Saturday, October 31, 2015

Peer Observation: Round 2 (Post 4/4)

Period 7
We had two visitors join us this period: Cliff Darnall and Courtney Lavand.  Though unplanned, the theme of our Period 7 observations was activating background knowledge.  In both Lindsey Bucciarelli's Human Geography class and Señora Carmen Ruiz-Bergman's AP Spanish class, we observed numerous methods of brainstorming to initiate discussions.

In Human Geography, we saw students developing lists in Notability of why people migrate.  There are the "Pushes" and "Pulls" of why people leave home or come to a desired land/country.  Students also took a matching quiz on Schoology to ensure student understanding of these various push/pull factors.  Then, students watched a 5 minute video clip summarizing the situation in Syria.  After the video, students were going to work on a Jigsaw in pairs to explore the different elements of migration.

In AP Spanish, we observed students exploring the facts of Halloween vs. Día de los muertos.  Students were watching a video describing some of the rituals of both celebrations and then were going to write a persuasive essay where they had to choose one day to celebrate.  

Following the observations, we discussed the different methods both teachers used to activate students' background knowledge on the subject manners.  We also talked about the use of Schoology and Notability to record (both written and verbal) student learning.

Period 8
Matt Bohnenkamp joined our group for observing Sr. Burrier-Sanchis and Lindsey Bucciarelli.  

In Sr. Burrier-Sanchis's AP Spanish Literature class, they were discussing the novel Into the Beautiful North.  Students were discussing various adjectives that they could use to describe the novel.  Following the quick discussion in pairs, Sr. Burrier-Sanchis showed students the website to use as a thesaurus for multiple languages.  

Observations in both classes sparked great brainstorming sessions about scaffolding and other connections on the CollabLab's dry erase wall!  Stop on down to check it out and add more ideas!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Peer Observation: Round 2 (Post 3/4)

Period 5

Christina Barnum invited us into her freshmen biology class.  They used Socrative as a self-assessment tool before starting a lab.  Socrative engaged the students because it provided instant feedback on content that would be needed to complete the lab.  

Period 6
Carmen Ruiz-Bergman invited us into her AP Spanish class.  They were discussing and learning about the commonalities and differences between Halloween and Dia de los muertos.  Students had studied the traditions of Día de los Muertos, but did not really know the history behind Halloween. Therefore they were asked to research and record their findings in Notability in order to write a cultural comparison between the target culture and their community.  Some of the pieces they looked at were:


A.  la historia

B.  la corrida

C.  la tumba / los cementerios

D.  "Trick or Treat"

E.  Tradiciones

F.  Etc.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Peer Observation: Round 2 (Post 2/4)

Colleen Mullaney's regular junior math class worked on a self-reflection document before the end of the quarter.  On the front side of the reflection, students filled in their grades for each of the assessments of first quarter.  Then on the back, they answered these four questions:
1)  The quarter is ending on Friday.  What are your thoughts about your grade where it is now?
2)  What has gotten you to the grade that you have now?  Is it the homework?  The time spent in class?
3)  Are all your assessments complete? Meaning have you taken them all? Or do you have a redo or missing?
4)  What are you going to do to either maintain the grade you have or improve your grade before the semester ends?

Anna Izzo's AP Italian class was peer editing a two-paragraph DBQ essay. Since this was the first one of the year, Ms. Izzo had students focus on writing an introduction and thesis statement. Then their peers were given a checklist with specific criteria to make sure they included the necessary information and supporting evidence from the article.


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Peer Observation: Round 2 (Post 1/4)

Period 1
The second Peer Observation Day got off to a great start in Kristen Guth's freshman english class. Students were self-assessing on their speeches about a person who had a positive impact on their lives. Kristen recorded students' speeches on her iPad and was able to share the speeches with each  student through Google Drive. Students were then able to watch themselves and assess their speaking skills - rating themselves on volume, eye contact, posture, clarity, and preparation using a rubric.

