March 28, 2015

Setting up Rotations

Differentiation at its best!

Setting up a rotation system can be daunting! There are so many things to think of logistically, and of course, there is so little time to make changes to the daily rotations. This is my current system for my 4th grade math class, and it is working wonderfully!

I used masking tape to create the grid on my magnetic whiteboard. I have four groups and four rotations, so I made a 5 by 4 grid.  The first column is to write a brief description about each rotation. All of the rotation icons were made using foam sheets, a Sharpie, and magnetic tape, all of which were purchased for a few bucks at Wal-Mart.  The magnetic tape was AWESOME! It isn't very strong, but it is perfect for the foam sheet.  It is very thin and doesn't peel off the way that the thicker magnetic strips I've used in the past have. Each student also has a magnetic name so that my groups remain fluid and are quickly changed.

I have lots of different icons, and the students love that the routine changes up often.  I also have little notes and reminders that can be placed in any rotation, such as "bring your book" or "DUE TODAY." If an activity will take longer than one rotation period, I use arrows to extend into the next rotation period.  I also have group work icons, and if I don't have an icon for a particular activity, I can just write on the whiteboard with a dry erase marker. Not all students will complete the same activities.  Sometimes I will group all of the GT kids together and give them an activity to work on. Sometimes I will have the same group come to the teacher rotation twice so I can give them a little extra attention.  I may have two groups work at the computer and two groups play math games instead of computer time.  Rotations make it extremely easy to differentiate and allows kids to build independence and take ownership of their learning.

Each rotation has a brief description of the day's expectations, and there are "turn-in" areas located around the class. The icon on the turn-in station matches the icon on the rotation board.  This area includes any materials the students will need to finish the assignment. The black mesh file sorter (also purchased at Wal-Mart for around $6) is compartmentalized. My two separate classes know their designated area for turning in the completed assignment and do it in number order for easy grading and filing later. Having these turn-in stations set up around the class cuts down on confusion over where to get papers and materials and where to turn in completed projects.

The very best part about having rotations is that it gives the teacher time to work in small groups with each and every student each and every day! It is the best way to collect data and formatively assess student understanding. Plus, it is much easier to keep students engaged and participatory when there are only 4-6 students.  I keep a bucket of dry erase markers and erasers at my round table and the students LOVE writing on the table as they do their work!

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Please comment to share some of your tips and tricks to using rotation boards in your classroom!

March 21, 2015

GradeCam Post #3

I've now spent quite a bit of time playing around with GradeCam, and I have to say that IT IS COOL!

Here's how I have used it so far...

In preparation for the STAAR Test (Texas' achievement test), I developed a way of differentiating the homework to meet each individual student's needs. Because it is tailored to each child, I have a lot of different homework to grade, but  I never dreamed it would be the feat that it has been.  I have 39 different quizzes that the students have available to them to practice the various standards (TEKS).  That means I can have up to 39 different papers each day to grade. Keeping up with the keys, and recording their grade on my spreadsheet and on their goals sheet has been EXTREMELY difficult!

On Friday, I tried GradeCam, and it was indeed a game changer! I had the students turn their bubble sheets in different stacks so that I didn't have to sort them myself.  When I was ready to grade, I opened the assignment in GradeCam, and it literally took a second to grade each one.  The missed answers were immediately displayed so that I could circle any wrong answers on the bubble sheets. The students' grades were recorded for me (I use the scores for formative assessment), and I simply handed them back their bubble sheet to record their grade on their goals sheet. DONE! Individual differentiation is possible!

Here is a screen shot of some of the reporting features in GradeCam.

I also figured out how to transfer the grades directly into my grade book, which is Eduphoria Gradespeed.  It took NO setting up, changing settings, or anything. You simply open your grade book, create a new assignment, and press F8 when you wish to transfer. EASY!

I have put my first GradeCam ready product on Teachers Pay Teachers.  Check it out!

March 18, 2015

GradeCam Post #2

Wanna give GradeCam a try? Click here.  Here is my first assignment that I've made with a GradeCam answer sheet!

So, I've been so excited ever since I learned about GradeCam. Unfortunately, it has taken a bit of creativity to get it to work, so I haven't really got to try it out just yet. The program wouldn't detect my document camera. I downloaded the software, tried troubleshooting, and had no luck. (DISAPPOINTING!) I think that the non-detection of the document camera boils down to my computer being attached to both my document camera and my projector and the fact that I have to toggle between the two components.  I decided to use my school laptop (with a built-in webcam) instead of my desktop/document camera. It worked like a charm! YAY!

In my first post, I listed some of the things I was excited about, so I thought I would take a few moments to list some of the down falls of the program. (Although I HATE focusing on the negative!)

1. It is free (YAY) but some of the features require an upgrade of $15.00 per month per teacher.
2. The free version limits each quiz to 10 questions.
3. The free version will not automatically upload the results into your gradebook.
4. You have to hand mark missed grades if you want to hand it back to the students to correct.

Tomorrow, I will have my students give it a whirl using the assessment I created. I actually just copied and pasted the answer sheet onto an assignment that I had previously created. It was a super easy change!

Sometimes new things seem better in my mind than they actually are, but I'm really hoping this isn't one of them!  I will keep you posted on the reality of GradeCam!

March 15, 2015


I love it when I come across an awesome teaching tool that I've never even heard of!
Today, I came across! This website can absolutely change the course of your day and can make formative assessment so much more convenient!  AND IT'S FREE!!! WHAT?!?!?!?!? 

Here is a screenshot of some of its features!

Basically, to use this program, students fill in multiple choice answers on a grid sheet.  When they place this answer sheet under the document camera, it automatically grades the assignment and lets the students know which questions are not correct. (For a fee, you can have the results automatically transferred into your grade book.) SOUNDS AWESOME, HUH?!?!?!

Here are some things I liked right away:
1. You don't have to have special Santrons to assess student learning.
2. You don't have to print the bubble sheets in a certain size. You can put 8 on a single page to save paper, but you can also add one directly to your assessment if you want.
3. A bubble sheet doesn't go only with a certain assessment (like in Eduphoria Aware). You can use the same bubble sheet for many different assessments.
4. As long as you limit your assessments to 10 questions, it's FREE!

I immediately began thinking about practical ways to use this program in my classroom.  My first thought was for homework. I usually spend quite a bit of time making sure my 43 students have turned it their homework and completed it correctly. Gradecam would eliminate this work. My new turn-in stack would be under the document camera. As they turn it in, it will automatically be graded.  After everyone has turned in their homework, I could just check in the reports section to see who didn't turn in their homework and who didn't master the concepts on the homework. AMAZING! My district uses the TEXAS GO MATH curriculum, and the homework page is already in multiple choice format, so it will work perfectly.

I cannot wait to try this out at school tomorrow! I'll be back to let you know how the program works in my classroom.  Until then, how would YOU use GradeCam in your classroom???

Click here to visit my follow up post.