Archive for October, 2013

Assessing Your Students Just Got Easier: QuizBean Launches New Features

It’s Michael from QuizBean. Things have gotten way too exciting around here. Lots of teachers are signing up and using QuizBean in their classrooms daily. But, I’m here to tell you, QuizBean has gotten a whole lot more awesome.

QuizBean is now your go-to online tool for instant student assessment. You can check it out now or read more about it below.

What’s new with QuizBean:

Save hours of hand grading with InstantScore
Results are automatically send to your dashboard when students complete your quiz. That means you instantly know how your students did and where they may have tripped up.

Easily send quizzes to any of your students
Whether you want to send a quiz to students who stayed after school for extra help or an entire biology class, the choice is yours. Simply make a quiz, assign it to students, and hit send. It’s that easy.

Quickly add students and classes
QuizBean allows you to manage your students and classes from a simple-to-use dashboard. See who has taken each quiz and their score all on one screen.

Ready to discover the new QuizBean?

When you login to QuizBean, you’ll see your account has room for 26 students and unlimited classes. Plus, all the quizzes you’ve created will be there, too.

Take me to my QuizBean account!

5 Ways Class Participation Goes Beyond Raising Your Hand

“Half of you have a C- in class participation right now.”

My heart sank. Was I really failing that bad in class participation? The part of my grade that is usually so easy to get an “A” in?

The class was Trends in Modern Thought. It was to fulfill my social sciences requirement to graduate. The material was thick as mud. It was a tough class (somehow I received an A). And class participation was actually graded. The professor observed who talked and who didn’t.

I raised my hand and said what I thought was right. I was wrong every time. But, I participated.

You don’t have to make class participation that hard or impossible to reach. It should be fun and easy to participate in your class – not terrifying and impossible.

Here are 5 creative ways to check if your students are participating:

1. Seeing you for help

That story above with the C- in class participation? What helped me in that class was going to see my professor for extra help. I wasn’t going to let him intimidate me – I wanted an A (or at least a B+). If students want extra help from you – before or after school – view that as class participation. They want to do better. It takes a lot for students to realize they need help and ask for it. Reward the students who seek help with class participation points.

2. Participating in a discussion

This is the classic class participation strategy. But, I want to take it one step further. I believe participating in a classroom discussion doesn’t simply mean one or two-word answers to easy questions. It means making a meaningful contribution to the discussion – even if other students disagree. All the more for a lively debate, right?

3. Helping other students

Just because your students don’t raise their doesn’t mean they’re not participating. If you notice students working together in pairs or teams and certain students are helping others to understand concepts, I’d count that as participation. While it’s not participation with you, it shows your students are willing to teach concepts they understand to their classmates. I’d argue that’s even better than simply raising your hand.

4. Writing summaries of readings

I had a college professor who would check off on his student roster if you participated that class or not. For his intro classes, you had to raise your hand, but for 300 and 400-level classes he offered the option of submitting reading summaries that were 500 words or less. And that would count as your participation. While I only took advantage of it once or twice, I enjoyed having the option if the reading made little to no sense at the time. Try the summary idea with your students and see what they think.

5. Showing up

I write this one mainly for the college crowd, but even for the K-12 teachers. Your students have to show up to class to participate. Having perfect attendance could be a great way to motivate students. And make sure to allow for an absence or two because of family matters or sports. It’ll help your introverted students, too. (But, they should be doing one of the above strategies).

Class participation helps students who would otherwise be quiet, be engaged in your classroom. And it’s important to note that participation doesn’t have to mean raising their hand and speaking in front of everyone. There are other ways to incorporate everyone into your lesson.

Do you do anything creative to get your students talking? Let me know in the comments below.


Why Substitutes Should Have the Chance to Teach

When you were in grade school, did you have a favorite substitute teacher? Someone who was just so captivating, they kept your attention more so than your real teacher?

I remember my favorite substitute teacher – Mrs. Laduke. She handed out Jolly Ranchers to students (much to the chagrin of dentists worldwide) which made her quite popular. And we typically didn’t watch movies with Mrs. Laduke. She actually taught us something.

Substitutes are teachers, too.

I learned a lot from my substitute teachers. And I think the best part was when they actually veered off course and talked about their own life stories, their own lessons, and imparted wisdom on all of us.

Now, curriculum is strict – it’s often set in stone with little deviation possible. That’s unfortunate because you can learn so much from someone else who comes into the classroom.

And I think that’s why there’s been a movement to call substitutes “guest teachers”. It’s spot on – that is what they are. They’re not a guest speaker, but a guest teacher.