 The self-assessment rubric also left room for students to provide examples or evidence for their rankings.

This outside perspective let students see themselves in a more objective manner, which presented a chance for them to see strengths and areas that may need improvement.  It was great seeing students self reflect in other subject areas and I have plenty of ideas for my classroom as a result. Thank you Kristen for letting us observe your classroom!

Period 2
A big Thank You to Tim Phillips and Beata Yormark for inviting us into their classrooms during 2nd period for our second Peer Observation Day. In Human Geography, we saw students engaging with the lesson by participating in a Schoology discussion about voluntary migration. It was a great way to get students to connect the concept to their own lives. It was particularly fun to watch Mr. Phillips' students explaining Schoology discussions to observing staff members. 

In Beata's math class, students were reviewing for a unit test by completing a Schoology checklist. It was empowering to see students all engaged and working at their own pace to review the material. We saw kids collaborating to review the material, asking good questions, and all advancing toward their learning goals. Students explained to observing staff members the importance of showing their work as they completed tasks in Notability. They truly took ownership of their learning.

We loved having Mary Beth Khoury and Marge Wojtas join us for our second Peer Observation Day. We hope others find the time to join us next time, too!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Yes You Can! Import a Test from Word into Schoology

Guest post by Bruce Janu

One of the limitations of Schoology is not being able to import a test into the system from Word or another word processing program.  We all have tests and quizes in a Word document, but would love to be able to just move it into Schoology. The feature exists, but only for users of Blackboard or Edmastery.

However, you can easily convert a test/quiz from Word into Blackboard format and easily import it into Schoology. No more retyping all of your questions!  Here's how you do it:

1. Open up your test or quiz in Word and copy the questions only.

2. Then, go to this site. It is a Blackboard converter. There are actually several versions of this.  Here is a list of converter sites.

The one that I use can be found at the College of Southern Idaho.  In the box, paste your test that you copied from Word and give it a name. It should look like this:

Important:  You must make sure there are no extra spaces between questions or between answers. In question 4 above, I need to make sure there isn't an extra line.

3. The only extra thing you have to do is now is place an asterisks  "*" next to each correct answer. When you are done, hit "create quiz."

4. After it creates the quiz, a new option will appear on the bottom of the page.  Click "here" in order to download the zip file.  Your quiz has now been converted into Blackboard format. Schoology will take it as is.

5. Go to Schoology and create a new test/quiz.  Under "add question" choose "import test/quiz."

6. Then select "Blackboard"

7. Choose your zip file that you just downloaded.  And you have a new test in Schoology that you did not have to retype complete with the correct answers identified!

This tactic will save me countless hours now that I do not have to retype all of my tests into Schoology. Although it may seem like many steps, in reality the whole process takes less than 5 minutes. The hardest part is putting asterisks next to all of the correct answers. But it saves so much time.  Enjoy.

Using Audio Recording to Improve Fluency

By Bonnie Kale

In a high school English classroom, we rarely have the opportunity to practice and assess our students' reading fluency.  After all, with the time constraints of a 50-minute classroom, it would be nearly impossible to give 25 students a chance to read aloud from a text.  What's more, we don't want to force kids to read a passage aloud in front of their peers when they have had limited time to practice. Now, thanks to the audio feature on Schoology, it is easy to seamlessly incorporate fluency instruction and assessment into our courses.  Simply create an assignment as you regularly would in Schoology.  When students go to submit the assignment, they will click on "submit audio recording." 

Recently, I had the opportunity to use this audio feature with my honors freshman class. Students practiced reading the prologue from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet in small groups, paying particular attention to the punctuation, phrasing, rhyme, and overall purpose of the passage.  Then, students went home and submitted an audio recording of themselves reading the prologue aloud.  I was able to provide students with individual feedback about how to improve their fluency, thus, enhancing their overall understanding of the passage.  For example, I could hear that several students were pausing and ending phrases at the end of the line, rather than continuing the phrase to the end of the punctuation.   It's easy to forget that fluent reading is not a product of good reading but a contributor to reading comprehension.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Notability Workshop with Tech Staff

By: Rachel Barry

On Tuesday, the tech staff at Elk Grove High School attended a mini-workshop to learn how students use Notability.  As many students come to the Help Desk for help with technical issues, the technology staff wanted to see how students were using this app and to then learn how to address some of the common issues that students have with the app.  Here is a summary of the some of the features discussed.  

