to be a key component of college and career readiness. (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, 2011, p. 7)
It’s not just getting kids to read that’s important; it’s getting them to read with understanding and memory that matters. This is not instinctual. Students need to be taught how to read complex texts.