Teacher of the Month: Joan Macri

Congratulations to our new Teacher of the Month, Joan Macri! Joan teaches 4th grade at Pierrepont School in Rutherford, New Jersey and is committed to engaging her students with technology. Read below to discover how she integrates technology and Edcite into her classroom.

How Joan Infuses Her Classroom with Technology

Joan uses technology in her classroom every day to support her students’ learning and engagement with the elementary curriculum. She wrote, “Each year, I infuse more technology into my fourth grade classroom. My flipped classroom begins with students previewing curriculum content via videos I have made for homework assignments.

In class, they practice the problems using their Chromebooks. Their assignments are usually a Doc or Form I have created. I circulate to help students with any problems that may be challenging. For homework, they complete Google Forms I have made with a few math problems to reinforce the material. In addition, I select or create one Edcite problem that corresponds to the math material we are studying. I have used Edcite for many years and feel the problems I select or make enhance learning in my class. Edcite has truly been a valuable addition to my technology-infused classroom.”

Joan Macri Quote-01

Ways to Use Edcite in Your Classroom 

Are you interested in giving your students interactive practice the way our Teacher of the Month has in her classroom? Joan creates her own questions in Edcite and utilizes questions that other teachers have shared into the Edcite Questions Library. Here are a few examples of the technology-enhanced question types available for elementary math:

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Bar Graph Question Type

 

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Fractions Question Type
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Math Keyboard Question Type
Congratulations to Joan for being selected as the Edcite Teacher of the Month. We thank her for all of that she does to engage her students through the use of technology! 

Presidential Election Playlist

The U.S. presidential election is approaching, and students are sure to have a lot of questions! It is important to give students an understanding of how our government and the presidential election works. That is why we put together this playlist of assignments that can be used in social studies, language arts, and even math!

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Elementary

Elections – Lower Elementary

In this lower elementary assignment, students will watch a video to learn about the concept of elections.

Elections – Upper Elementary

In this upper elementary assignment, students will watch a video and learn about the requirements for becoming President of the United States.

Middle School

History of the Presidential Debates

In this social studies and language arts assignment, students will compare and contrast presidential debates throughout history.

Susan B. Anthony

In this social studies and language arts assignment, students will analyze Susan B. Anthony’s famous speech on women’s right to vote in U.S. elections.

High School

Voter Turnout: HS Math and Social Studies Assignment

In this math and social studies assignment, students will analyze how historical events have had an impact on voter turnout by analyzing tables of statistics and graphs.

United States Civics Overview

In this social studies assignment, students will review the branches of the United States government.

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Your vote counts! Share this post on social media or “like” one of these great assignments on Edcite.

DIS Insight: Digital Assessment & Edcite (Part 2 of 2)

Click here to read Part 1 of this post, where Alexander Clarkson discusses the challenges teachers face when giving regular formative assessments and feedback.

Smal bit of feedbackA solution

I don’t have the answer, but I have an answer: next generation digital assessment. My teaching emphasized writing as assessment because I was suspicious of structured response items like multiple-choice, true/false, or matching. They felt less like authentic thinking tasks and more like artificial hoops that practically beg students to cheat or use test-taking skills to trump thinking skills. But, what if I could reduce the amount of writing grading that I faced by replacing those bulky assessments with next generation digital tasks that required authentic thinking skills, properly challenged students to master those skills, and provided formative feedback necessary for modification of instruction? And what if that approach graded itself?

The idea is simple. We can now develop digital assessment models that automatically grade while providing students with challenging, authentic skills practice. We must move away from multiple-choice question types to those that present thinking challenges that cannot be “gamed,” but will accurately provide data on a student’s ability to perform a skill, with that data indicating how to proceed.

Let me give an example. I wrote an item last year to prepare students for Ohio’s state tests, which were being administered by Pearson’s PARCC platform for the first time. In trying to prepare students for these new tests, I had nearly no practice material, so I collaborated with another teacher to write original material based on PARCC approaches. This particular item was based on an excerpt from Stephen King’s The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (wonderful little book; check it out) in which the protagonist, a 14 year-old girl named Tricia, finds herself lost after fainting on the Appalachian Trail. The question gave the students six statements about events that happen in the novel before the excerpt presented in the assessment. Students had never read that part. They had to arrange the statements into the correct order. Students had to use causal and inferential reasoning to accurately arrange the statements. In the excerpt, the girl had just woken up from a faint, so the statement “Tricia faints” was logically the last event before the excerpt. The student would move backward from there.