Many times students come to the Help Desk to ask for help finding a document.  Many times it is because the student doesn't have folders set up in Notability.  It is easy to organize and color-code in order to accurate sort your documents.  First, click on the "+" sign at the very top left of the screen.  

The confusing part for students is the difference between a "subject" and a "divider".  You will first want to set up DIVIDERS.  This is different than what your mind would normally believe.  The dividers are what the students would name their courses such as "Geometry" or "Biology".  Then, the SUBJECTS are for individual units, standards, or methods of sectioning off materials within a course.  Here is a sample of how a student can gradually add units as they are working in a class:

Exporting a Document
Most times students export a document, they will be submitting an assignment to Schoology.  To do so, students will click on the export button in the top left.

Then, they will click the "Share" button at the very bottom of the dropdown options.  

In most cases, the student will want to export the file as a .pdf.  If they want to share it as a note, they can change this by clicking on the arrow next to .pdf and select "Note".  Next, they will click on "Share Note".  They will select Schoology as the app to export to.

Within Schoology, students will follow the prompts to submit the file to the appropriate course and assignment.  

Additional Features
In the workshop, the tech staff also learned how to annotate, highlight, add text boxes, cut & paste, add pictures, and add audio to a note.  Most students navigate these features with ease, but the tech staff found it helpful to explore the capabilities and uses of Notability.

If you would like additional help in using Notability or have any resources to share about ways you have used it, please stop by the Collab Lab!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Could you last a day in your students' shoes?

by Kirsten Fletcher

As teachers, I think we sometimes run the risk of becoming so absorbed in our daily tasks that we lose sight of how our students receive our carefully crafted lessons.  At the beginning of the school year, I read a powerful blog post by Grant Wiggins about a High School Learning Coach whose principal recommended that she spend 2 days in her students' shoes. When she tried it, she was surprised at how absolutely exhausting it was to sit and listen, take notes and tests, work at someone else's pace all day, and never move.

A few weeks ago, I got my own glimpse into my students' lives when I asked them to write a bilingual poem about their own identity. Some wrote light-hearted poems about pop tarts or their favorite band. Others expressed, in a few bilingual lines, how heartbreaking it is to not qualify for scholarships or college admissions. One of my students submitted the following poem outlining a day in her life.

I'm embarrassed to say that I am sometimes so concerned about writing my lesson plans, posting grades, preparing for my observation, keeping up with my PLN, and completing all my "teacher" duties, that I forget the impact that all my daily decisions have on the lives of my students.

Seeing school and home responsibilities through my student's eyes has made me seriously consider the amount of homework I'm giving on a daily basis. Seeing her express her anxiety over losing points for late work makes me think twice about docking points for student work. Realizing that my students aren't getting any more sleep than I am makes me want to cut them some slack when they don't say "Bonjour" back to me or when they grunt in response to my well-intentioned "Ça va?".

Most of all, I'm grateful to have students who are willing to share their experiences with me, and I continue to strive to deserve their confidence.  I've learned that I need to make more time to listen to what they need if I'm going to teach them anything. Thank you to my amazing students for this valuable reminder. Merci!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Increasing Engagement & Feedback with TurnItIn.Com

By Jackie Randall and Kristen Guth

World Literature and Composition utilizes more than simply an authenticity resource.  The sophomore English teachers take advantage of the site’s ability to prevent plagiarism, engage students, manage assignments and collaboration, and deliver rich feedback.  For the recent Memoir assignment, students submitted their first drafts to  With this submission, students received almost instant grammar corrections.  In addition, the sophomore team created comments that directly correlated with the rubric for the assignment.  By sharing both the comments and rubric within the team, all students receive consistent feedback across the grade level.  Each comment can be tied to the customizable rubric allowing for students to check the mastery of skills during the drafting process.