And we should give them a chance to do so. Here’s 5 reasons why:

1. They have their own stories

I put this one on the list because it reminded me of one particular substitute experience in 5th grade. His name was Mr. Mullen. He was a World War 2 veteran. One morning he brought a musket to class – a social studies class, mind you – and talked about his experience in the war. We were all psyched. I had him a few weeks later in a math class. He turned the math problems into WW2 context – it was fascinating. See, teachers have their own stories to share. Their own lives make for engaging (and teachable) content.

2. They enjoy teaching

Why would someone take a job substitute teaching? Do you think it’s for the pay? No way. It’s because they love to teach, they enjoy working with students, and well, it’s something to do during the day. So, let them teach. Let them do more than just show a movie. Let them put their own spin on your lesson plans. Sounds a little risky, but it’s a nice change of pace.

3. It’s a break for students to learn something else

Speaking of a change of pace, substitute teachers are a great break from their regular teacher. That’s not to say their teacher is boring or less engaging. It’s just nice to have someone else stand-up in front of the class for once. And it may be a whole new teaching style, too. Shake things up by giving the students someone and something else to focus on – and who knows, they may learn something valuable.

4. Increase credibility and skills

There are some substitute teachers out there who should be full-time teachers – they are that good. And you probably know some of them. Being a substitute increases your credibility in the school system and helps develop skills they may not be as strong in. This means they’re able to better their public speaking, handling rowdy students etc. — all experiences they can talk about should they be choosing to pursue a more permanent position elsewhere.

5. Makes it fun

Substitute teachers are fun – just like Mr. Mullen in 5th grade or Mrs. Laduke throughout middle and high school. Not only were they fun substitutes, but they got the class engaged regardless of topic.

Many of these reasons are simply going to be plowed over by the common core standards set to be enacted soon. On one hand, I support the standardization of learning, but on the other hand, I believe it hurts the authenticity, originality, and storytelling substitute teachers offer a classroom.

What do you think? What’s your experience with substitute teachers? Are they as valuable as I think they are? Let me know in the comments below.

Eliminate Boredom! Here’s 15 Games to Play at Recess

Who doesn’t love recess? Seriously!

It’s a chance to get out of the classroom, stretch your legs and meet new friends. (For teachers, I know it’s a time to shovel lunch). Recess is more for the kids, obviously.

But sometimes kids get bored. Sometimes they even end up nose-deep in their cell phones texting. Can you believe it? Elementary school students texting! (I’m only 25 years old, and it blows my mind how young students already have cell phones).

Take it old school and suggest your students play some games on the playground. Having been out of recess for quite some time, I took to the internet to find some fun alternatives to simply sitting in the sandbox. Here’s a list of 15 awesome games to play at recess:

1. Foursquare

If you don’t have a foursquare court on the pavement, quickly draw your own with chalk. It’s simply four squares in a grid. Grab a bouncy ball and start playing. The ball bounces from square to square (hit after each bounce). This game is great because it can involve the whole class as you rotate through players.

2. Hopscotch

If you don’t have a painted hopscotch pattern on the pavement, use chalk to make one. Not only is this fun and creative, but it gives students a chance to work on balance and coordination, too.

3. Sausage (make ‘em laugh)

I just read about this game online. A student stands in the center of a circle of friends. Then, the friends ask random questions. The student in the center must answer “sausage” without laughing. When they laugh, the student who asks the question gets a shot at being in the middle. Oh, and the word can be anything — it doesn’t have to be sausage.

4. 500

A classic for both guys and girl, all you need is a nerf football. The caller is separated from the group. They toss the ball in the air and yell out a point value (“25 points!”). The person who catched the ball gets the points. Pick a point total. The first person to make it to that total wins the game and becomes the next caller.

5. Fourbase Kickball (for indoor recess)

I thought I’d throw in an idea for indoor recess (besides reading time). Fourbase is just like regular kickball, but played with larger gym mats as bases. There are all kinds of rules that can be read about here if you’d like to play.

6. Tag (a classic)

This game needs no explanation. It’s awesome.

7. Mother May I

A classic alternative to red light green light below, this game has a mother as well as “children”. The children ask the mother if they can take a certain number of steps (these can be baby steps, big steps, leaps, etc). The mother can say yes or no. The game continues until the first child reaches the mother. Then, that student becomes the mother for the next game.