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Edcite order list response item for Stephen King’s The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.

I’m using this item as an example because it shows the type of assessment item I am now looking to repeat. It requires skills that I actually want students to develop, causal and inferential reasoning, not test-gaming with multiple-choice or matching questions. It is replicable for another passage, which means I can re-write the question with different content and give more opportunities to practice the skills. And, best of all, it will be automatically graded. All I need to do is assign it, let the students complete it, review the data, and modify instruction. The grading burden drops to nearly zero. Sure, the assessment creation takes time, but less time than grading, and assessment creation can be shared collaboratively with teachers throughout buildings or an entire district, thus reducing the time needed even further.

Empower Teacher Quote

This is where I was when Edcite came into my life. I knew what I wanted to do, but I was struggling with the perfect platform to accomplish it. As a Google user, I stuck with Forms graded through Flubaroo, but Forms was never designed for educators. It works just fine for multiple-choice questions, but designing this Stephen King question in Forms led to a student experience that was basically clunky. I suspected that students may not be able to complete the question well because of its awkward presentation. Edcite, however, offers an order list response item type, which allowed me to create the question as a user friendly drag and arrange item. It worked perfectly. After looking at it, I reviewed other items in the same assignment, which were mostly traditional multiple-choice and multiple-select items, and chided myself for not creating more of these rigorous and authentic challenges for my students. Empowered by Edcite, I’m excited to design more.

And what will those items look like? How about having students watch a compilation of movie clips and then sort quotes based on the type of figurative language? How about asking them to graph a quadratic equation or use a math keyboard to answer a word problem? Or maybe asking them to click on sections of a map when asked questions like “Identify the compass rose” or label a blank map of Mesopotamia? No multiple-choice to provide assistance. Just the student’s ability (or lack thereof). How about asking students to highlight statements from the novel The Valley of Fear to answer a question about irony? All of this automatically graded. Just design the assessment, assign it, and modify instruction based on the data. It’s just like setting up that robot pitcher.

That’s why Edcite is such an incredible gift to teachers. Instead of offering a handful of question types and limited ability to customize, Edcite offers (at the time of this writing) 74 question types. I have discussed only five or six here. Most questions allow for customization including the embedding of images, videos, sound files, links, and more. With a little creative thought and focus on effective learning challenges, a teacher could use this platform to completely redesign assessment in a way that would provide repeated opportunities for authentic skills practice. Oh, and without the crushing burden of grading.

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Various Question Types available on Edcite.com

I’m an English teacher. I will always grade essays, and my students will always work hard to improve those vital communication and critical thinking skills, but by embracing next generation assessment approaches, I do not need to only grade essays. I can develop a library of assessments that will sharpen a wide range of skills without the constant crush of grading.

It’ll just be that kid and me, her in the cage, me watching from outside. A pitch and a miss, followed by a few words. Another pitch, another miss. More words. Some demonstration. Another pitch, and CRACK! A slam threatening to punch a hole in the net.

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Clarkson Profile PicAlexander Clarkson is currently the digital instruction specialist for Sylvania Schools, where he helps teachers include innovative instructional strategies in their classrooms as they move to full 1:1 implementation. Just last year, though, Alex finished a sixteen-year tenure of teaching that included English language arts, philosophy, and film studies at the college, high school, and junior high school levels. When he’s not thinking about digital instruction, Alex marvels at his two-year-old’s abilities with a tablet and his fifteen year-old’s abilities with a drum kit.

DIS Insight: Digital Assessment & Edcite (Part 1 of 2)

Part 1 of Alexander Clarkson’s Guest Blog Post

The Problem

As a teacher, I think of batting cages often. shutterstock_405329950No, I don’t teach phys. ed., and I don’t coach sports, but the batting cage, a precious memory from both my childhood and fatherhood, rattles around my brain as the perfect metaphor for the kind of teacher I strive to be. Think about it. The cage is the perfect teaching and learning situation. In an artificial environment designed to replicate an authentic one, the learner is encouraged to try and try again, modifying each attempt under guidance from a mentor or personal observation. There are no high stakes because no one’s keeping score. The only purpose is refinement of a skill, and nothing distracts from that. Boys and girls for generations have received effective instruction in that simple cage as they refine their skill for the big game.