In the student example above, the purple bubbles are grammatical errors. The blue bubbles are the teacher comments, both canned comments (saved in the comment library on the right of the screen) and original comments found in the blue speech bubbles.
When the student hovers over the comment, the explanation or rule appears.  This is also where the evaluator can connect the comment to a criterion on the rubric.

Students have access to the complete rubric and how their comments correlate to the criterion. 

Through this process, students can receive rich feedback specific to their paper and assignment while in the drafting process.  Teachers can take advantage of utilizing canned comments (seriously, how many times do you write the same thing on every student’s draft?!) and grading through the website or iPad instead of hauling home piles of students’ drafts.  PLTs can share comments and rubrics to make team wide grading efficient and consistent. I’d say that’s a win-win-win! #turnitinforwhat

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Developing Mastery in Mathematics

By: Rachel Barry

History of SBL at EGHS
Throughout the past six years, the math department at Elk Grove High School has been working towards a standards-based learning and grading model.  We have rid our classrooms of textbooks and created our own curricula based on Robert Marzano's 4-tiered scale.  You can read more about our curricula in an older blog post here.  

We knew that along with creating our standards-based instruction, course materials, and assessments, we also needed to develop an appropriate standards based grading policy.  Through meetings among PLT leaders as well as with the entire department, we developed a grading system that would effectively translate a grade on our 4-leveled curricula to a percentage grade, the method our district asks us to report grades.  This grading policy can be read about on this prior blog post.  

Through reading and attending conferences, I am continuously learning more about effective standards-based grading practices.  This causes me to question my practices as well as those we have developed in our PLTs.  Are students receiving all of the feedback that they need to be successful in my class?  Are students held accountable for mastery of standards in order to be successful in both current and future classes?  Are students motivated to learn more than the required content to "pass" my class?  My PLT members and I continuously have conversations regarding various classroom practices that we hope will address some of these questions.  One of these main questions that kept resonating with us is the accountability factor of critical math skills.  

Determining the Mastery Skills
A few years ago, PLT leaders met separately within the regular and honors levels to create a list of five "In's and Out's".  The "In's" are the five skills that we expect students to come into a course having already mastered, and the five "Out's" are the skills that we want to ensure our students have mastered upon leaving our class.  In the past, we PLT leaders used these to drive instructional practices of skills that we would continue to spiral throughout the year.  We didn't feel this was holding students accountable enough for these skills, so we added a cumulative review section of 5 questions to the end of each unit test.  Students weren't always showing consistency of material they had previously mastered, so we felt we needed something stronger within our curriculum to ensure student mastery of these "Out's".

So this year, my regular junior level Math 474 course is using these "Out's" in what we are calling our Mastery Skills.  Students will be accountable for mastering each of these five skills before exiting our course.  They will be expected to reach a level of 2 on each of the skills.  In percentage equivalency, they have to obtain an 75%.  We are expressing to students the importance of learning these skills for future math courses.  Students can reassess on this topic as many times as necessary.  

Here is our Math 474 course's Mastery Skills:

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 2.31.01 PM.png

Our goal with these Mastery Skills is to emphasize learning with our students.  Many times students are caught up in a grade.  Some students have a strong skill set in other mathematic skills that they wouldn't necessarily need to reassess on a poor skill.  Other students are complacent with meeting a minimum requirement to pass the class.  We hope that this method helps to promote the importance of these skills and build an emphasis on reassessment with our students.

In a future post, I will follow up with how our Mastery Skills are working in Math 474!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Power of Student Voice: #BeThePower

Written by Linda Ashida

"If you want to have a successful anti-bullying campaign at your school, don't have an assembly and don't invite a guest speaker! Don't create a form for parents to sign.  If you want to teach students not to bully, get the students involved.  Promote student agency.  Have the students own it!"