8. Red Rover

Send your students on over! A little bit of a physical game, students form two groups and yell “Red rover, red rover, send [student] over!” Then, that student tried to break through the line of students on the other side. If they do, they join their original team. If not, they trade teams. Continue until one team only has two people. The larger team is declared the winner.

9. Red Light Green Light

Alrtighty. We’re getting to the point in the list where I wish I was back in elementary school. Red Light Green Light is a classic. The leader yells “Green light!” as the other kids run toward them. Then they yell “Red Light!” and turn around. Anyone caught moving is out. The first person to tap the leader on the shoulder wins.

10. Duck Duck Goose

Another classic game I used to play in small groups. Get your students together, form a circle, and have one student walk around the circle tapping heads and saying “Duck, duck, duck….” and then they randomly pick “Goose”. That person has to run around the circle to catch the other person before they make it into their original spot. It’s the perfect game to get students energized for recess.

11. Freeze Tag

This is my personal favorite tag game. Have a group of students head to an open space and select one person as “it”. If you get tagged, you have to freeze and sit down. The only way you can get back up is if someone else tags you. The game is over when everyone is tagged. Here’s a fun variation: Those tagged remain standing with their legs in an A. The only way to get unfrozen is to have someone else crawl under them.

12. Water Balloon Toss

For many of you, it’s still blazing hot outside. And, it’ll never truly cool down. That’s where the water balloon toss comes in. Sure, it’s been played at carnival games for years, but it’s time to bring it back. Grab a small bag of water balloons at your local toy store. Fill them with water and line your students up in two separate lines. Toass away!

13. Find and Go Seek

It’s a stretch, but it might work. Have your students run around the playground and hide. Then have the “seeker” go and find them – with a time limit – so that other kids can trade roles. Sometimes they enjoy being the seeker and not hiding all of the time.

14. Sprint Races

A lot of students go home and slump over on the couch with their video games. Get your students moving! Doing sprint races with your class is a great way to introduce an active lifestyle to them — outside of gym class.

15. Your own game!

It’s your turn. What games did you play as a kid. Or, what games to your students come up with. Sometimes, kids have the best creative minds. They come up with games I would have never imagined.

Getting kids active and out of the classroom is important. It sets a precedent for them they may not have at home and keeps them participating in an active healthy lifestyle. Here’s to a fun-filled recess.

5 Reasons Retention is the Most Important Metric for Executive Training

Have you been trying to measure your training effectiveness? Do you want your team to better recall information they just learned a few days ago? Enter retention. It’s the most important metric in executive training.

But there’s one problem: Many corporate trainers come in, do their thing,  pack up and leave. Who wants that? You want to make sure they’ve got measurable results and your team is left remembering what they’ve just been taught.

That’s why you need to make sure your trainers are focusing on retention. Here’s why:

1. Helps build on previous lessons

When you’re in a multiple-day training, concepts learned on the first day often apply to material learned on the third day. To get the most out of training, attendees have to remember previous concepts. That means retention is key and you might need to make quizzes to keep attendees on their toes at the end/beginning of each day.

2. Makes your content credible

If you’re a corporate trainer with your own curriculum (instead of part of a nationally-recognized training group), you’re probably lacking a bit of credibility. That’s where retention comes in. With quizzes and other retention tools, prove that your training has a healthy retention rate, and you’ll have executives and large companies knocking on your door. They realize the importance of retention, too.

3. Allows others to teach your training

I’ve gone through several trainings – both online and in-person. And I’ve learned a ton (and remembered it, too). But one of the biggest benefits of these trainings is being able to teach others what I’ve learned. By explaining what I learned to others it helps me remember it. Think of how this applies to your company. Maybe you’ve got a new employee who needs help getting started. Have another employee teach them from what they’ve learned. That way, they have a friend in the workplace and you don’t have to spend your time on training!

4. Makes your boss happy (obviously)

This goes both ways: If you’re a trainer, the company (and the manager) is happy to have employees remember material, and the trainees immediate manager is happy because they have a well-trained employee on their team. For you, employee retention and satisfied clients are part of your marketing. They help refer you new clients and make for amazing testimonials to boost your credibility.

5. Builds better employees overtime

If you keep sending employees for training, they’ll build their skills – both social and professional. That means a couple years after investing in training, you’ll have a well-rounded employee. Someone who can teach others, make quick decisions, and lead a team to success. Sounds like a great employee to me!

Retention, although dreaded by many employees, is the most important metric for executive training. When employees and team members recall what they’ve learned, they’ll have better employee performance and be able to build upon what they’ve learned.

What about you? Do you agree? Let me know in the comments below!