Over the past few years, I have endeavored to create batting cages for each of my students through techniques of formative assessment. My students would target a set of related skills and practice them once, twice, three times, and hopefully more before the summative assessment, or “big game.” The formative practice carried no grade, but it received a ton of feedback. For example, when I taught skills of argument writing, I would not ask students to write one big researched argument paper, but several short ones. Students would read news articles for controversial topics, choose one, conduct extra research, fashion a logic model of their argument and the opponent’s counter-argument, outline the paper, and write it. I’d read it, add comments, assign a rubric-based grade, and hold a workshop to discuss trends in strengths and weaknesses. So, a student could write a paper on an issue of their choice, say school uniform policies, and receive guidance both written and verbal. We would workshop the paper, and they’d try again. Chalkboard feedback
Not a revision, mind you, but a new paper on a new topic with all the same steps repeated, but perhaps this time the student would choose living wages for fast food workers. Each new paper was a new pitch in the cage, different in space and time, but identical in structure and expectation. Just like the coach outside the cage, I was looking for skill refinement through repeated practice and guidance, and I tried to bring it to every skill I taught: creative writing, literary analysis, grammar revision, news article analysis, research, and more. Each series of assessments was a new session in the batting cage.

This practice helped me understand that assessment was not a threatening trial, or at least it should not be. Each assessment was an opportunity for feedback and help, not a dreadful exercise in humiliation. Assessment, not test. A way to check for progress and provide guidance to improve. Following that line of thinking, the more assessments, the better. Why step into the cage for two pitches? Where’s the use in that? The best practice comes from repeated assessment and repeated guidance. If executed properly, students should look forward to assessments as nonthreatening opportunities for help, and teachers should throw themselves excitedly into the role of individualized mentor.

Each Assessment Quote

Unfortunately, the excitement on my part was hard to come by for one simple reason: grading. Proper formative assessment should be frequent and feedback should be as close to immediate as possible. A teacher that returns an essay a month or more after submission should not have bothered to assign it. The feedback will be nearly meaningless at that point. I redesigned writing assignments to be shorter in order to grade them faster and more tightly focused so we could discuss feedback on a narrower range of skill standards. I challenged myself to turn back papers in no more than three class days, and I kept to that pretty well. Students wrote, we discussed, I graded and discussed my feedback, they wrote, and we repeated the process. Pitch after pitch. But, keeping up that pace for an average course load of 160 students was coming close to breaking me. Sure, I became a faster and better grader. I wrote precise and useful rubrics. I developed new digital means to speed up the process. I went paperless to improve organization and communication. This time was a flurry of innovation, student interaction, spontaneous class planning, and . . . utter exhaustion.

Argument Paper Screenshot
Google Docs-driven argument writing with comments for feedback.

But, I could not abandon this approach. I believed in frequent formative feedback, even on major skills like essay composition and research, and the students benefited. Time on task in the classroom rose dramatically as revision tasks were clearly defined and manageable for students. Tension lessened because the workshops necessary to drive this instruction fostered collaboration, creating social, instead of isolated, effort.

Clarkson Classroom Pic
During workshop, a student works with me to explore a piece of feedback from a formative paper.

I was better able to support students because their challenges were specific and had a history from previous efforts. But, the overload was still there. So, what to do?

Click here to read Part 2: “The Solution”

Clarkson Profile PicAlexander Clarkson is currently the digital instruction specialist for Sylvania Schools, where he helps teachers include innovative instructional strategies in their classrooms as they move to full 1:1 implementation. Just last year, though, Alex finished a sixteen-year tenure of teaching that included English language arts, philosophy, and film studies at the college, high school, and junior high school levels. When he’s not thinking about digital instruction, Alex marvels at his two-year-old’s abilities with a tablet and his fifteen year-old’s abilities with a drum kit.

 

Best Digital Assignments of 2015

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With over 11,000 assignments in Edcite’s assignments library, it can be difficult choosing which ones to use with your students. We decided to chip in, and analyzed which assignments were most popular this last year. Check out the assignments below, and please share them with the other educators you know!

English 

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Grade Level Assignment Name Share URL

(To share this assignment with friends and colleagues!)