This message (paraphrased) from Ken Shelton's keynote address at the 2015 SchoologyNext Conference in July 2015, really stuck with me and reminded me about the incredible power of student voice, especially after watching these two videos he shared:

 A student-created anti-bullying video.

Michael shares his story about what it is like to have Autism

I hope you will take a few minutes to watch both videos before you read on.

Too often schools try to solve problems by getting a group of adults together to decide the best solution, when the best answers often come from the students themselves.

District 214 remembered the power of student voice to respond to students' negative use of social media last winter.  Students took to Twitter to complain about a district decision not to cancel classes on a very cold day. Many student tweets were mean-spirited and reflected negatively on their digital image.  Instead of responding with adult-imposed consequences and admonitions about digital citizenship, the district invited the students to come together to create a campaign to encourage positive and responsible use of social media.  Thus, the District 214 #BeThePower Campaign was born. Students from Wheeling and Prospect high schools began with a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #BeThePower and student created videos, and they challenged Elk Grove High School students to follow their lead. Students in the Leadership Through Service class responded with this video: "Joseph D. Bush's Mean Boyzzz"

 To be even more inspired about the power of student voice, check out the Student Voice Website.

How have you seen the positive impact of student voice in your classroom or school?  We'd love to hear from you! 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Notability Learning Labs

by Katie Winstead and the DTC Team

Today the Collab Lab had its doors open every period for a cool, new concept: Learning Labs. After meeting with staff members during the Peer Observation Day, the school saw a need to have specific days devoted to learning different instructional techniques. Today’s Learning Labs were devoted to learning more about Notability.

Even teachers who regularly use Notability stopped in to learn different ways to engage students through interactive notes. For example, we discussed “Katie’s technique” where we share a note with our students and they have the capability to use the scissors in Notability to move words or drawings around, change the color or size, and generally manipulate documents to categorize, sort, etc.

We also discussed the idea of audio notes: students can brainstorm and write as they plan out essays, for example.

In math classes, students have been using the audio function to talk about how they are solving problems to make learning visible. Students can also push out their documents as "Notes" so that teachers can open up the editable file and either write or speak back to the students!

Overall, it was a very successful day and the teachers at Elk Grove are looking forward to many more Learning Labs to come!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Collab Lab Resource Hub

Written by Linda Ashida

The Collab Lab Resource Hub is the website that serves to document the myriad professional learning experiences at Elk Grove High School, and to curate resources to facilitate future learning.

We invite you to explore check out the Resource Hub.  Among other things you will find: 
Information about our Teacher-led Institute Days.
•Resources to impact learning in 1:1 classrooms.  Under the "Resources" tab you will find helpful links on Notability, Schoology, and more! Many of the resources have been contributed by staff at EG or other District 214 Schools.
Information about our Elk Grove Lead Learners Team 
Information about our Peer Observation Groups

The Collab Lab Resource Hub is a work in progress, so some pages are more developed than others, but they still serve to as one important way, in addition to using social media (this blog and Twitter) to document and share our professional learning journey and curate resources to multiply our learning.

How do you document and curate resources from your own or your school's professional learning? Please share your examples!

We always look forward to receiving feedback, suggestions, or resources you have to share.

Leave us a comment or come see us in the Collab Lab!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Shifting the Focus of Class: which skills do we teach to which students?

By Kim Miklusak

Last year I read this blog post by Kylene Beers.  I definitely recommend taking a moment to read and reflect upon it.  In it she highlights the difference between "who is taught what?"--that is, what reading skills do we teach to "struggling" vs. "highly skilled" readers.  Not surprisingly, most teachers report that they focus on paraphrasing and comprehension with "struggling readers," yet author's purpose and logical inferences with "highly skilled readers."  While she specifically focuses on the term "readers," I believe the skill difference she highlights crosses subject areas.  See the two charts here.

