Week 8 – Better Student Blogs and Plickers Test Review

Week 8 – Better Student Blogs and Plickers Test Review

It’s the end of the second month of school.  This week we did our second round of student blogging and it went smoother than last time.  We also used Plickers for the first time and it went fairly well.


In Pre-Algebra, we’re at the end of Unit 01.  Feels a bit slow but now that we’ve got all our systems and procedures in place, I know the rest of the units will go a bit quicker.  We had 7 different lessons in Unit 01 (number sets, properties, exponents, square roots, cube roots, order of operations, and scientific notation).  Everyone blogged after our first lesson on number sets.  Now that we’re at the end of the unit, I’m allowing them to choose one of the lessons to blog about.  I encouraged them to write about the concept they’re the least comfortable with and it could serve as a way to study for the test and deepen their understanding.  Before they wrote, I showed them the only two blogs from last time that received a 100.  The blogs were a bit long but I told them not to focus on the length but the content.  I had them share what was it about those blogs that made them high quality.  We also reviewed our rubric and what made an ‘A’ blog.

Last year I didn’t really have them write their reflections in class much; I felt like it was something they could do at home and that I wasn’t make much use of the time in class where I could be meeting in small groups or one-on-one as I watched them typing for 30 minutes of class.  This year, I’m trying it out with letting them write in class.  While they write, I’m helping students with various issues from actually understanding a concept to learning how to work with formatting and using the gMath add on for Google Docs to create equations that they can copy into their blog.  A lot of different skills involved that aren’t just math concepts.  They spent the last 25 or so minutes of class early in the week writing and they were to finish their first draft before next class period.

They came into class and we I explained the self and peer assessment process to them again.  I’m using the question feature in Google Classroom for them to post a link to their blog and then they reply to their post with a self evaluation (where they talk about what grade they deserve and why, using specifics from the rubric), and then they leave a reply on their peers entry, saying what their peer did well and what could be done to improve.  Lots of great conversations happening here!  I think the more we do this the quicker and easier it’ll get for them.  Just from the few that I’ve already looked it, they’re way higher quality than what I had done last year.  I think having class time to write also contributes to that.


2015-10-16 10.59.31I’ve planned on using Plickers all year but hadn’t thought of a great use for it until this week as I pondered what kind of test review activity to do.  They just finished a quiz and there were a lot of small misconceptions that I kept seeing pop up.  I normally don’t do multiple choice for math assessments, but as far as discussing those misconceptions and reviewing, multiple choice is a great way to go.  For example, I asked them what a square root was on their quiz and got a lot of answers that were kind of right but not completely.  I ended up using several of those answers as one of the review questions:

Screen Shot 2015-10-17 at 3.50.11 PM

I had students come up and share their thinking on why they felt their answer was correct or why the other answers were incorrect.  While doing that had a ton of value, we didn’t really get through a lot of problems.  I ended up even having students share their thinking on questions where a majority of them got it right, which probably wasn’t the best use of time.  We did it for the last 40 min of class and most of my classes only got through 4-6 questions (of the 12 I had prepared).  I should’ve just put more time and effort into the questions where the answers were less consistent or where a larger portion of the students got them incorrect.

Also, I’m always a bit hesitant about doing activities that sort of require you to think at the same pace as the rest of the class (wrote about avoidance of ‘speed games’ previously).  If you’re unaware of how Plickers works, each student has a printout of a unique black shape.  You pose a question, and students hold up their shape based on what answer they think it is (hold it one way for A, another way for B, etc).  You use the Plickers app and it scans all of their shapes and documents all the answers (and since you’ve assigned the unique shapes to a specific student, your phone will show you who’s getting it right and who isn’t).  Displayed on the projector is a graph of how many people chose each answer, but I usually hide that until everyone has answered.  The idea is that it’s a cheap, low-tech clicker system and helps avoid students getting distracted on their computers but still gives you excellent, specific data.  I had students tape their plicker handout to the inside cover of their math journals.  We shall see if that ends up being a good call or not.  Check out this video for more on it.

So back to my quandry.  For several questions, some students put up their answer immediately while others wanted to think about it more.  It’s hard to think when everyone around you is waving their folder in the air and eager for the teacher to ‘scan them.’  I started having students wait to put their answers up but you still had the kids who really were trying to think through the problem a little longer.  While every method doesn’t work for every student, but I always try to be conscious of a conversation we had the first week about how being a good mathematician has nothing to do with being a fast mathematician.  That said, a lot of students found the activity pretty fun.

I’ve included a video of a student who was sharing some great mathematical thinking about one of the problems.

By Thom H Gibson

I help middle school STEM teachers create meaningful & memorable experiences for their students. Teacher, podcaster, YouTuber. Two-time teacher of the year

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