K Long vowels vs. short vowels https://edcite.com/14yvzm
1 Penguin Babies https://edcite.com/14tygi
2 Baby Bao Bao https://edcite.com/18zfzl
3 Grade 3 Fable: The Lion and the Mouse https://edcite.com/1qyeck
4 Excerpt From The Adventures of Tom Sawyer https://edcite.com/125×19
5 Too Much Soda https://edcite.com/1ll40n
6 Figurative Language Practice https://edcite.com/19r8m5
7 Nonfiction Article — the Kudzu Plant https://edcite.com/1o640l
8 The Black Pearl https://edcite.com/1pnryx
9-12 Batman Begins Learning Parallel Structure https://edcite.com/11swia
Maya Angelou — Reading Informational Text https://edcite.com/1t0b3u
The Tell-Tale Heart Part 1 https://edcite.com/1wm4ir

Social Studies

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Grade Level Assignment Name Share URL

(To share this assignment with friends and colleagues!)

4 Archaeology Pair — Grade 4 https://edcite.com/1k3614
5 Sequencing Lesson — Multiple Passages — Segregation + Civil Rights https://edcite.com/19yja4
6 Timelines https://edcite.com/177z41
7 Democracy in America: the Women’s Rights Movement https://edcite.com/11cfzv
8 Patrick Henry https://edcite.com/1y2fj4
9-12 Gettysburg Address https://edcite.com/1ukmq1
Kennedy Space Speech https://edcite.com/177l0k
Gains of the Great Depression https://edcite.com/1zczoc

 

Math

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Grade Level Assignment Name Share URL

(To share this assignment with friends and colleagues!)

K Sorting and Counting https://edcite.com/1grjav
1 Reading Graphs — Measurement and Data https://edcite.com/1pw9d0
2 Number Sentences https://edcite.com/1h79vx
3 SBAC Practice Test https://edcite.com/1m42ht
4 Basic Fractions Formative #1 https://edcite.com/1ta22y
5 Performance Task — Fractions — Grade 5 — Numbers and Operations https://edcite.com/1crgkb
6 SBAC Practice Test https://edcite.com/19ytlk
7 SBAC Practice Test https://edcite.com/1hbsvr
8 Math 8 Slope + Linear Equations https://edcite.com/113eqr
9-12 Exponential Functions https://edcite.com/11v5a5
Int Math 1 https://edcite.com/1yyyhr
Working With Slope https://edcite.com/1oyslu

Science

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Grade Level Assignment Name Share URL
3 Respiratory System — Speaking + Listening https://edcite.com/111gtb
4 Grade 4 Force and Motion Unit Assessment https://edcite.com/1ebxbh
5 Ecosystem Review https://edcite.com/1hfggh
6 – 8 Volcanoes https://edcite.com/1cc9an
Universe & Space Quiz https://edcite.com/1d026p
Cell Diagrams https://edcite.com/10ebqp
9-12 Early Stage of Automobiles https://edcite.com/1is79n
Sickle Cell Anemia + Evolution https://edcite.com/1xzi4h
Photosynthesis https://edcite.com/1mrlsa

Back to School Assignments

 

The best thing about teachers is that they give a damn. Year in and year out, they work to incorporate new pedagogical strategies into their classrooms and tailor their curriculum to their ever-changing group of students. This year, to make sure you start off right, we compiled a list of outstanding teacher-created assignments that fit with your beginning of the year curriculum. For more assignments, check out our 10,000 digital resources on www.edcite.com!

ELA

(These assignments are great reading comprehension/close reading assignments!)shutterstock_182278637

Grade Level Assignment Name Link
K Fruit or Vegetable? – L.K.5a https://edcite.com/1fovc6
1 Long/Short Vowels – ELA.RF.1.2a https://edcite.com/1rmotc
2 Baby Bao Bao – ELA.RI.2.1 https://edcite.com/18zfzl
3 Sam – Characters, Literal Comprehension, and Text Evidence https://edcite.com/19yxts
4 Grade 4 Fable: The Story That Has No End https://edcite.com/1pq3j1
5 The Little Match Girl – ELA.RL.5.3 https://edcite.com/1d7d3j
6 Junior Cycle/Middle School Short Story: The Three Spinners https://edcite.com/14ekol
7 Fiction Short Story – The Black Pearl with video comparison to passage https://edcite.com/1pnryx
8 The Story of My Life – Identifying Central Ideas; Objective Summary Writing https://edcite.com/1joqzm
9 9th Grade Writing Practice https://edcite.com/1h9fa0
10 Glancing at Children’s Picture Books Critically – Reading Literature and Reading Informational Text https://edcite.com/1egv28
11 What is ALS and this #IceBucketChallenge? https://edcite.com/1l5rwd
12 Persuasive Writing Practice – 11th Grade https://edcite.com/1nleiv