I've been reflecting upon this difference in my own English class this year as we continue to revise our curriculum at the regular and AP levels and as we have interdisciplinary conversations in our school.  Our "struggling readers" are those who would thrive on these higher level conversations.  Too often (and I am grossly overgeneralizing here--obviously not everyone is like this) we bemoan the completion rate of tasks and passing rate at the regular level.  Students are bored--of course they are!  We have heard on Twitter and elsewhere, "Would you want to be a student in your own class?"  Would we be motivated to read if we focused only on vocabulary and paraphrasing?  Even we as teachers have "more fun" in our engaging classes.

How then do we have struggling readers complete the comprehension portion of activities, so they are able to move on to the higher level skills and the engaging activities?  One way I am trying to work on that this year is by moving toward a system that I discussed at length with Mark Heintz in our history department and have seen Linda Ashida do in her Spanish classes: make the comprehension a requirement instead of a grade.

Students cannot participate in the higher level portion until they complete the foundational activities.  First we must ask ourselves: are the tasks I am having students do required to help them understand the text?  Do they practice skills that we could practice in other ways?  Or are they filler?  Instead have the bulk of class time be the engaging portion, and more students will want to do the activities to move along. 

Easier said then done, perhaps. Foremost, it is easier in a less linear course like English, History, or foreign language.  Next this requires giving up some control in your class: large group work and discussions are easy for the teacher, and they are easy for the student.  But do we know where each student is in terms of skills and content?  Shifting more easily between required work, large group work, and individual work allows teachers more flexibility in shifting the learning into the students' hands.  In a large group there are students who are not participating; those same students may not be following along in small and individual work, but in this case we know who they are, where they are, and we can remediate to help move them along.  And, ideally, the motivation is beyond the grade to move more students forward.

I will post more again another time on the actual practice of this once we are moving through our next full unit, and I will provide screen shots and student samples to let you know how it's going!  Right now it's slightly more theory than practice!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Engaging students with Visuals and Infographics

Written by Linda Ashida

In a previous Collab Blog post, Rachel Barry shared numerous examples of ways we can use infographics in education.  If you missed it, please check it out!

The same week, Lisa Pokorny inspired the ITF / DTC team with a lesson plan she shared with us in which she used several infographics to engage her ELL students in varied speaking activities.

Check out her lesson and the rich visuals and infographics that she used as prompts with her students:

Activity #1 - Describe a place
Goal: I can describe the place in the photo using adjectives and nouns.

Activity #2 - Is your phone ruining your sleep?
Goal: I can listen to information being read and view a chart to answer questions in complete sentences

Activity #3 - Drinking Toilet Water
Goal: I can listen to information being read and view a chart to answer questions in complete sentences.

Activity #4 - Guess Who
Goal:  I can communicate with a partner by asking and answering questions.

Lisa conducted the lesson in our Language Lab, so as students were practicing she could listen "real time" to several responses and provide immediate feedback to the class, sharing examples of  quality responses and common errors.  

Thank you Lisa for sharing this lesson with us and inviting us to your class! 

What are some of the creative ways that you have used visuals and infographics to engage students in learning?  We'd love to hear from you! Leave a comment, or stop by and see us in the Collab Lab!

Friday, October 2, 2015

What Did You Do Today?

Guest Blogger: Colleen Mullaney

“What did you do at school today?” was a common question that I got when I went home from school while sitting at the dinner table.  My response was simple: “math, science, lunch, recess, and reading,” never actually answering the question of what I did in school. 

Now as a teacher, on the other side of things, naturally I see it a little differently.  The checklists that a number of EG’s math teachers have created, adjusted, and refined over the last couple years, have caused students to become machine like.  They crank out the work, going from video notes, to practice, to exit quiz and then move to the next level, only to repeat the process throughout the week.  So how do you help them to slow down, think about the work they did that day, and monitor their progress? It started with moving a magnet from one box to the next on a chalk board when a student would finish a level.  But what about the in between work, the little accomplishments, the small victories? Then it hit me! Let’s utilize those 5 minutes at the end of class that students use to pack up their stuff instead of finishing some work.  I would like to say it was simple and came to me easily, but what you see below is version 5 of this reflection.

At the end of the period, with about 4 minutes left, students are given group folders that contain their reflections for each skill.  All I ask them to do from day to day is check off what they did from Day 1 to Day 5 and at what level.  The key at the top explains the abbreviations in each square. 

Now here is where the true reflection starts.  Typically our students are taking an objective quiz every 5 days or so.  Once they receive those quizzes back, they answer the following questions on the back of their “work trackers.”
After showing students examples of what good reflections and poor reflections look like, it’s their turn.  They begin look over their quizzes and record their grades.  I also have them look up their overall grades too and then answer the questions.  As they do so we look at how long they are spending on each level, what day they get to level 3, if they were absent during the week, etc.

So what do I do with the reflections after the quiz? On one hand, it is used to monitor student progress and hold them accountable for the work they did that day.  On the other hand it is a conversation piece too.  If a student wants or needs to retake the quiz they will come in to make corrections on their quiz.  Before we even begin to look through the quiz and start corrections we have a one on one conversation about their work throughout the week and how it has reflected in their grades. I start with the front with all the check boxes and talk about pacing, length of time spent on each level etc.  And that usually gets them to understand why they earned the grade they did.  The level of understanding they have gotten through throughout the week usually matched the level of understanding they show on their quiz.

I was really excited about doing this reflection for all the reasons above, but there was one hidden perk that I wasn’t really expecting.  Students are not looking at their score and putting it in the retake or no retake piles I have in my room.  They are taking the time to look through their mistakes and look at the questions they got wrong.  Especially for the students who get through a majority of the checklist and don’t earn the grades they want or demonstrate the knowledge they think have of the topic.  They are looking for the ways they can improve and why they got the questions wrong.  They see and realize how easy of an improvement it could be.  They will retake their quiz and demonstrate they really do know this topic at a higher level. 

Over all, I have really enjoyed watching the students complete these reflections and it has given me more opportunities for discussions than I ever imagined. The reflections stay in their folder until the unit test, so it helps them to narrow their focus on the objectives to study before the test.  I have kept the ones they have completed so far, unsure of what to do with them yet.  But considering this reflection is already on version 5, I can only assume there will be more versions to come!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Schoology Question Banks and Feedback

By Mark Heintz

I have fallen in love!  My love is the Schoology quiz bank feature.  I teach sophomores world history, so I categorized my question banks by time period, then by topic (such as political), and finally by civilization.  The extreme organization allows me to easily repeat questions on later quizzes.
Here is what my classical political civilization question banks look like. 

As for each questions, I utilize Schoology's feedback feature.  Each question has an explanation to why the answer the student chose is right or wrong.  By using instant feedback, I hope to save time in class. I should not have to explain as many questions to the students. Also, the students can instantly see their misunderstandings of a topic and progress to the next attempt or quiz.  
Below each question, Schoology allows the user to input general feedback for an incorrect or correct answer.  Here I am pasting larger more general understandings of the topic.

 My intent with these questions and quizzes is to have students earn as close to 100% as possible.  I set up my first seven quizzes in a student completion checklist.  Students will have to pass each quiz with a 95% or higher to move to the next quiz.  I want my students to know the content, and I want them to know it so much they have to pass the checklist with a understanding of at least 95%.

 Each quiz has questions from the core set and then random questions from previous sets.  For instance, the Han Dynasty quiz has seven Han Dynasty questions and random questions from Greece, Rome and Persia.  My hope is to continue this process throughout the year. Eventually the students will see each of these so many times the content will be ingrained in their brain.
It is so easy to add questions from previous banks.  Schoology allows the user to choose random questions, so each quiz will be different for each student.  Also, each time the student takes the quiz it will be different! With the feedback feature, the student should not have to go back to their notes to find the information on why or why not the question is right. The feedback will tell them instantly so they can progress through the quiz.