Math

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Grade Level Assignment Name Link
K Sorting and Counting https://edcite.com/1grjav
1 Quiz 1 — All Standards (*Comprehensive quiz for each Common Core standard, though it can be a great pre-assessment for teachers in any state) https://edcite.com/1q6m42
2 Working With Equal Groups https://edcite.com/1zxzfw
3 Quiz 1 — All Standards(*Comprehensive quiz for each Common Core standard, though it can be a great pre-assessment for teachers in any state) https://edcite.com/1xmp02
4 Quiz 1 — Grade 4 — All Standards https://edcite.com/17vg14
5 5.NBT.A.1 (Place Value) worksheet https://edcite.com/1jlu4y
6 Ratios + Proportions https://edcite.com/1prs1q
7 7th Grade Ratios Homework https://edcite.com/12dre6
8 8th Grade Geometry- Similarity + Congruence https://edcite.com/1f2cuu

Science

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Grade Level Assignment Name Link
Middle School Science Volcanoes https://edcite.com/1cc9an
Middle School Science The Coriolis Effect https://edcite.com/1gdo7b
Chemistry John Dalton and the Atomic Theory https://edcite.com/1nusq6
AP Chemistry Amazing Carbon https://edcite.com/10uljd
AP Chemistry Ionization Energy https://edcite.com/1mpu5a
Biology Macromolecules Review https://edcite.com/11un9n
Physics Ohm’s Law Assignment https://edcite.com/1pjb9o

History

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Grade Level Assignment Name Link
Lower Elementary 4th Social Studies PBA https://edcite.com/1hyf3t
Lower Elementary Government Literacy Connection https://edcite.com/1z2wfz
6-8 Colonial Assignment https://edcite.com/1kvz6s
6-8 Sequencing Lesson – Multiple Passages – Segregation and Civil Rights – I Do, We Do, You Do & Exit Slip https://edcite.com/19yja4
High School The Groups in the Women’s Rights Movement https://edcite.com/11cfzv
High School Susan B. Anthony https://edcite.com/110siz

 

Mind the Gap

Why Technology Can Help Reduce the Summer Learning Gap

It’s May!  In my classroom, students are preparing for finals and completing final projects. In these moments, I try to pause and reflect on the growth and accomplishments of the past year.

As I do so, it stands out to me that this growth we are celebrating will not “stick” with my students equally. While some of my students will keep growing in the next few months, others will actually lose skills and understandings that they have now. Unsurprised? Some people (who probably aren’t educators) would say “This makes perfect sense, some students end up successful, some don’t.” But this is not random. Not at all. With a high degree of accuracy, I can predict which students will gain or lose ground in which subjects.

Who is Affected:

I do not have a crystal ball, I just know about Summer Learning Loss (SLL).  SLL occurs when students lose academic skills or knowledge during summer vacation.  The academic community has started to try to quantify this loss. They have found that on average, American students lose about a month of academic time during summer break.

But these data do not tell the whole story, which is much more interesting when you look at specific subjects and populations of students. In mathematics, students lose approximate 2.6 months of content time. Interestingly enough, in ELA, high-income students actually GAIN in achievement during the summer, while low-income students lose about 2 months of reading achievement. To get a better idea of what these data mean, over the course of a K-12 school career, the average student loses over 2 years of academic time in math (and ELA for the average lower income student).

What Can We Do?

Technology can be a powerful lever in reversing the SLL trends. Think flipping your classroom, all summer long! Through the diverse education platforms out there, teachers can send assignments to students, monitor progress, and view student data as much or as little as they want during the summer. And, because more and more educational websites are becoming mobile-accessible, it’s becoming far easier to access these learning tools and practice opportunities.

shutterstock_225866281I’m currently working with teachers to set up their summer work on Edcite, and the process has been inspirational to see! Based on their level of mastery during the school year, teachers are differentiating the content and sending specific assignments to specific groups of students. Thankfully, with multimedia-rich and interactive assignments, this summer work will be a lot more engaging for students that the traditional summer work packet. Best of all, teachers don’t have to wait until school starts to see if a student did or did not complete the work — they can monitor progress and access student performance data throughout the summer. And, through Edcite’s reporting features like the standards report, teachers can see what standards and concepts students have mastered, and which might need to be focused on more during the next school year.

If you have any favorite digital resources you love to use during the summer, I’d love to add them to my bag of tricks! You can email me (brian@edcite.com) or tweet at me (@bbmcintosh14)!